Starring: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Soni Razdan and Rajit Kapur
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Rating: 4 stars
Raazi is a brave and honest attempt at highlighting the futility of war, that it knows no emotions or feelings or relationships, that it knows no right or wrong, that it is just blind and brutal. The film also makes us question our sense of patriotism especially in these times when, what we eat or what we wear, weirdly reflects the love for our country. It takes a mature, liberal and an emotionally advanced director like Meghna Gulzar to take a heroic story of an unsung hero like Sehmat (played by Alia Bhatt), that starts with a rather dramatic love for her 'vatan' and ends on a human note, screaming and begging for humanity. And while doing so, Meghna does not take sides between the two countries. She humanises her characters from both sides raising a much larger question on the harm and damage that war leaves behind.
It is this objectivity as a director that makes Meghna one of the best filmmakers of our times. For instance, in Talvar (based on the Arushi Talwar murder case), she took a distant approach in Talvar, presenting three perspectives of the parents, police and CBI. Yet it was so convincing that it made me empathize with each one of them, only to see the absurdity of it all and finally realise what an unfair deal the Talwar family got. Similarly, Raazi doesn't simplify Sehmat's story as an Indo-Pak war story. It doesn’t just celebrate Sehmat's courage. Instead, it shows people from the other side of the border as people, whose lives are as precious, which when taken, would make equal tragic stories. Sehmat starts as an Indian agent, a young bride married into a Pakistani family, to nip all their plans by divulging important details to India. When asked why she chooses to be a part of it, she replies that love for her nation is in her legacy, it runs in her DNA. This unreasonable, inexplicable love for the country over humanity, finally fades away. Her growth from an agent to a wife in love, to finally a human being is remarkable. It made me uncomfortable thinking whether these naive agents are any different from radical terrorists! Both are brainwashed into a superficial love for the nation or religion, leading to severe consequences. The differentiating factor could be the intention; one aims at defending one's country, the other destroying the others'.
We all know that Alia Bhatt is a fine performer. In Raazi, her performance as Sehmat evokes a sense fear and tragedy in us. I almost felt one with her in her struggle of what's right and what's not. Alia lends a certain tone to Sehmat, in body language and especially in dialogue delivery. However I have always felt that Alia is more an intelligent performer than an emotional one. She smartly gets the nuances right but struggles to own them, especially in scenes where she breaks down.Vicky Kaushal, playing Iqbal, her husband, on the other hand, has one emotional scene and in that brief moment, establishes what a fine actor he is. His performance as a sensitive spouse, is a class apart.
There are a few loopholes in the movie though. Sehmat's snooping around in the family under the eyes of a brigadier looks slightly convenient but the brilliant screenplay makes up for that. The dialogues by Meghana Gulzar are clever and sharp. The small talk around fish in the menu at a formal dinner is a smart take on Sehmat's mission in Pakistan. Also, the final confrontation between Iqbal and Sehmat is electrifying as it merges multiple emotions - trust, betrayal, love and patriotism. The scene broke me down.
Raazi, besides celebrating Sehmat's heroism that led to India's victory in the 1971 war, is an emotionally intelligent film. It makes you question a lot about warring countries and world peace and that's always a good feeling to walk out with.