Alia Bhatt is the heart and soul of Meghna Gulzar’s riveting thriller, Raazi

You’re bound to expect matured storytelling and nuanced characters from a director whose creative lineage is exemplary. Having woven stories around surrogacy in 2002 with Filhaal and the intricacies of the Indian judiciary with Talvar, Meghna Gulzar subtly etches the futility of war in Raazi.

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“Aap log na rishtey samajhte hai, na jasbaat, “recounts a heartbroken Sehmat(Alia Bhatt) in one of the soul-stirring scenes of the film. While this is just an underlying theme of the otherwise patriotic spy thriller, the director-actor duo often leaves you with moments that shake you from within!

Sehmat is a simple young girl who is pulled into a confidential alliance with Pakistani soldier Iqbal(Vicky Kaushal) owing to familial duty. Sehmat must fulfil her father’s (Rajit Kapur) wish of living for the nation and thus begins her journey as a spy with a focussed and rather ruthless trainer, Jaideep Ahlavat. While tensions begin to build up between India and Pakistan just before the war of 1971, Sehmat is compelled to provide undercover information about Pakistan’s secret plans that eventually led to the Ghazi Attack. Camouflaging under the garb of a newly-wed, and risking her life every minute, Alia Bhatt’s Sehmat draws you in to her world so much so that your heart thereafter beats along with hers. You sense her vulnerability, embrace her courage, pulsate in her fear and eventually drench in her tears! She almost paints an emotional graph of the transformation of simplistic humans into ruthless individuals compelled by war and you cannot help but empathise with her as she breaks down in self-pity. “Isse pehle ki main bhi aap sab jaisi ban jaoon, mujhe yahaan se jaana hai…mujhse aur ek khoon nahi hoga” she exclaims poignantly in a powerful scene from the film.

Meghna’s careful hands handle an otherwise controversial story with utmost dignity. She cleverly turns your attention into the emotional journey of two individuals under the backdrop of war and patriotism. While an overtly dramatic and rather cliché climax could have been avoided, it’s only a minor hiccup in the otherwise compelling thriller. Meghna is also careful to leave emotions and sequences open to audience interpretations.

Shankar Ehsaan and Loy provide just the right tunes in the background that blend into the story with Gulzar’s soulful words, a refreshing Kashmiri folk song and a reverberating Ae Watan by Arijit Singh.

With a strong supporting cast, some edge-of-the-seat moments and two leading ladies (Alia and Meghna), Raazi makes for a perfect watch this weekend!

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