Film: Raazi

Director: Meghna Gulzar

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Rajit Kapur, Jaideep Ahlawat, Shishir Sharma and Soni Razdan

Rating: ****1/2

Bollywood has weaved many blockbusters around patriotic themes. Whenever a spy thriller comes out, we expect it to be packed with different locations and chase sequences but Raazi breaks this trend by restricting itself within a few areas of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for most of the part.

Sehmat (Alia Bhatt) is a 19-year-old Delhi University student who is suddenly called back to her home Srinagar because her father, Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur), is suffering from lung tumour and he wants to hand over the mantle of a spy to her. So, she is married off in a high-ranking army family of Pakistan. She is trained before marriage in spy-tactics and is acquainted to the nitty-gritty of being a spy which will help her in serving her country in the war situation of 1971.

Meghna Gulzar adapts Harinder Sikka’s well-known novel Calling Sehmat rightly and does full justice to every part of the character — Sehmat. She shows us the different side of the popular image of Pakistan that they rarely speak English and other things because here Sehmat’s husband Iqbal Syed (Vicky Kaushal) listens to jazz and speaks English fluently. Vicky’s character is not what most people would expect with such a story because he is shown as the embodiment of the perfect hero. He is well mannered, gives his wife her privacy, ensures that he apologises to her when his family members talk about crushing India and even respects her responsibilities as an Indian. Iqbal is the second most interesting character even with lesser screen space than others. Meghna crafts a patriotic tale that is much needed in this era because it exudes patriotism and explains us our responsibilities as Indian.

The acting segment is masterfully executed by each actor. Jaideep Ahlawat as the strict mentor will win you by his serious demeanour and right tone. Rajit Kapur has a short role but he ensures he is remembered for this role as he portrays his character with utmost poignancy. Vicky Kaushal is as fantastic and lovable as his character in Raazi. He brings more life to his character by his subtle expressions. Shishir Sharma as Brigadier Syed is not much terrifying because there isn’t any scene where his evil side would be touched and he remains most of the times as the smiling father-in-law than the Brigadier.

But the show stealer is none other than Alia Bhatt. Alia as the vulnerable spy is obviously the best of the lot because the whole film revolves around her character and she has a lot of time to prove her mettle. She has proved how good an actor she is by her performance in Highway, Dear ZIndagi & Udta Punjab and this performance can easily be on a par with her career-best performance as Mary Jane aka Bauria in Udta Punjab. Her shaky nose and lips when she gets emotional talks much about the rawness of her emotions and whenever she lets out a relief sigh then even we as audience feel the same. Her best scene is just before interval where she kills someone to avoid her cover being busted or in spy language – fixed the leakage in ceiling (Spolier).

The soundtrack is so spot-on with the story and lyrics by Gulzar are a cherry on top. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music in Ae Watan and Dilbaro is mesmerising. Arijit’s voice brings in more emotion to Ae Watan. Same effect is added by Harshdeep Kaur to Dilbaro.

Meghna Gulzar directs the film in the best manner and shows us a different side of Pakistan, not in a sense that she shows their side of the story but just crafts the Pakistani characters as normal people rather than making them personify an evil and loud villain. The characters say anti-Indian things but she doesn’t make it look like what any villain would have said if the film was made in 90s. There aren’t any dialogues like what Amrish Puri would have said if the film was made in his era. She takes a realistic approach and that is what will amaze the audience the most. The film remains as an edge-of-the-seat thriller as soon as Sehmat is married-off and has good nail-biting sequences.

The film is a sure shot must watch and has kept patriotism at the right place.