Cast: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Rajit Kapoor, Jaideep Ahlawat
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Patriotism is one emotion Hindi cinema has never shied away from. From the pre-Independence movement to India-Pak tensions, war and nationalism have always found a decent space on celluloid. Mostly, these films deal with the topic in shades of black and white, telling the story from the battlelines, but Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is different in every fashion. The film evokes the feeling of patriotism one experienced in the films of JP Dutta, but unlike those films, it’s the compassion and emotions that win the heart.
Raazi, based on the Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, is a true story of a Kashmiri girl married to a Pakistani soldier in order to extract information for Indian Intelligence Bureau during 1971 tensions. While the story itself carries weight, it is Alia Bhatt’s portrayal of 20-year-old spy Sehmat that takes the film to a whole new level. Starting as a clumsy, innocent and naive college student, Alia’s Sehmat transforms herself into a confident, guilty yet competent informant, who keeps nothing above her duty for the nation.
From her smile to her frustration, angst, nervousness and guilt-laden sadness, Alia has wrapped herself in this character and it shows in all her actions. There are scenes where her eyes do the talking and you get the dilemma running into her nerves. Alia once again proves why she is now every director’s favourite actor for all kinds of roles.
Meghna brings to screen a story lesser known to the public and the execution of it as a spy-thriller has its high moments. There’s one particular scene when you nearly close your eyes and anticipate a safe escape for Sehmat from a ‘cat caught the mouse’ situation. However, it is the emotional factor in the film that deserves to be applauded. The director has given ample space, time and thought in showcasing the inner turmoil of Sehmat. There is a time when you start feeling her dilemma between a fulfilled and happy personal life and her duty towards her nation.
A major credit goes to the writing and execution of Vicky Kaushal’s character Iqbal. Breaking the mould of the conventional ‘Pakistani Army man’, Vicky’s Iqbal is soft, understanding and mindful, but that doesn’t make him any less of a patriot. Like Sehmat, he also believes in keeping everything above his ‘mulk’ but unlike her, he isn’t living a dual life.
It’s refreshing to see a ‘war-film’ that sees patriotism as an emotion and not as an element belonging to one single country. There are no black and white characters but there are hues of gray that only make you sympathise with them.
The film is set in a time period when the notion of nationalism was equivalent to uplifting and betterment of the country and thus avoiding the neighbours from creating problems. 67 years later, the notion and definition of patriotism have definitely changed, some even critiquing the concept of nationalism, but Raazi brings those raw emotions of duty back.
Intense, emotional and unnerving at the same time, the sensitivity and emotional quotient of the characters- especially Alia’s Sehmat makes Raazi a gripping watch that keeps your mind and heart on the edge, till the end.