wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

A thriller that has your heart beating constantly for the protagonist’s safety is gripping because it is based on real life events and has strong performances. Also, Raazi avoids a few things it ought to have, making it even better.

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Director: Meghna Gulzar
Running time: 140 minutes
More Movie Info

Were it not based on a real life, Raazi would have been easily dismissed as too simplistic and thus unbelievable. In fact, it would even be accused of being too filmy. Not just by me or a handful of us who watch films every week, but by almost anyone who sees it. Which is why the story becomes even more compelling – a woman actually did that!

Raazi consciously avoids it all to make you feel the patriotism rather than shove it down your throat.

She, Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), really walked into a Pakistani household as a daughter-in-law with an intention to spy on family members who are officers of the Pakistani military intelligence. She was not a professional spy, so she trained quick and hard. She was trained not only in Morse code and action, but also in how to be a “good” daughter-in-law. You see now, why we wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t a real person.

Of course, all her deeds are made believable and human because of Alia Bhatt and the rest of the cast. Vicky Kaushal convinces you that he is a darling of a husband. Similarly, Jaideep Ahlawat plays the caring-yet-ruthless-yet-tender-yet-functional trainer and mentor to Sehmat well. However, Aman Vashishtha as the co-trainer shines silently amongst the supporting cast with his subtle and effective performance.

And once you accept all the mind-blowing details of how Sehmat went about her work as a daughter-in-law and spy, Alia Bhatt’s portrayal of an amateur spy make you want to watch her back. I literally caught myself wanting her to have an ally who stands guard while she is doing all this dangerous stuff. You also are with her as she goes through the moral dilemma between patriotism and humanity. Unfortunately, the situations Sehmat finds herself in call for a repetition of being nervous and playing devious, so Alia’s act becomes slightly restricted. But, save for a couple of scenes where she arguably goes unnecessarily shrill and comes across as over the top, I would give as much credit for my racing heart to her as I would to the story.

The story itself is of course as gripping as it seems unreal. The exposition bits are awkward and cumbersome though. They come across as forced because of the obvious intent. Sehmat is tender and brave because she saves a squirrel by jumping in front of a car. She is fragile because she doesn’t like injections, she has a photographic memory because she can recall obscure phone numbers. Similarly, the training montage is perfunctory. To be fair though, I have given up on seeing anything new in such montages.

After this exposition though, once the film gets on with the actual story, it keeps you glued through to the end. Sure, there are the spoon-feeding voice-overs that come in the form of Sehmat recalling an instruction. But, it is obviously for the audience’s benefit. While the film could have been crisper if it took care of these smaller things, the pace isn’t bothersome once the story picks up with Sehmat’s entry into Pakistan.

Interestingly, Raazi’s story is kind of alluded to in Ghazi Attack, the film about the actual Pakistani submarine attack that Sehmat worked on warning the Indian naval force about. This highlighted the contrast in the tone adopted by Raazi. It would have been very easy for Raazi to become a high-pitched take on nationalism like Ghazi Attack and in fact, like many other films in the genre. But, Raazi consciously avoids it all to make you feel the patriotism rather than shove it down your throat.

Which is why the story becomes even more compelling – a woman actually did that – in real life!

And of course, like many other films in the genre Raazi points out the futility of war. Sure, like the film’s title suggests, Sehmat took on an almost fatal mission willingly, but did she really?

- meeta, a part of the audience

32 reviewers(?) - 23 yays 7 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Anna MM Vertticad, annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...That film was primarily a defence forces procedural. Raazi, on the other hand, is an espionage venture with heart and soul tempering its gritty core. Even as it kept me on the edge of my seat for its entire 140 minutes, it broke my heart.... full review

Thumbs up, by Githa Vanan, Bolly Spice : ...Overall this film hits all the expected points. The story is both intriguing and twisting, while filling audience hearts with the sadness of drama and the pride of patriotism. The music is used effectively to make maximum impact and manages to be both touching and loud. The cinematography highlights the beauty of all scenes within the film. However in comparison with other patriotic human stories like Neerja it lacks the hard hitting edge, a final push to bring the life of the main character squarely into view. Raazi has the talent of some of the best in the industry to become a fullfilling film based on reality yet somehow you walk away feeling something isn’t quite right. ... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, RAAZI is an interesting thriller brilliantly narrated by Meghna Gulzar that makes for mature viewing. It is a film that celebrates nationalism that is devoid of the colors of religion. At the box office, it has the potential to grow with positive word of mouth and keep its makers happy. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankita Chaurasia , Bollywood Life : ...Do yourself a favour and go watch Raazi. It is one of those rare films that not only make an impact but also stay with you for a long, long time. Only a fool would miss this one! ... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...Raazi is a the story of one brave woman, but also brief history of time in terms of altered Indo-Pak relations and the position of Kashmir then and now. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Deccan Chronicle : ...Overall, Raazi celebrates the spy-thriller genre and proves good content prevails. Perhaps, a lot of aspects make this film unapologetically finest of 2018 so far. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Meena Iyer, DNA : ...DO NOT MISS RAAZI ... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Alia Bhatt is terrific, but she works in this role for the precise reason Sehmat manages to remain undercover in broad daylight – she is fragile, tiny, tender and uncomfortable and rarely looks capable enough to understand what is at stake. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...It won't be wrong to say that it's one of the most fiercely patriotic films you'll ever see. That a female star holds centre stage makes for a welcome change. Alia Bhatt’s histrionics alone are worth the price of the ticket. ... full review

Thumbs up, by IANS, Free Press Journal : ...Overall, Raazi offers a subtle dose of patriotism that makes you root for the film as it brings to life the story of the unsung heroine of the India-Pakistan war. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...The scene in which Iqbal’s father (Sharma) defiantly exclaims how a chit of a girl could defeat Pakistan is telling. Had it not been a true story, we could have questioned the audacity of the events. Perhaps, that’s what makes Raazi, one of the finest films of 2018, triumphant and defiantly good. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times : ...The actors sometimes falter with their accent and dialect, but intrigue around Sehmat’s adventures doesn’t give them much time to complain. Raazi is a sensibly written and finely performed film that takes a close look at the ordinary lives of extraordinary people. Not to miss. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Shalini Langer, indian express : ...However, at a time when hate and anger are the currency of the subcontinent, a film like Raazi needs to be made. For peeping into the Valley and finding a true-blue patriot, for looking across the border and finding decency, and for giving Kashmiri embroidery as worn by Alia an authentic, modern, featherlight touch. Like a delicious Indian irony, expect the clothes to linger around longer. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Nilesh Ramchadani, Kia Gia : ...On the whole, 'Raazi' is a traditional spy-drama Bollywood needed for a long time now. Alia Bhatt uses every muscle to portray Sehmat and succeeds in every way to leave you in a rooted shock by the end of the film. A must-watch for every citizen regardless of their religion. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Raazi is a magnificent and unmissable tribute to the unsung heroes of our country. It explores a brave story which was in shelves for long time now. Alia Bhatt has just smashed every barricade for being a superlative actress. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...That does not take away from Bhatt’s star power in this case though, Johar added. It is only the actor’s strong fan base that has helped take Raazi beyond the top metros. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...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 ... full review

Thumbs up, by Jaidev Hemmady, Movie Talkies : ...As for the film, like mentioned earlier, Raazi is quite unlike any spy thriller you may have seen. Even though the plot is crisp and taut and edgy, it is not a fast-paced potboiler with car chases or gun battles or slick action sequences. However, despite this, Meghna manages to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats and that is precisely where Raazi proves to be a winner.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Unlike most films within the genre that focus chiefly on the ‘operation’, Raazi also delves into the debilitating position that secret agents who stumble in and out of the margins of history must sometimes assume. Given the political climate, this one’s a relevant watch — especially since little has turned between the two nations over the years. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sameeksha Dandriyal, News18.com : ...Intense, emotional and unnerving at the same time, the sensitivity and emotional quotient of the characters- especially Alia’s Sehmat makes Raazi a gripping watch that keeps your mind and heart on the edge, till the end. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Manisha Lakhe, Now Running.com : ...But the film remains an amazing tribute to all the people who sacrificed their lives without needing any kind of acknowledgement. The film is patriotic, but amazingly so. And the story just seeps into your bones - just like the Mere Watan song - and stays with you long after the movie is over. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Raazi is a rarity. It is intense, riveting, clever, dark, sad, lyrical, heartfelt, relevant and understated. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Neil Soans, Times of India : ...Meghna Gulzar’s steady hand gradually ramps up the tension throughout, leading to an explosive final act in this strong dramatic thriller. It also leaves you questioning the repercussions of war on the human psyche.... full review

So-So, by ARNAB BANERJEE, Deccan Chronicle : ...Raazi boasts of some splendid performances by even those who have small roles. Topping the list is Vicky Kaushal, whose underplayed role may look underwritten, but he brings in enough heft to the character of the obligated son and citizen that he is meant to be, as also, the tormented husband beginning to fall in love with his wife in the arranged marriage. Upon discovery of his wife’s betrayal, he displays the look of helplessness as real as it gets. Shishir Sharma as Syed; Arif Zakaria as the loyal family help whose penetrating eyes pierce into Sehmat’s well-laid plans; Jaideep Ahlawat as Sehmat’s trainer Khalid Mir; Ashwath Bhatt as Mehboob Syed; Amruta Khanvilkar as Munira; and, Soni Razdan as Sehmat’s mother Teji Khan are all part of the supporting cast but each one of them leaves a mark as an individual. ... full review

So-So, by Veturi Sarma, fullhyd.com : ...Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music fits the narrative well, and it won't be a surprise if Ae Watan gets to be a fixture in Independence Day special programs in the coming years. Pakistan has been rendered well, and Jai Patel's cinematography combined with the production design is quite evocative of the era. ... full review

So-So, by Suhani Singh, india today : ...Alia Bhatt steals the show in Meghna Gulzar's spy thriller... full review

So-So, by Raja Sen, NDTV : ...The film is centred, however, by the spymaster. As the operative who trains Sehmat, Jaideep Ahlawat is exceptional, creating a character who is steely and unflinching while also one whose heart is never in doubt. A superb, delicately poised performance. ... full review

So-So, by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Reuters : ...Despite its shortcomings, “Raazi” has a lot going for it, especially its leading lady. If you are willing to suspend your imagination a bit, it can make for a fulfilling watch. ... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...Alia Bhatt’s carefully judged performance goes some way towards conveying Sehmat’s improvised bravado and ability to wear a mask that slips only when she is alone.... full review

So-So, by Kennith Rosario, The Hindu : ...The use of unadulterated Hindi and Urdu dialogues, and lyrics by the filmmaker’s father, Gulzar, is delightful. The recreation of the early ’70s is tastefully done and smartly packed in tight shots as to avoid the use of opulent sets. There’s a lot going for Raazi yet there’s a nagging lack of novelty — whether it is the film’s plot, message or Bhatt’s ability to cry. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Sreehari Nair, Rediff : ...This is the unique tragedy of the film: it becomes less of a counterpoint to pseudo-patriotism and more of a companion piece. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Karan Bali, Upper Stall : ...The technicalities are strictly average, its 140 minutes running length painfully telling on the film. And while one has to admit that Meghna Gulzar has managed a credibly human take on a tale that could have been bombastic, Raazi still leaves you yearning for more; in fact, much more. ... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

4 readers - 4 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Fan

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Nanda Ramaswamy : The story picks up pace from the first frame. no unnecessary songs or sub-plots.Worth a watch !

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Neha Shah

Yay! Thumbs Up, by YRHPK : best one from Alia Bhatt.

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Gun shots, a brutal accident
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A lip-to-lip and sex is implied
  • Concept: An Indian girl is married of to a Pakistani family with an intent to spy on the family members.
  • General Look and Feel: A period setting from the 1970s

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Comments (4)

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Indian movies often seem hollow and mediocre due to the lack of a strong story. The Indian film story writing business is not a creative work, more often than not hashing out masalas or inspired potpourri of ideas. That is the reason that the few films based on books tend to be a nice watch. Because a book is written by a more genuine and creative author, a film based on a book usually has a pretty good story line to support it. Same is the case for Raazi, that it makes an interesting watch.

For a thriller, Raazi seems to be moving at a very slow pace. There is no urgency in its purpose. At the same time it is full of gripping moments, twists, blood pressure pumping and heartbeat pumping moments. That combination of slow speed yet gripping and tense drama is rare to see in films, and even more rare to be a successful combo. And in Raazi it becomes a successful combo. The bakground music is apt, and matches the situations well.

The Pakistan angle is sensitively presented. No stereotyped characters. To the contrary we have an extra sweet and a pucca gentleman in Iqbal, the character played by Vicky Kaushal. So much so that it feels as if the producer/director wanted to go out of the way to appease Pakistanis.

On acting front Alia Bhatt trumps everyone else. Even though I found Vicky Kaushal very good, confident and controlled in his role.

Dharma productions also kind of did a prequeling by referring to the Ghazi Attack, a film already produced by Dharma a year or two ago.

A nice thriller to watch, a good way to pass a free afternoon or evening. Although I doubt if I would recollect this movie with fondness after a few months. So not a masterpiece, but an enjoyable film.

Amazing thriller. Alia Bhatt is a delight to watch! Definitely a one time watch.

Nanda Ramaswamy

There has been a surge of movies recently with female protagonists. They break the mould and showcase some excellent acting and storytelling. I think the flaws in these should be overlooked and viewers must encourage such movies by watching them in theatres and spreading the word. Such positive role-modelling is the need of the day.

You can say it one of the best movies from Alia Bhatt.

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