It was heartening to see a full house for a film like Raazi. It has a female lead. There is no other big name from mainstream Bollywood. No Badshaah, Honey Singh or Guru Randhawa, so no remixes or dance nos. to push the marketing of the film. I feel a good opening is just the beginning. This film will grow with good word-of-mouth since ieven with some drawbacks, overall the film works.
Raazi is a spy thriller based on the real story of a 20-year-old girl named Sehmat who agrees to get married into the enemy country so that she can spy for her motherland, ‘Watan ke aage kuch nahin‘ being her life’s motto. Alia plays the role of Sehmat and I would not say this is her best work, though it certainly could have been. The character is extremely challenging to understand & hence to portray. Seeing Alia struggle a bit reminded me of a dialogue from Rang De Basanti where Siddarth is trying to understand Bhagat Singh and says “Aise kaun baat karta hai?” or another time saying “Meri toh abhi bhi samajh mein nahin aa raha saala“.
Alia could have had similar thoughts, since in Raazi we are talking about understanding and portraying the motivations of a 20-year-old girl in college who agrees to leave everything in her life and get married into a country where she will be all alone, doing something in which she has no experience. why?. This question is actually put up in the film to Sehmat and the lack of conviction in her reply is the biggest flaw in the film. For all of her effort, Alia is not convincing as the girl who wants to die for her country. She does have the vulnerability which works brilliantly but lacks the edge to really make herself shine. For some reason, she has great difficulty in crying (tearing up), because as far as I recall, all the scenes where she does tear up, none of them are continuous shots. She gets all emotional and looks like she is going to cry and just then the camera pans to another character in the scene and when it cuts back to Alia, Voila! Tears. I guess I am being over critical but I am a huge fan of Alia and want her to get better with every film.
However, to Meghna Gulzar’s credit, she is splendid behind the camera and the treatment of the film is its biggest plus point. Another highlight of the film is how it balances the patriotism on both sides never outrightly taking sides. What adds further meat is a tight screenplay and dialogues that are thankfully devoid of the cliched ‘Desh bhakti’ monologues and heavy background music that attempts to get the audience to remember what it means to be a patriot. Just like her last film Talvar, Meghna Gulzar once again keeps just the right pace and balance never pushing the audience to force an emotional reaction
As for the rest of the cast, they are top notch and totally in their element. Everyone from the standout Jaydeep Ahlawat to veterans Rajit Kapoor, Shishir Sharma and Arif Zakaria. Vicky Kaushal does not get to do much but when he gets his chance in the climax, boy does he deliver. He is a fabulous actor and I really wish the script had more in it to do justice to his potential.
Raazi is part of a rare breed of patriotic films like Lakshya and Rang De Basanti and away from the over-the-top melodrama of Border, LOC and the likes. Watch it for Meghna Gulzar and her command over her craft. Watch it for top performances from a great support cast and do watch it for Alia Bhatt. She may not be at her best but she does try to do cinema that is different. Highway, Udta Punjab, Raazi, all of it in a career spanning just a few years.
Rating – 3.5 / 5