In this last entry for Indian films that made an impact in the past twelve months, I write about the one that put to the spotlight curdled dynamics of patriotism and is particularly important given India’s annual Republic Day falling on 26th January. The stakes are high in RAAZI ( AGREEABLE) as it’s based on the real life tale of one among many unsung heroes of the national intelligence apparatus vis a vis the book CALLING SEHMAT written by HARINDER SIKKA.
We operate on friendly, extremely civilized lines on a one on one basis so where does the demarcated line of control end? Cross border hate, thus, is a complex undertaking and within civilized exchanges, simmering angst boils to the surface in RAAZI.
So the space of patriotism vis a vis blood bonds and adopted ones is negotiated by a young Sehmat ( Alia Bhatt) and in her steely resolve, the gossamer fabric of vulnerability plays its part as well. Naturally so. A twenty year old cannot expectedly be invincible, gender no bar and this practical diving point steers the cinematic traction of this screenplay.
Stakes of love and her mission as a covert spy in her marital home in Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the pre 1971 India – Pak epoch set the stage for an internecine battle of wits, secretive and simultaneously brittle as it is, from which nobody emerges unscathed. This 20 year old is the loser even if infiltrating her army husband’s unit finds her indulging in skulduggery, cunning and triumphing with blood on her hands.
It’s all the more complicated as her adopted family dotes on her while the father in law, an army general, operates along lines of hate for the other side and still expresses fidelity to Sehmat as an equal as to her father, his dear friend from pre Partition days when India was one subcontinental entity. There’s malice in the ideologies, not individuals per se. Yes RAAZI does appear by the numbers in few espionage beats sometimes but the appeal is in the moral weightlifting it evinces, never in your face or jingoistic.
** Alia shares the screen here with her real life mother, actor Soni Razdan.
The pressures of upholding the integrity of watan (nation) is not for the faint hearted. In this recreation of a life lived in real time, the cast, comprising of Vicky Kaushal, Shishir Sharma, Amruta Khanwilkar, Rajit Kapur, Jaydeep Ahlawat among others, bring a layered undertone of humanity mingling with danger and unpredictability. Civility and fierce loyalty to one’s nation are rubbed against each other by Meghna Gulzar’s direction, stoking a power play deep and propulsive. Haunting is the word.
There is something admirably raw and unspoilt about Alia as a performer and subtlety is key in Meghna Gulzar’s direction.