Meghna Gulzar has based her latest on a novel from 2008 by a former Indian Navy Officer, inspired by the true story of a Kashmiri girl who was married off to a Pakistani Army Officer by her father to spy for India in the days that led upto the 1971 war and liberation of Bangladesh.Her efforts saved INS Viraat, says Harinder Sikka, the author of Calling Sehmat and he attirbuted the birth of the book to his disillusionment with patriotism during the Kargil War. The alleged intelligence failure made him ask questions and he ended up finding some truly astonishing answers that raises even more difficult questions on loyalty, ethics and the idea of a nation. The movie could not be more perfectly timed too, when all you see and hear around you is a conceited effort to bind nationalism and religio-political identity together.
Raazi is more John Le Carre than Ian Fleming and Meghna Gulzar has set a benchmark here in Bollywood for spy thrillers with this film which doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence for a change.Almost all Bollywood spy movies have been about wannabe Bonds plowing across the Schengen to look savvy while being economical, if you know what I am talking about. The only other movie Indian movie that comes close to Raazi in this genre is Mani Shankar’s underrated Mukhbir.The success of Raazi is in the perfect pace at which the story progresses.The elements of suspense and drama have been woven together with immense skill in the screenplay co-written by the director and Bhavani Iyer.There are thrilling espionage sequences worthy of the Mission Impossible series, at least in terms of the suspense they build and heart wrenching drama that would make Sanjay Leela Bhansali proud here.
The movie entirely belongs to Aalia Bhatt and she has delivered the performance of a lifetime empathetically capturing the predicament of a girl who puts everything in her life at stake for her country at the command of her father.Arif Zakaria is seen in a Bollywood mainstream film after a while and you know why he has been cast right from the first scene he is in.Jaideep Ahlawat plays mentor to Aalia’s character and is a representative of the cold calculating system that puts goals above every emotion which ultimately destroys lives and leaves souls scarred for eternity.Watching the movie here with a crowd of mixed nationalities from the Subcontinent and the Middle East was a surreal experience for me considering the events that unfolded on the screen and I was calm while realizing that conflicts are here to stay and we’re not.Cogs in wheels, the Khulbhushan Jadhavs , Sarabjit Singhs and Sehmats of this world.Penguin’s republishing Calling Sehmat I hear, maybe I should grab a copy.