Written by Manisha Lakhe
I’m Sure You Will Agree,
Raazi Is The Best Spy Films Of Our Times!
How do you make a patriotic film without any bombastic
dialog and still manage to move the most cynical filmgoer
to tears? Raazi is one of the finest films to come out of
Bollywood. It is the story about a young Kashmiri girl who
marries into a Pakistani general’s family and in her own way
and at great danger to her life spies for India and practically
saves the day during the war between Pakistan and India
in 1971. It is a tale well told and brilliantly acted. Must watch!
We have seen loud and bombastic Gadar where everyone wear
their patriotism on their sleeves that are rolled up to kill the enemy.
Anyone could have made a similar film with this girl spy married
off into an enemy household into a loud film where she chops
vegetables with a vengeance and proceeds to chop other family
members of the enemy general too. They could have shown her
being tied and tortured a la Van Damme. Thankfully Meghna
Gulzar does not torture the audience with a film like a typical
‘throw coins at the screen’ or ‘tear your heart and prove you are
patriotic’ type film.
She makes a film that tells the story of an ordinary girl who
chooses to put her life in danger and becomes extraordinary
without losing the audience.
The director treats everyone in the film as essential and with
respect, does not make the religious and national differences
obvious, and even when she is taking sides, does not grind the
other to the ground. The director extracts performances from
every actor so wonderfully, you come away from this spy
Based on a true story ‘Calling Sehmat’ written Harinder Sikka,
Raazi is the story of a 20 year old Sehmat (Alia Bhatt, truly
magnificent) who agrees to continue the work of her father
Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapoor, very convincing), a Kashmiri who
spies for India by supplying information to Pakistan. She
agrees to undergo training and is then married off into the
family of a Pakistani General Brigadier Syed (Shishir Sharma,
brilliantly played!). The general’s sons are also in the army.
Sehmat is married to the younger son Iqbal Syed (Vicky
Kaushal, rather upright and a good foil to the delicate Sehmat),
and the older brother Mahmood (Ashwath Bhatt, wonderfully
suspicious and yet upright amy officer) is married to Munira
(Amruta Khanvilkar, rather lovely). There are also other
Pakistani generals and their wives (Why list the actors?
Because they make a wonderful family.). And not once are
you made to hate them because they are Pakistani.
The tensions between the two countries was very high, what
with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) wanting to secede from
Pakistan and India helping their ‘Mukti Bahini’ (freedom fighters).
In this situation, it was but natural that the Pakistani army would
plot to decimate the Indian counterpart. The story is told so well,
you don’t hate the enemy at all. But there’s Sehmat, the new bride
who finds time to quietly find out what’s being discussed in the
meetings at their home and transmit the information back to India.
The situation that Sehmat finds herself in escalates very rapidly
and we are afraid for her, we don’t want to see her die. We begin
to root for her ingenuity and gentleness.
On the Indian side, Jaideep Ahlawat is great as the trainer to
Sehmat’s spy. The Indian spies in Pakistan (who, alas have
small roles are not credited anywhere online, but are brilliant) are
the rickshaw chap, the flower seller and the grocery shop man.
Roles you would not consider important, but are well acted.
Sehemat’s mother Teji (Soni Razdan) does not have to say
much, but conveys a lot.
The wedding is delicious and we learn to appreciate everyone in
the family. The gentleness is conveyed in her relationship with
her husband Iqbal so beautifully we forget for a while that she’s
a spy. The sweet romance between the two of them is something
you cannot miss. And he’s not shown to be some sex-crazed
monster simply because he’s the enemy.
Alia Bhatt has proven herself in Udta Punjab but here, she’s not
just innocent, but spectacularly beautiful (her dress designer
should take a bow for making lace edgings of her salwaar
kameez and her gorgeous dupattas and the color palette
stunning). And she can act (understatement of the year). She
leaves everyone in the Bollywood pantheon way behind.
Yes, this could have been a five star movie, except that there
are some obvious ploys that could not but be a part of the film.
Sehmat’s training is predictable as in any underdog training to
be hero film. Then there’s the suspicious servant Abdul (played
by Arif Zakaria) whose actions are predictable. And just to
nitpick, Sehmat’s last emotional outburst has been added to
show off her acting talent. Was just not necessary.
But the film remains an amazing tribute to all the people who
sacrificed their lives without needing any kind of acknowledge-
ment. The film is patriotic, but amazingly so. And the story just
seeps into your bones – just like the Mere Watan song – and
stays with you long after the movie is over.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)