Let’s talk about why “Raazi” was such an important film beyond the obvious reasons. However, I will still discuss the obvious ones too, because every aspect of the movie is tied up to the central message, beautifully.
The story introduces us to Sehmat as a Delhi University student in the 1970s – a time that’s still fresh in the ‘political memory’ of Indians. Once she gets home (to Kashmir), she’s informed of a mission under the cover of a marriage which she’ll have to undertake. At first, it seems like any other duty a daughter is simply ‘assumed’ to take up, without any questions asked. However, in one of the most well thought-out scenes in the movie, Meghna Gulzar and her team take special care to point out that Sehmat is not simply doing this because she’s a pushover. Neither is her decision influenced by her father’s insistence. She explicitly states that she wants to undertake this mission even when her father says that he shouldn’t have asked her to risk her life simply because her grandfather had taught him – and that she should return to college. She says that if this is ‘wrong’, then sending sons into the army is wrong as well. My heroine, indeed!
Later, she undergoes a rigorous training which proves challenging at first. But soon enough, she finds her strength and becomes a brilliant student. Special efforts are also made to point out that she’s a very sensitive soul – risking her life to save a squirrel, being queasy around blood and whatnot! But that doesn’t mean she isn’t brave. In fact, she’s quite the badass. So, when she does have to kill people in order to keep her cover intact, it takes a toll on her conscience. But she understands that two deaths on her hands are worth it if they can prevent a war.
As the movie progresses, there’s a lot of gripping tension, which is aided by some smart screenplay. I remember that at the time of the intermission, the people in the hall were all hushed and shaken-up. Such was the power of Alia’s acting.
One of my favorite scenes – and one of the most important ones too – is the one which shows what happens after Sehmat’s husband, Iqbal, discovers her true identity as an Indian spy. Iqbal informs his father, who is an important military personnel in the Pakistani army. Iqbal’s father starts to dial up the agency of the mess-up and he cusses at Sehmat. “Haraamkhor,” he shouts.
Iqbal, who’s a patriotic army guy, stops his father from throwing cuss words at her – telling him that whatever she did, she did for her country, just like they do for their own. Now, his father could have easily been angered by the comment – more so, considering the fact that Sehmat had to sacrifice Iqbal’s elder brother earlier in the movie (because he got too close to her truth). But surprisingly, his expression was one of understanding.
In my opinion, this scene was important because it showed us that when there is a war, there’s no right and wrong. Being in the military force themselves, they understood the darker realities and inner workings that have to be accepted without hesitation. Even Sehmat’s commander tells her this in the end when she has a breakdown after the emotionally-numbing goodbye she has with her beloved husband.
All in all, Raazi’s Sehmat bashed some of the worst stereotypes in our political and social circles.
She’s a woman who is a brilliant spy. She’s Kashmiri and a Muslim. And despite being an Indian, she really falls in love with a Pakistani. But all of that is only secondary to her watan and her country.
For me, this is the central message that is beautifully tied up to all that happens in the film:
Under no circumstance, can any kind of war mean good. All it brings is pain and destruction – and it should thus, be avoided at all costs.
Considering the current socio-political climate in the country, I’d say we need to take a few lessons from this film. Because that’s the point of cinema and art, is it not – to warn the public?