Last year, we saw Rana Daggubati’s ‘The Ghazi Attack’ and ‘Raazi’ is its prequel. We saw the entire proceedings of the submarine attack in the former but the latter explores that one decision that made India win the 1971 war changing the history. This brings Harinder Sikka’s vision to celluloid, as his book ‘Calling Sehmat’ is the inspiration to this story of remembering an unsung hero.
‘Raazi’ is an enthralling journey of a Kashmiri girl named Sehmat (Alia Bhatt). She’s someone with a very sensitive heart as we see her love in the start for squirrels and yes she’s homophobic. Her father Hidayat (Rajit Kapur) is an undercover agent of Indian Intelligence Bureau and a friend-in-disguise for the army officials in Pakistan. Hints of an upcoming war are thrown in the initial few minutes and we know Hidayat is facing an incurable disease.
He asks for a last wish from his daughter Sehmat to marry the son of Pakistan’s Brigadier Syed’s (Shishir Sharma) son Iqbal Syed (Vicky Kaushal). He wants Sehmat to go to Pakistan and pass the confidential information regarding their plans to the Indian Intelligence Bureau. She gets ‘Raazi’ (agrees) for the same unaware of what dangers are lying ahead of her. Iqbal Syed loves her truly and Sehmat too falls for him. Rest of the story is about the developments of Sehmat being a perfect spy, wife, daughter, and Indian.
‘Raazi’ is a well-studied and an audacious attempt penned (dialogues) and directed by Meghna Gulzar, adapting Harinder Sikka’s reportedly true story Callin Sehmat. She knows how to create an atmosphere required for a certain kind of film; she established the same with ‘Talvar’ and has skilled up with ‘Raazi’. Following the ‘Bridge Of Spies’ storytelling, Meghna maintains the puzzling pace throughout.
From the very first scene, in which we see Chief of Indian Navy played by Kanwaljit Singh along with his team remembering an unsung hero in Sehmat, Meghna Gulzar and team work almost like Johnny Cash’s music – silent yet well-articulated. ‘Raazi’ builds the tension without any hardcore actions sequences or elongated speeches about the country. “No one and nothing comes before my country,” says Alia Bhatt in an important sequence. This could’ve been pop-patriotism if not for Meghna Gulzar’s well balanced vision.
Alia Bhatt delivers a winning performance. No one predicted we could see this shade of hers when she made her debut back in 2012 with ‘Student Of The Year’. Her performances in ‘Highway’ and ‘Udta Punjab’ were just teasers to this film. She gets the traits of a Kashmiri girl on-point and her accent is as pure as it can get. Vicky Kaushal finely draws a distinct line compared to his previous appearances in ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ and ‘Masaan’. This one is more subtle and profound but his character has limitations. He has to express himself by being in certain limits.
The music of ‘Raazi’ topples the expectations because you don’t really need songs in such genre. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s songs leaves a huge impact for the way they are used in the film. “Dilbaro” depicts the pain of Sehmat of sacrificing her life for the country. “Ae Watan” and “Raazi” are used in background multiple times and it stays even after you leave the cinema hall. The original story is by Harinder Sikka and Meghna Gulzar along with Bhavani Iyer (‘Lootera’, ‘Black’) has given screenplay for the film. The screenplay is poignant and helps building up the atmosphere. Jay. I Patel has been having a wonderful year, post ‘Mukkabaaz’ he’s back with ‘Raazi’ and he knows what he wants. From delving into the backwoods of Uttar Pradesh, Jay has come on board as a full-time cinematographer digging into the eternal beauty of Kashmir.
On the whole, ‘Raazi’ is a traditional spy-drama Bollywood needed for a long time now. Alia Bhatt uses every muscle to portray Sehmat and succeeds in every way to leave you in a rooted shock by the end of the film. A must-watch for every citizen regardless of their religion.