Raazi Movie Review
If not a great film, Raazi is at least not a chest thumping patriotic drama and that is a refreshing change.
Raazi has a peculiar duality at the heart of it. This duality shines the brightest in two scenes in the film. A girl is being married off into a new family and the father and daughter are figures of distraught. This could easily be a scene at any wedding but it takes a creative eye to spot a beautiful opportunity to play out the duality in this scene and who better than the amazing Meghna Gulzar who gave us Talvar a few years ago, to do it. This scene plays out on two levels; one, a girl being married into a new family and the other is, the girl is being married into a new country to Spy on their military operations. The other scene where this happens is when, Sahmat, the lead character played by Alia Bhatt, is in Pakistan and is teaching the students in a school, a patriotic song, Ae Watan. The children are singing it for their country, Pakistan and Sahmat, in a corner, is standing and singing the same song for her country, India; the duality playing out.
Raazi is based on the book, Calling Sahmat, which was based on a real life story about a young Indian girl who was married into a Pakistani military family to Spy on their activities and plans. Raazi could easily have been the usual jingoistic, Neeraj Pandey slog about chest thumping patriotism and missing the point all together but it chooses not to be simplistic and crowd pleasing but is a realistic look at a young girl’s extraordinary life. Alia Bhatt seems to be the most sought-after actress at the moment and she surely is justifying all the praise coming her way by carrying a film like Raazi, entirely on her shoulders.
Having an interesting premise to work with, does not prevent Meghna Gulzar from faltering. The very beginning of the film is a bit of a copout. We meet Sahmat, played by Alia Bhatt with just the right amount of vulnerability of a 20 year old spy, the very first time when she saves a squirrel from being crushed by a car and while she saves the squirrel, a friend pushes her away, preventing the truck from hitting her; just like Sahmat is going to Save India in the future from Pakistan and how her country will save her from being killed by Pakistan. The metaphor is in your face and not very subtle.
Raazi is both, a Spy thriller and a real-life story. A real-life story needs an emotional hook, for the audience to hold on to, which Raazi has but a Spy thriller needs a constant build-up of tension and uncertainty to deliver the punch at the right time, this is where Raazi falls short. Though the film is both emotional and thrilling, neither emotions are stringed together in a good screenplay to reach a cathartic, satisfying ending, this story deserved. The characters are underwritten but they benefit heavily from the actors playing them, as they compensate for the absence of depth in them. The character played by Vicky Kaushal, who is Sahmat’s husband, is a loving husband, an obedient son and broad-minded army officer who understands his wife’s sentiment about her country. The film does not benefit from this character because, when the character goes from being loving to livid, it is not a natural character progression that we see.
What Raazi lacks is an organic progression of characters and story and is further affected by a contrived screenplay that ends up being a cop out by the end of the film. The threads are tied up too easily and the pain is not allowed to linger and hence ends up being impalpable for the audience. However, Raazi redeems itself to some extent with beautiful performances and an interesting story.
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Raazi gains by not being a jingoistic attempt at manipulating emotions and is a mostly honest telling of an incredible story of sacrifice and courage. It respects the audience’s intelligence and never gets judgemental, which is a rarity in stories about the nation. Although not a great film, you would not regret watching it.