Rating : Watchable (3/5)
Genre : Spy thriller
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 18 minutes
Director : Meghna Gulzar
Cast : Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajit Kapoor, Soni Razdan, Arif Zakaria
Kid rating : PG-13
Raazi is a spy thriller, of which there have been a few in Bollywood – Agent Vinod, Ek Tha Tiger etc. It’s still a matter of pulling it off well, which few do. The last well-done Hindi spy thriller was D-Day, and before that . . . there really were none. Raazi is a decent watch, but as an espionage thriller still lands somewhere in the middle of well-done and half-baked.
Raazi is based on the book “Calling Sehmat” by Harinder Sikka (he also has writing credits for the movie), where he describes the real life story of an Indian undercover spy operative, who on her father’s wishes married the son of an important Pakistani general and, once married and ensconced in her in-laws home in Pakistan, sent military intelligence to RAW agents. Alia Bhatt plays gently brought up Sehmat Khan, who full of the fervor of patriotic duty and inspired by her spy father (Rajit Kapoor), agrees to embark on this dangerous mission. She is hastily trained by RAW agents, and married into enemy lines, where she manages to send back critical information. However, the mission soon becomes dangerous, and Sehmat is sorely tested.
Vicky Kaushal (of Masaan fame) plays her husband Iqbal Syed, a decent, considerate kinda guy, and he is quite fabulous here in Iqbal’s serious, soft-spoken persona. Do recall my review of “Love per Square Foot” where he just didn’t seem to fit the role; although he’s wonderful in subtle serious characters, like Iqbal’s. Jaideep Ahlawat (you might remember him from Gangs of Wasseypur) plays Khalid Mir, Sehmat’s chief RAW trainer and handler, and he is just about perfect. Alia’s real-life mom plays her screen-mom, Teji, in a short role.
I did like Raazi, but like most of Meghna Gulzar’s work this doesn’t quite hit the spot. It is not that the film is not interesting; the ups and downs of Sehmat’s life as a covert operative makes interesting viewing. However, even with such a suspenseful subject, director Gulzar fails to build up momentum or a real connection to our intrepid heroine. Alia, who is a superlative actress (Udta Punjab, Kapoor & Sons) looks the part, all innocence and light, but doesn’t do as well as expected – her character seems extra diffident, and not well-defined. Also, getting a look-see into the personal tribulations and conflicts of a female spy practicing a very intimate deception, would have been interesting, but other than a speech from Sehmat about the country being foremost in her affections, we get little in that regard. Since Alia is the lead character here, and she seems a tad removed, it lessens the emotional impact; I do not feel for her like I could have had this character been better etched.
In the end, Raazi remains a story we watch from afar. We care, but not too much. Films which leave a lasting impact have characters that impress themselves upon you, you either hate them or love them, but feeling for them is a must. Raazi does not succeed in that regard, but still remains a decent one-time watch.
Kidwise: Some tepid love-making scenes between Sehmat and Iqbal, filmed very delicately, and shouldn’t hurt any juvenile sensibilities. Some scenes depicting violence.