Raazi Review: Alia Bhatt is phenomenal in Meghna Gulzar’s taut spy thriller!

Name: Raazi
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Screenplay: Bhavani Iyer, Meghna Gulzar
Actors: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Alhawat, Shishir Sharma, Rajit Kapoor, Arif Zakaria, Soni Razdan.
Date: 11th May, 2018
Genre: Spy Thriller
Reviewer: Sreeparna Sengupta
Review Rating: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Review Date: 11th May 2018

The true story of Sehmat Khan, a simple Kashmiri girl who is sent by her father as a spy to Pakistan, is an instantly fascinating one. And one that prompted author Harinder Sikka to hunt her down and write a book on her life with fictionalized portions to protect her real identity. Sehmat is the name the author bestowed on her.

Meghna Gulzar’s ‘Raazi’ is an adaptation of Sikka’s book – Calling Sehmat, set against the India- Pakistan war of 1971.

Sehmat (Alia Bhatt) is a regular, college going girl who has a gift for remembering numbers after just one glance. Her father, Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapoor), a Kashmiri Indian intelligence agent assigns her to a dangerous mission. He arranges her marriage to Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal), son of his aristocrat friend in Pakistan, Brigadier Syed (Shishir Sharma). So she can operate as an undercover spy and pass on classified and relevant information to the Indian intelligence. Driven by her father’s passion and patriotism, and his failing health, that restricts him from taking on a mission of the sort, Sehmat agrees.

Willingly, Sehmat takes on a grueling training under the watchful eye of Khalid, (Jaideep Alhawat), an Indian intelligence agent. Watch out for the scenes where Sehmat and Khalid are at odds with each other even as they have the same goal in mind. It’s a layered play of interpersonal relationships.

Once married, Sehmat is only too aware of the precariousness of her situation. One slip up and it could be all over for her. Even as she is drawn into a romantic relationship with her husband, her focus is unwavering. It’s a balancing act of emotions and Alia Bhatt is pitch perfect as the seemingly fragile but deep inside a committed and a tough as nails undercover spy.

Alia who has earlier made brave choices with films like Highway and Udta Punjab, ups the ante yet again with Raazi. In what you could call her career’s best performance till date, she is simply phenomenal.

Alia skillfully embraces Sehmat’s vulnerable yet powerful and determined character. There are scenes where she portrays her conflicted emotions so brilliantly that it gives you goosebumps. Her styling in exquisite shades of pastels and chiffons (Maxima Basu Golani) add to the frail, feminine Sehmat who makes an unlikely spy.

Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer’s screenplay is taut, with tense moments weaved in that keep you on the edge of your seat. The production design (Subrata Chakraborty, Amit Ray) stays true to its period with the vintage setting to the T. Cinematography by Jay I. Patel is top notch.

Raazi Review Alia Bhatt

While it’s Alia who shoulders most of the film, the supporting cast also pitches in with their assured performances. Vicky Kaushal as Iqbal brings in a remarkably measured and matured performance beautifully balancing his equation with Alia’s Sehmat. Jaideep Alhawat as the tough Khaled is superb. Rajit Kapoor, Soni Razdan, Arif Zakaria, Shishir Sharma – pack in fine performances to make it a compelling watch.

Meghna Gulzar’s complex, layered narrative seldom falters – we don’t see any unnecessary jingoistic dialogues or the common tropes of patriotic films. Yet subtly and surely, the message is conveyed – it will leave you with a tinge of pride and patriotism and yet weigh in on the futility of war. And be in awe of true stories of the unnamed heroes who risked their lives.

Raazi is a must watch as Meghna Gulzar crafts a riveting film with nail biting yet intense and poignant moments. And for Alia Bhatt’s captivating and nuanced performance that will definitely leave an impression on your mind. The talented young actress has certainly set a new benchmark!

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