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Raazi A High-Powered Spy-Thriller Movie Filled With Emotions!icon

CAST : Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal
DIRECTION : Meghna Gulzar
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Credits : Inox

STORY

Set against the backdrop of the Indo-Pak war in 1971, an Indian girl marries a Pakistani Army officer to spy for her country.

REVIEW:

Dramatically potent and done with studied precision, Raazi could qualify as one of the finest films of recent times. It’s an espionage thriller packed with chilling twists and turns which masterfully narrates the fate of warring India and Pakistan and how a seemingly pliant Kashmiri college girl becomes one of the crucial reasons of a dramatic Indian victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Harinder Sikka, the writer of the book Calling Sehmat on which Raazi is based, had written the story of a brave heart who went to great lengths for her country. His point was simple - Kashmiri Muslims be shown in the right light, for what they are, in most cases true Indians.

Raazi is an adaptation of Lt Commander (retd) Harinder S Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, on a Kashmiri girl of mixed Sikh-Muslim parentage who gets married into a high-ranking Pakistani military family, so as to spy for India. It was promoted as an ‘unknown true story’ of the 1971 war, and was given a willing platform by the Indian Navy — some said, for highlighting the Navy, that poorer cousin of the defence forces, in a pivotal role.

Raazi hangs on to that ‘true story’ claim, adding ‘incredible’ to it. That means it has almost all ground covered, apart from the fact that you should know by now that ‘a true story’ doesn’t have to be ‘the true story’.

After a couple of initial scenes between Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur) and Khalid Mir (Jaideep Ahlawat), in which they document the generalised sentiments in India during that period, the focus shifts to Alia Bhatt, and she soon takes the charge. While Meghna keeps it simple by not going overboard and showing the agents in the most human way possible, Alia gets the mannerism of a conflicted agent right. Together, they embark on a journey where you understand the meaning of being behind enemy lines. It’s not your life, but it could be someone you know.

Raazi’s biggest rewrite ends up making the move far more politically correct than the novel. Sehmat is constantly identified as Indian, rather than Kashmiri, eliding over her cultural identity in an attempt to sidestep the debate that is bound to arise out of her frequent espousals of love for her country. The movie tries to be sensitive to the current situation in Kashmir and its recent history. It’s a careful balancing act, but one that contradicts the patriotic fervour that drives the book.

The movie moves into thriller mode once Sehmat crosses the border and begins her new life in Lahore as the obedient daughter-in-law to brigadier Parvez Syed (Shishir Sharma) and Iqbal’s shy wife. Crucial meetings about Pakistan’s plans for the 1971 war are nearly always conveniently held in their home at tea-time. The only one who divines Sehmat’s designs is an old-timer domestic helper, Abdul (Arif Zakaria), leading to some tense moments.

This film, thus, is more about the performances which elevate it to another level. Alia, on her part, is dedicated to portraying the emotional frailties of her character, mixing it up with the clumsiness of a novice spy. She makes mistakes, she stumbles and beneath her assured performances is a fair amount of internalisation of what the character truly stands for. Vicky, though limited by way of his potential, is fabulous in each frame. There’s a fantastic face-off that he and Alia pull off with immense finesse.

You remember Talvar? Meghna concentrated on getting to a conclusion through a conversation. She presented her narrative through dialogue between all the parties. There wasn’t any definitive theory, at least in the beginning. In a way, she adopts a similar strategy in Raazi: She places her lead in adverse situations without making anyone the villain. She lets us take sides. Raazi marks another step in the right direction for Alia. It required her to be restrained and mature, and she simply grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Raazi doesn’t try to be very cerebral and that works tremendously in its favour. The tactics of espionage are explained in the simplest manner. Also, the film chronicles a time where a lot depended on the agent’s mental prowess than the technological advancements. That way, actors also get a chance to explore their abilities.

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