Raazi – Surprisingly ‘drama-less’ yet powerful

The coming together of Alia Bhatt and Karan Johar is hardly ever short of melodrama. Place this in a patriotic Indo-Pak spy story and you can certainly expect Bollywood bravado.  But despite all the temptations of jingoism, Raazi remains subtle and heartfelt, all thanks to the sensibilities of Director Meghna Gulzar.

An adaptation of Harinder S Sikka’s Calling Sehmat, Raazi is the story of a young and naive Kashmiri girl married into a Pakistani Family as an undercover spy, who eventually helps save INS Vikrant from Pakistani attack.

In Sehmat’s first appearance, we see her saving a squirrel, fretting over few drops of blood and mugging numbers, all in a minute. This intro got us worried if the rest of the movie was going to be this pronounced. But the crisp scriptwriting comes to the rescue of any such ‘filmy’ overindulgence.

The first half takes us back in the times of a heavenly Kashmir. With a questionable pace, we are introduced to the premise, which speeds up only by the second half.

Alia as Sehmat is not bad at all, but she is as good as she was in Highway, almost an extension of the same character. The fear, the shudder, the moist eyes, the internal conflict all seems familiar despite being placed in a fresh narrative. The story is undoubtedly compelling, but there is more Alia than Sehmat to it.  Also, the fact that Alia is surrounded by such a remarkably strong supporting cast, intensifies the gaps further.

The characters are just appropriately fleshed. There is no extra effort to paint dark or make a hero out of anyone from either side of the border. They are non-dramatically treated as humans, with emotions, with patriotism.  You don’t hear the words ‘Hindustani’ or ‘Pakistani’ much, what you hear is ‘mulk’ or ‘watan’. The song ‘Ae Watan’ is definitive of how patriotism is same across nations.

Jaideep Ahlawat as an Intelligence head and Sehmat’s trainer and handler is pivotal in holding ‘Raazi’ together. His poker face performance is powerful and impressively underrated. Vicky Kaushal makes Iqbal leave a mark in his very limited screen time. His prowess lies in his subtlety.

There is no decisiveness in characters or power in dialogues. People are gullible, trust is no issue, and important information is not under a lot of locks. The implausibilities of execution are to be ignored.  The writers have chosen to steer away from these niceties. Clever choice of synonymous names for the title and the protagonist makes it clear that the heart of Raazi lies in Sehmat and only Sehmat’s journey.

Raazi is simplistic, crisply edited with some nuanced performances. Not extraordinary, but certainly in that direction.

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