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.