The Year`s Best (Thus Far)!
I guess if you've ever done something fishy (whether illegal or unethical) that you'd be petrified of getting caught for (God knows, to some degree, we've all been in such a position), the extreme fear/nervousness only hits you when you try it for the first time. The successful completion of which leads to subsequently higher levels of confidence, bordering on callousness, eventually.
As it seems with the brazenness with which the lead character (Alia Bhatt; what a consistently dazzling talent) in this film goes about her work as an Indian spy, living as a housewife, operating right inside the Rawalpindi official residence of her father-in-law, a Pakistani top-brass military officer, deep within a cantonment, while being married to a young bloke (Vicky Kaushal) who, like his brother, is a Pak Army man himself!
But you care so much for the girl, or perennially hope that she stays out of harm's way that, for the most part, I ended up watching this film with my hand on the forehead, often veering towards closing my eyes! It's the textured use of sound and some superb, textbook camera-work that, experience wise, it almost feels like you're going through David Fincher's stellar mystery-thriller Zodiac (2007), no less. This is director Meghna Gulzar's first outing after Talvar (2015), proving, without doubt, she is at the top of her game.
For a film so packed with plot twists, the gentle calmness in the air, even if slightly claustrophobic, given that it's mostly set inside a palatial home, surprises you, while holding your attention all through.
And despite a subject that essentially deals with jingoism, or patriotism, if you may, all characters (Indian or Pakistani) on the screen appear human, rather than tragedies alone. Whether that be the Pak husband, who's basically brought home a fake-wife; or his father, a full-on gentleman who, as Brigadier, loyally lords over a lot of decision-making process in the well-oiled military machinery - the only Pak institution that hasn't failed, or perhaps the reason the other institutions have! Of course none of this collective connect would be possible if it weren't for solid detailing, and some of the finest actors doing what they do best.
In fact it doesn't surprise me that Bhatt, along with others, performs the spy's character so brilliantly. For if there is any profession where you can aptly apply great acting skills (outside of acting itself), it would be as a spy, isn't it? That's the other place you're necessarily supposed to be someone else!
Raazi, meaning, in this context, I guess, a keeper of raaz (secrets), is a fictionalised version of an actual story about an undercover Kashmiri girl in 1971. It's based on ex-navy officer Harinder Sikka's novel Calling Sehmat. I'm tempted to read the book, since the real-life Sehmat, I'm told, passed away recently. She would've been the most fascinating person to meet.
The information young Sehmat managed to unearth, as an Intelligence Bureau operative, perhaps formed the basis of precious info on a massive submarine attack planned by Pakistan on India's first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. If you want to know what really happened thereafter, you only have to watch Sankalp Reddy's splendid war-film The Ghazi Attack (2017).
This is a meditative version of a war film, subtly weighing in on human loss and ruthlessness, even as it seldom wavers from checking off all the crackling elements of an espionage thriller. Honestly, I felt a little numb in the head as Sehmat feels the same for her soul. Whether or not you're sehmat (agree) with Sehmat, I suggest you should totally be raazi (willing) to catch her scintillating, untold story for sure (Eh? Told ya: feeling numb in the head!).