The time is 1971, tensions are running high between India and Pakistan. East Pakistan is on the brink of a war for Independence through Mukti Vahini; and here comes Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), daughter of an Indian spy, married off to Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal), a high ranking Pakistani military official, in order to continue spying for her country. And that’s how the story pivots. Can Sehmat, a kind-hearted, emphatic girl follow the footsteps of her father and actually be a hard-hitting spy with the tight reflexes or the stress of it all gets over her?
The movie, though placed in the timeline of the tensions surrounding the Indo-Pak war, never tries to glorify India over Pakistan. The patriotism in the movie is shown with the same audacity from both the sides, and you won’t ever feel biased towards one side. In a time where Nationalism and Patriotism are on the rise, a movie which humanizes the enemy is hard to digest, but Meghna Gulzar did it with such a conviction that it actually made us think. No love or hate or blame was ever brazenly shown and was instead left to us viewers to think about.
In fact, the placement of the song Ae Vatan could define this movie. With the Pakistanis and the Indian spy, all feeling the song with equal compassion and the love for their “Vatan” we can’t think of them as the enemies ever, but just the citizens of another country who love their “mulk” like we love ours. Overall, Shankar Ehsan Loy did proper justice to the soundtrack for the movie, and never did it feel distracting as such.
Raazi is an excellent film just because of the realism it shows. Any other film-maker could have made it much more thrilling, nationalism inducing, fancy spying kind of a setup, but Gulzar just stepped away from it making it much more realistic while keeping the same amount of drama and thrill alive. And add to that, unlike other spy movies, she wasn’t ever blatantly told to weaponize her sexuality, unless you count one incident where she was told by her trainer Khalid Mir (a classic poker-faced Jaideep Ahlawat) to just smile like a “Bahu” while with her husband. But since, the use of the ‘s’ word isn’t obviously a thing done normally in the Indian homes, the sex here could even translate to marriage here which obviously was the one way to use her sexuality as a weapon. Her place in the society extends well into her place in the war.
This movie shockingly humanizes the enemy so much that no other film-maker could have shown the Syeds (the family Sehmat was married off to) as emphatic, kind and high-ranking members in Rawalpindi as Gulzar did. What it did was whenever Sehmat has a task to relay some details or secrets, there is a play between the duality in our conscience. On one side, we want her to get the task done successfully without getting hurt, but on the other side, when these tasks cause pain or any loss towards the enemy side, we actually feel sad for them. Moreover, even she feels the same and we feel upset about her emotions for the same at the same time.
This movie points no fingers towards anyone. It has the camera on the spy, but the perspective is what runs this movie. Sehmat is introduced as a girl who saves a squirrel from being run over by a car, a girl with a heart. But the perspective given to us is from the car’s driver, showing Sehmat as a careless girl trying to defy the laws of nature
Even if the film was shot from the opposite view, still nobody would be winning; and that’s how you make an amazing movie, where you leave the understanding and thinking to the audience and not spoon-feed them the emotions.