Raazi Review

The first half hour of Raazi is bad direction. Its clockworks tend to move so thrift that our protagonist Sehmat is thrust into action in a manner only could only associate Indiana Jones with. Sehmat’s character arc, which was the founding stone on which the film was meant to be built upon, is inexplicably substantiated with a few lines of patriotic dialogues. Impetus is rather laid on her training process since this is meant to be a crackling thriller and everything else hitherto should be a means to achieve it.

This faulted premise is what bogs Raazi down, a movie in which the virtues and vices glare together with full effect. While credits have been pouring in for director Meghna Gulzar (and deservingly so) for not reducing her characters to stereotypes so as to fit in the image moulded by the general consensus, she has however fallen into another pitfall with her characterization, and that is with her dialogue. For a film supposed to be riding on a haywire of tension and uncertainty, the dialogues are never ‘off’ in a sense as it should be. Her characters seem to be reading out their lines than thinking them, having the perfect words on the tip of their tongues even in the most precarious of situations.

Yet, after the dismal beginning, the film manages to pick up. Meghna prodigiously charters the architecture of the house where the action takes place in a gradual course, hence perfectly setting the stage for the high tension scenes of espionage. When a character enters a room, we know precisely how distant he/she is from Sehmat and how long would it take to nullify that distance. This sets the stakes perfectly for these scenes, yet their impact is marred to some effect by the needless background music which diminishes note-by-note the suspense silence could have generated.

Gauging the performances in the film is an arduous task. Alia, whose initial attempts to establish a meek persona falters horrendously, is sterling when she does her emotional side, while the ever talented Vicky Kaushal seemingly dissolves into his role. But neither these two or any other act in the film comes anywhere near the realm that Jaideep Ahlawat’s performance inhabits, with his stone cold dialogue delivery and a face that doesn’t betray any emotion making up for one of the most memorable screen outings in recent Bollywood cinema.

Going through this review again, I feel I might have come across as rather harsh on the film. It is a biopic and does a pretty decent job being one, but the wasted potential that breathes in some frames is hard to forgive easily. The film seems to be itself while also simultaneously being the promise of so much more. While I was watching Raazi, the occasional silences paved way for the very lines you have trodden upon in this review. And by the time the credits rolled, it was only a matter of typing this down. And as far as I am concerned, when the mind perceives that what a film has to say ends with what shows up on the screen, believe me, it is never a good sign.

As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty Review

This world of ours is inscrutably bound to objective time. It traverses linearly, without any evident divagating from this prescribed course of action. Yet we, who inhabit this world so firmly, do not. Our existence is more or less entangled in the cobweb of what Julian Barnes terms as ‘personal time’. Personal time, Barnes says, is measured in our relationship to memory. But what is memory, if not discontinuous events sewn together, a mere patchwork of occurrences? Add to this perplexity Nietzsche’s ad infinitum, that all events which materialize are basically a part of a repetitive, continuous cycle and you have a basic understanding of the primordial nature of this masterwork by Jonas Mekes.
It is on the screen and even in theory, a work of utter chaos. There is no central line to hold the design together, nor does Mekes even make an effort to hint at the possibility of employing one. ‘Nothing happens in this film’ flashes repeatedly. However, Mekes’ occasional narrations go in complete contrast to this, referring repeatedly to a sibylline underlining to the occurrences. What results is a free flowing film like none other in remembrance, which bends time, runs forwards and backwards with it, and at places, folds in on itself. Many have seen through the veil of chaos over the years following its release, arguing that there is an indiscernible syntax that only Mekes seems to be privy to. I suppose there is, but, frankly, you don’t think about it while the movie plays.
As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty is an experience to behold. Mekes concocts a world where memories, sounds, emotions are all muted, not meandering to leave a mark, but rather trespassing through briefly, as if only to garner, if not our admiration, just a slight bit of attention towards them. It is a paradise in its own right, which does not follow a straight line to the unknown but rather moves in a circle among know objects. The monotony however breeds happiness, not boredom.
And then are indescribable moments of sheer beauty. They spring out of nowhere, like a beautifully lit Christmas tree or a child smiling with the ecstasy of her first walk. These are moments we have overlooked in our own lives, yet here with Mekes living it in moment and we in retrospect, they seem priceless and accrue our love for them. It is a spellbinding film, but not in the conventional sense, since it encourages us to drift away in the midst of the experience, asking us to enjoy Mekes’ memories and then perceive it with the prism of our own being.
Yet, what is the point of the film ? The point, dear reader, is to document a life without compartmentalizing its components into the polarities of important and not important. For Mekes, his wedding deserves no more due than his daughter playing Soltaire or a man crossing a road. Every moment is the ultimate in his eyes, since in every one of them, a bit of us breathes into existence at its emanation and perishes at its denouement. When the credits rolled, I imagined Immanuel Kant sitting at a corner of the theater, with tears of happiness rolling down his cheeks


The Narrative of Dunkirk

In 2017, writer-director Christopher Nolan released his much anticipated war outing ‘Dunkirk’ which polarized audiences worldwide right from the moment ‘go’. One group, to which I belonged, hailed it as a work of imaginative triumph and as an instant classic, while the other group criticized it for the lack of a human core and labelled it a bland and pretentious by nature.

Much hate in particular was vented towards the non-linear narrative, which the naysayers of the film rendered needless and out-of-the-place within the subject matter of the film. This brief write-up of mine hopes to prove the contrary :-

  1. CONFLICT :-

Although I am aware of the exceptions to this rule (Walden, Man With A Movie Camera, Chelsea Girls to name a few), it goes without saying that almost of all the movies we see thrive on the progression from the establishment of a conflict to its resolution/non-resolution. They make the work engrossing and act as an invisible adhesive that joins scenes together by giving them a route of focused and logical progression. The fracturing of time ‘is’ the conflict of Dunkirk with its incoherence prodigiously utilizing our inherent need to juxtapose the events in linearity so as to draw us into the work. Many have argued that Nolan should have rather opted for a straightforward, linear narrative, but they do so in complete ignorance of what the film hopes to accomplish in the first place – portraying war through a collective consciousness rather than an individual one. A conflict situation in the context of Dunkirk would have only emanated in a linear narrative had it been approached from an individual perspective (say The Pianist) or a battalion perspective (like Saving Private Ryan), but doing so would be completely at odds with the crux of the movie. The nature of the narrative acts a syntax here doing what Rosebud does in Citizen Kane, molding into a cohesive whole what would otherwise have been hanging threads, full of potential but no viable means of exploring it with.

2. NATURE :-

Dunkirk is a work epic in its scope and fittingly, so are the antagonists at play in it – land, water, air. Less is inflicted on the Allied forces by the ‘enemy’ compared to the hindrances the elements of nature bring to the fore. The non-linear narrative enhances the feeling of entrapment omnipresent in the film by creating the sense that all events are materializing at the same time, which contributes to the development of an aura that all the elements of nature have risen up together at the same time, up in arms to prevent the escape of the soldiers stranded at Dunkirk. It levels the stakes to an unparalleled high which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

3. TIME :-

As a medium, cinema lets us fracture time, elongate it and more importantly in this case, compress it. The evacuation of Dunkirk is so massive in its scope and so distant in its varying geographical settings that to have to make this film with a linear narrative would have meant risking a runtime mirroring a Tarr or Diaz film, a risk Nolan couldn’t afford to take considering the production values riding on the film. More importantly, the non-linear narrative helps put a clock on the events, menacingly ticking louder and clearer with every passing scene. Nameless these soldiers remain, but the clocks act as a connective tissue making them human and knowable to us, causing us to care almost beyond bearing about their fates and in process, transfixing us to the screen, watching in fear of what might happen to them. And us.