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Raazi Review: Now you see me, now you don’t

Direction: Meghna Gulzar Produced by: Vineet Jain, Karan Johar, Apoorva Mehta Cast: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajit Kapur, Shishir Sharma, Arif Zakaria, Amruta Khanvilkar, Ashwatt Bhatt Cinematography: Jai I. Patel;

Editing: Nitin Baid Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy Language: Hindi / Action, Crime, Thriller / 140 mins / India / 2018

Alia Bhatt in Raazi

Rating: 4.5/5

And the diminutive, petite Alia Bhatt stands the tallest amongst all the others in Raazi – a film that revolves around her and appears as though it was woven only to showcase her prowess as a brilliant actor. Make no mistake: Raazi may be an adaptation of Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka and a true story of an unsung Indian spy - trained impromptu, just ahead of the Indo-Pak war of 1971 but the film is constructed to serve as a vehicle for Bhatt. Perhaps that is incorrect. More appropriately said, she owns it from the minute she walks into the frame and every other artist, no matter how commanding, bows to this five-foot nothing powerhouse of acting.

Alia Bhatt in Raazi

Any film is essentially an amalgamation of images – there is more of course that contributes to it becoming cinema. Think sound, dialogue, action, editing, music and so much more. But first - it’s the images that crave your attention. And in Raazi’s case that is what you walk away with. Images. Visuals of a 20-something college kid who is sold the idea of a ‘nation being more important than the self’ and she buys it. Lock, stock and barrel. Vulnerable to the core; unsure of her next step; careful but alert; cautious but hungry to bite more than she can chew; lonely but strong; a spy who cries wholeheartedly; does things she never imagined; fights guilt but never loses focus; someone who believes in the cause and her tutors and bears a steely resolve to do what is right… She moves from strength to strength, from scene to scene and move to move till the end. Flawlessly. And there is more.

Alia Bhatt in Raazi

So much more… like when she sets up little bugs all over the house; when she realizes that sweet-talking to the oldest servant of the house is not the wisest move forward; when she signs up to tutor some kids for a school function but really she wants to enter their homes; when she thinks of some ideas to hoodwink her family to reach out to her handlers back home; when despite herself she falls in love… and you catch yourself on the edge of your seat hoping she wouldn’t get caught!

Vicky Kaushal in Raazi

There are others like Jaideep Ahlawat (as Khalid Mir); Vicky Kaushal (as Iqbal her husband); Shishir Sharma (as Brigadier Syed and her father-in-law), Rajit Kapur (as Hidyayat Khan, her father) and a whole string of espionage players who surround Bhatt as she works her way through the plot, sending out one morse code after another. But at no point does Bhatt allow you to forget that Sehmat is but this young, beautiful woman on the cusp of womanhood who is growing up faster than is needed. Ahlawat deserves a special mention. He is the secret sauce that enhances the flavour in the film.

Alia Bhatt in Raazi