A soul stirrer to come at the most perfect time, RAAZI is perhaps the most human story on Indo Pak conflict that is brilliantly articulated and its sparks a debate on the end result of war between two nations. When a war ends, who wins in the end?
Based on a true story, Meghna Gulzar ‘s RAAZI is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka's novel "Calling Sehmat", - a Kashmiri spy who married to a Pakistani man during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It depicts the journey of an ordinary Indian girl, under extraordinary circumstances. Sehmat is sent to Pakistan in 1971, to source out any information she could, as war was becoming imminent between India and Pakistan.
The screenplay by Bhavani Iyer and Meghna Gulzar opens with the Chief of Indian Navy played by Kanwaljit Singh addressing his team and remembering the Indian brave heart spy Sehmat (Alia Bhatt). Sehmat is a cute, loving, vulnerable and passionate Kashmiri studying in Delhi University. Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur) and Khalid Mir (Jaideep Ahlawat) work for The Indian intelligence bureau. A call from the nation, blood and duty turns the vulnerable, cute and non violent Kashmiri Sehmat into a stern spy for whom duty is above everything.
Alia Bhatt as Sehmat is not that over the top, escapist and ‘heroic’ spy, Meghna keeps her protagonist grounded and the plot moves not like a story but a poem, RAAZI is not just the story of Sehmat and the legacy of cross border hatred that has been passed by generations after generations in the two countries, it pokes at moralities, questions the norms of trust, love and betrayal in masterly constructed soul stirring piece of cinema.
The best part of RAAZI is that it never takes sides and in the end leaves it up to the viewer to decide, the sentiments that the viewer comes across finds it debate and astonishingly the debate is somewhat similar to the melancholy expressed in the climax of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece SEVEN SAMURAI where the war was won but the warriors where lost. Meghna Gulzar sprinkles some drops of hope during the end reels and make this period based spy drama unique. Meghna Gulzar has tried her best to give human touch to all her characters in RAAZI and succeeded.
Alia Bhatt steals the show with her stellar act and caries the movie on her shoulders with amazing brilliance. Her transformation from the cute lovable girl next door to a lethal spy who is not ashamed to express her sentiments is neatly constructed and spot-on. Alia’s incredible quality to get into the skin of her character finds further nuances in this role which is delivered to perfection and is nothing less than a master act.
Vicky Kauhal as Iqbal - Alia’s husband in the film is a balanced individual and not that typical over the top Pakistani shown in the main stream format who hates India 24x7. Iqbal too stands for his duty, blood and country. Perhaps, the male version of Sehmat on the other side of the border if given a chance, Vicky Kaushal delivers a brilliantly natural and intense performance.
Jaideep Ahlawat as Sehmat’s trainer/commanding officer is superb, so is Rajit Kapur as Sehmat's father. Shishir Sharma is first rate. Amruta Khanvilkar is fine. Arif Zakaria is fantastic and has its moments. Ashwath Bhatt is good. Soni Razdan makes her presence felt.
Technically sound with rich production values, Jay I Patel’s cinematography is eye pleasing. Nitin Baid’s editing is good. Special mention for Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production design and Maxima Basu Golani’s costumes. On the music front, Shankar Ehsaan Loy has delivered two soulful numbers, “Dilbaro’, ‘Ae Watan’ which go well with the momentum and the background score by the talented trio is thrilling.
However, the movie does ask questions like Sehmat spying under Pakistani Brigadier’s nose in his home and getting unnoticed? But the flaws are overpowered by this articulated conflict by Meghna Gulzar who after TALVAR and RAAZI, has emerged as one of Bollywood’s influential helmers.
In RAAZI, Meghna weaves multiple threads together in a relevant, provoking and conflicting view on war where everything is fair and has no room for emotions and relations. Through Alia Bhatt’s superlative act, the filmmaker has conveyed the message and achieved the rare feat of making the film a humanitarian cry for help, hope and redemption. In all the mainstream movies on Indo Pak war and spy thrillers, RAAZI is a cut above and a unique piece of cinema that will be hard to ignore and is most likely to have a strong impact on its audience.