Bollywood is no stranger to patriotic movies. Movies like Mother India, Border, The legend of Bhagat Singh, Sarfarosh, Gadar, Airlift, Rustom amongst many others are remembered to this day when you talk of this genre.
And, then comes the latest and arguably the best movie in this genre – Raazi. Raazi is vastly different from the previous patriotic movies for many reasons. One, the protagonist is a female patriot. Second, the female patriot is a Kashmiri Muslim. Third, the movie is nil on action and high on suspense and emotions. Fourth, the weapon of choice is not ammunition but the female protagonist´s body and mind. Fifth, the movie does not just have a lethal female protagonist but also ingenious female screen-play writers and director.
Raazi is a true story of a Kashmiri spy who worked undercover for India during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The movie is based on the book ´Calling Sehmat´ written by Harinder.S.Sikka. Sehmat is a fictionalized name that the author coined to protect the identity and safety of the real-life female spy and her family.
Sehmat Khan is a twenty something woman whose father, Hidayat Khan is a Kashmiri businessman and moonlighting Indian spy. Hidayat Khan uses his trade contacts to siphon information from his Pakistani clients to the Indian Intelligence Agency.
Terminally ill around the crucial Indo-Pak war in 1971, Hidayat decides to send Sehmat, his daughter instead on the dangerous espionage mission. Being the dutiful daughter and staunch patriot, Sehmat gives her consent to use her body and services in return for India´s honour and safety.
She is assigned to her handler, Mir Khalid who trains and hand-holds her throughout her entrusted mission in Pakistan.
Sehmat Khan is married into a Pakistan Intelligence Officer´s home. She is married to Iqbal Syed and merges seamlessly into her new home. She is loved dearly by everyone from her father-in-law, Brigadier Parvez Syed to her sister-in-law, Munira to her husband, Iqbal.
Right under the nose of army officers and fleet of family members in her joint home, Sehmat passes on all the vital information to the Indian Intelligence Agency in time. With her babyface and delicate charm, she hoodwinks everyone in the household except for Abdul, the family cook. Like a loyal dog, Abdul has his ears perked up in suspicion of Sehmat and keeps sniffing around her whereabouts for possible clues.
The movie has its viewers on tenterhooks, especially the scenes involving Sehmat tiptoeing her way into Brigadier Parvez Syed´s locked room, where all the confidential information resides.
Does Sehmat pull off the impossible?
Or does she miss her step along with her heart-beat?
You will have to watch this must-watch movie to find out.
´Raazi´ comes with some power-packed performances not just by the lead protagonist, Alia Bhatt alone but by the entire supporting cast – Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat, Sishir Sharma, Amruta Khanvilkar and more. It is quite a nostalgic ride as well as to see some veteran actors after long on the big screen – Soni Razdan, Kanwaljit Singh, Rajit Kapur and Arif Zakaria.
Alia Bhatt is the perfect fit for the role of Sehmat Khan, both in age as well as acting prowess. She is given a role that is complex to essay and she pulls it off convincingly. It is not a character that you can easily like because of her actions. As she goes from one savage kill to another, it gets tough for the viewers to like this woman. And, that is where Meghana Gulzar pulls off a winner. Even though, Sehmat Khan is on your side, fighting against a common enemy and even breaks down in guilt and helplessness, you find it hard to really empathise with her. It is only until the end, that you feel sorry for Sehmat Khan, even indebted to her for her sacrifices and perhaps, even guilty for putting her through so much danger and trauma. All for the greater cause of patriotism and nationalism. If the author Harinder.S.Sikka is to be believed, the real-life Sehmat Khan went into a serious bout of depression after returning from her mission. Alia Bhatt has portrayed Sehmat´s transition from a naive young woman who is seen rescuing a rabbit to a cold-blooded murderer in its natural progression.
In contrast, Vicky Kaushal who plays Iqbal, Sehmat´s husband is given an affable role this is sure to win him many swooning fans. Like Sehmat, he is a patriot and is caught between his love for the country and her. Theirs is beautiful love-story that blossoms amidst the war backdrop. The relationship between Sehmat and Iqbal is tender, passionate and soul-stirring. The chemistry between Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal is crackling. The love-scenes flow organically and is aesthetically shot. This romantic sub-plot culminates in a bitter-sweet ending. Vicky Kaushal holds his ground with his earnest performance and makes this movie tad more memorable. Other notable performances include Sishir Sharma as Brigadier Parvez Syed and Jaideep Ahlawat as Mir Khalid. Rajit Kapur as Hidayat Khan, Arif Zakaria as Abdul and Soni Razdan as Teji leave an impression in their brief roles.
Maestro lyricist Gulzar teams up with the musician trio Shankar, Ehsaan-Loy to create magic in unforgettable songs such as ´Ae Watan´, ´Dilbaro´ and ´Raazi´ to name a few. The technical production and design of the movie is on point thanks to Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray. The screenplay written by Bhavani Iyer and Meghna Gulzar is tight and nearly flawless. And, you cannot miss the ethereal costumes in this movie created by Maxima Basu Golani.
Director Meghna Gulzar gives ´Raazi´ a fresh treatment going the path less trodden. A spy movie devoid of OTT patriotic slogans, heavy duty action scenes, Pakistan bashing, chest-thumping tearjerker scenes, soldier haloing and arm charm patriotism. Her idea of patriotism is realistic, practical and empathetic. This movie doesn’t follow a simplistic black and white narrative rather trudges finely nuanced layers of grey. What she offers is a sophisticated and subtly intelligent movie experience that is rare to find in mainstream Hindi movies today.
´Raazi´ comes with a strong message that despite the definite outcome, there are no winners in a war. Everyone stands to lose.
For the love of the nation and good cinema, please do not miss Raazi.
(This article was first published on Women´s Web here: https://www.womensweb.in/2018/05/raazi-a-sophisticated-spy-thriller-movie-review/)