Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Rajit Kapur, Jaideep Ahlawat, Soni Razdan
To think, Calling Sehmat, had to reach Meghna Gulzar’s desk thrice before she finally decided to make the film happen - it makes you want to thank divine intervention. Raazi is a film that touches your heart, but be warned, it does make you feel rather insignificant when you see the life and turmoil that Sehmat went through.
Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), a Kashmiri girl, is to marry Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal) who belongs to a family of army personnel from Pakistan. It is an arranged marriage of ‘convenience’. The year is 1971, and India is suspecting Pakistan of foul play and needs to plant a spy within the Pakistan army. That’s when Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur) suggests his own daughter’s name. She is to marry in the Pakistani family and spy for India. What follows is a whole process of preparing Sehmat to face what’s to be her life in Pakistan. As a young girl, about to get married, she doesn’t have the liberty to spend her time thinking about what she will wear for her wedding. Instead, she has to learn how to shoot, to know Morse Code and more…
Much against her mother, Teji (Soni Razdan)’s wishes, Sehmat marries in Pakistan. The scene when she walks across the border to the life that the government wants her to lead, is without histrionics, but it makes your gut clench nonetheless. What begins is a lot of turmoil, anguish and pain…. Because one can train to be a spy, but one cannot turn the heart at will.
Especially when one’s unsuspecting husband is not just a man from across the border, he is also a man of loves, bleeds and cares….
Getting Vicky Kaushal to play Iqbal is one of the smartest things Meghna Gulzar has done, because no one else would have managed to breathe emotions into a character with so little in hand. Despite not having much screen time, as compared to Sehmat, Iqbal has to touch you with very little premise. And he does it well. The dichotomy within him, wherein he is a hardcore military man, but also has a softer, artistic side to him makes him memorable.
The film however, belongs solely to the girls. Let’s begin with Sehmat herself. Alia Bhatt has time and over again established herself as a wonderful actress, she is full of life and determined. But never before has she got the pitch as perfect as she has for Sehmat. She is not Alia in the film, she is not quirky, she is not spunky, she is quiet and resilient and fantastic. Raazi does come as a celebration for all Alia fans because it might be the first time you will see the actress lose herself in a character, so completely.
If Alia is good, the credit for that lies with her director. Meghna Gulzar’s attention to detailing is phenomenal, she manages to anchor everything together despite letting everyone free. She is ably aided by her cinematographer, Jay Patel, who manages to soften the frame, and yet show the brutality the characters are experiencing… making us subconsciously tuned to Sehmat’s journey. Subsequently, the journey with Raazi becomes that much more intimate for the audience.
For someone like me who walked into the theatres, knowing I would like the premise, but wasn’t too impressed by the music, was pleasantly surprised to find myself wanting to hear ‘Ae Watan…’ on a loop…. That’s what a film soundtrack should do, it should make you want to revisit the moments, again and again…. Take a bow, guys - for such fantastic cinema.