After delivering a string of unsuccessful films, director Meghna Gulzar finally proved her mettle with 'Talvar' which, in my opinion, was the finest Hindi film of 2015. Two and a half years later, Gulzar is back with an espionage thriller titled 'Raazi'. Though both 'Talvar' and 'Raazi' are thrillers, they seem to be in two completely different zones. The film is based on author Harinder Singh Sikka's book 'Calling Sehmat', which chronicled the real-life events in the life of a young Kashmiri girl called Sehmat who was married off in a Pakistani family so that she could spy on them.
Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur) is an Indian who makes the Pakistan Government believes that he works for them but in reality, he is doing this to win their confidence and help the Indian Government get information about the plans of the Pakistan Government and the army. He informs Pakistan's Brigadier Syed, who he is close friends with, that the doctors have detected a tumour in his lungs and he has only a few days to live. He wishes to see his daughter married before he leaves for heavenly abode and sets up a marital alliance between Syed's younger son Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal) and his daughter Sehmat (Alia Bhatt). He tells his twenty year old daughter about his real intention of wanting to get her married into a Pakistani army family. Sehmat agrees to the idea of getting married into the family and then, spying on them for India as she believes there is nothing more important than one's motherland.
I have not read the source material, so I am not sure how much writers Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer have borrowed from it and what kind of liberties they took while writing the screenplay. When seen in context of just how the situations play out in the film, one feels they take several creative liberties which seem far-fetched in a film that aspires to have a realistic tone to it. The ease with which Sehmat carries out her plan does not seem very convincing. Surprisingly, her ability to memorize numbers easily is not shown to serve any purpose once her mission begins. He intermission point is very nice and makes you look forward to the second half. However, the trill quotient is higher in the first half and not the other way around. Meghna's last film 'Talvar' also had a realistic setting to it but it was a nail-biting thriller that kept you on the edge of your seat. 'Raazi' has several memorable moments and the film makes for a fine watch but the thrill and edginess one expects in a film of this nature comes to the fore only sporadically.
Unlike most films carrying a patriotic fervour, which have released in the past, 'Raazi' does not glorify war. Instead, it puts across the fact that a patriotic person should actually be anti-war as the only thing a war brings you is loss of life and property. It does not demonises the 'other' party and shows how wars or the enmity between two countries does not do any good. The film succeeds, to a good extent, in driving home this point and you feel a tinge of sadness as you ponder over this as the end credits roll.
Alia Bhatt is the soul of the film. The young stress proves, yet again, why she is counted among the best in the business today. Though she struggles with the chaste Urdu diction at times, her performance is exemplary nonetheless. Vicky Kaushal delivers a fine performance, though his character could have been fleshed out better. Jaideep Ahlawat leaves a huge mark as Khalid Mir. He impersonates himself as a Pakistani army officer and shows his versatility as an actor. Shishir Sharma is terrific as Brigadier Syed and it is a pity that one does not get to witness his talent much on the big screen. It is a little strange to see Rajit Kapur getting bit roles in most of the Hindi films he has been doing of late. Despite the limited length, he leaves a solid impact. It is good to see Soni Razdan (Alia's real-life mother) play her mother in this film as their facial similarities work for the kind of equation they share on the screen. Amruta Khanvilkar, a well-known face on television and in Marathi cinema, makes an assured debut as Munira, Sehmat's sister-in-law.
'Raazi' has several flaws and a lot of implausibility in the screenplay but it is an espionage thriller with a beating heart to it. Meghna does not match up to the brilliance of her last film but makes a film that serves an important message that all of us need to ponder upon in the present times.