Raazi, helmed by Meghna Gulzar, is a worthy successor to her previous film “Talvaar”, as she keeps it brutally authentic, weaving out a compelling espionage story with a minimalistic jingoistic tone.
Based on a true story documented in the book Calling Sehmat by Lt Commander Harinder Sikka (retd), Raazi sketches the story of a Muslim Girl Sehmat ( Alia Bhatt), a Delhi University student who is reluctantly persuaded by her father to spy for India while staying in Pakistan. Set in 1971 when relations between the two warring neighbors were particularly tense, Sehmat gets married to Iqbal , a Pakistani Army officer and son of a high ranking military officer. What follows is a series of events which pitches Sehmat to crushing conflicts between her heart and duty towards her nation.
Raazi’s biggest strength is the refreshing perspective it renders without any artifice. Director Meghna Gulzar skillfully keeps the proceedings simple and keeps the fabric devoid of any jingoistic overtones and flag-waving nationalism. There is an inherent sense of dignity and self-respect in each and every character, and no matter which side you belong, you end up rooting for virtually every one of them as you relate to them so strongly as the film progresses.
The film is gripping especially in the first half when Sehmat arrives in Pakistan after undergoing rigorous and bone-crunching training under the aegis of Indian intelligence officer Khalid Mir ( a terrific Jaideep Ahlawat). Tension dials up when Sehmat applies her cerebral skills to uncover vital information for India, while consciously trying to win over her in-laws in parallel. But some vices do crop up in the film, with the easiness with which Sehmat infiltrates over the secrets within the family of army men, which, though nicely shot, seems to be a bit too simplistic.
But despite these minor shortcomings, the film scales higher due to its taut screenplay and diligent performances from its ensemble cast. Rajat Kapoor and Shishir Sharma are solid as Sehmat’s father and father in law, and Jaideep Ahlawat is particularly brilliant as a stoic intelligence officer who is hard fisted and caring at the same time . Vicky Kaushal brings a vulnerable charm to his sincere portrayal of Iqbal. His affection for Sehmat is glistening, and he plays his restrained act with conviction and valor. Its also nice to see Soni Razdan on the big screen after a hiatus, and of course one wonders why she is not doing more films.
But the sole of the film is undoubtebly Alia Bhatt, who unsurprisingly, brings out her class again with a performance everyone will root for. The film provides her a solid platform to showcase her talent, and she laps it up with both hands. Her transition from a naive student of Delhi University to a hard fought trained spy is so powerful that its difficult to move your eyes away from her. Alia plays a gamut of emotions with sheer prowess and her vulnerabilities will surely melt your heart.
Measured and thoughtful, Raazi is a well-made film in the espionage thriller genre. Without any pomp and fuss, it makes an indelible mark through its sheer authenticity, gripping narrative and terrific performances.
POPCORN ENTERTAINMENT RATING – 4/5