Not all heroes come in uniforms. True as hell.
Last I watched such a film, it was directed by Prakash Jha. Issues of the Hindi heartland, local dialect, characters from real India , rustic art direction and a story that talks about an average man from middle class, somewhere in UP, Bihar or MP, the largest states of Indian democracy.
Patnaik is a profoundly honest Income tax officer who is infamous for his frequent transfers and equally famous for his never say die approach towards his cases that need be investigated and uncovered. His wife stands like a rock behind him. In a scene where the couple has just been transferred to another city, the first thing she wants to visit is the police headquarters and a public hospital, because she knows these two addresses will come in handy. Patnaik would never break rules, he would also not let anyone do the same. In the opening scene, he refuses to go inside a house where the gatekeeper had politely declined his entry as he was in chappals. Even upon persistence by the owner, he, the guest would not go inside as the gatekeeper said it was part of the rules. Such was his obsession for righteousness and following rules that he would even cause himself and others inconvenience instead of taking an easy route. He says “India ke Officers ka Nahin, unki beewiyon ka bahadur hona zyada zaroori hai”. This couple was indeed a team working in one direction throughout the film.
One the other hand is a thrice elected MLA from Lucknow – Rameshwar Rajaji who was corrupt, arrogant goon, head of a big family and wielded immense power through his local followers. He would be Amay Patnaik’s next catch based upon a lead an anonymous man gave him. ‘Tauji’ as everyone in that area fondly calls him is a well-connected, feudal man, completely aware of his ‘Pahunch’ till the Prime Minister too. He is arrogant but good at heart at the same time. He loves his family and takes care of them as a patriarch.
Hence begins a film based on the longest raid in Indian history which was carried out by 45 government officers.
The best part about Raid is Saurabh Shukla’s controlled yet evil performance and writer Ritesh Shah’s taut writing. With minimum to play with, director Raj Kumar Gupta makes sure, the content is King here. He invests in building intense scenes giving the film its deserved seriousness. The conversations and dialogues are mostly realistic yet powerful. The characters be it in Rajaji’s family or Amay Patnaik’s team are close to reality hence keeping the viewer engrossed. Shot in Lucknow and Rae Bareilly, the film’s cinematographer Alphonse Roy dabbles with limited territory but does a marvelous job.
Another feather in the film’s cap is its unending desire to stay honest and committed to the subject. At the cost of being too realistic and non-commercial, it steers clear of drama and bollywood cliches. Reminding me often of Prakash Jha’s filmmaking, the story and the screenplay made this roughly 120 minute film spellbinding and crisp.
Saurabh Shukla in the role of Tauji is mesmerizing. In one of the scenes where he sits on the dining table with his entire family and feeds his old toothless mother Jalebis, while seeped in anger and disgust, he is just the performer every movie goer pays a heavy amount to enjoy the performance of. The still of the silence of the scene is enthralling. Trained and experienced actors bring a lot to the table and Saurabh Shukla is one of them.
In a scene filmed on the then Prime Minister who was Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi of course, the confrontation between an MLA and the PM is chilling. She doesn’t even look him in the eye. These were the scenes that established the director as an ingenious one.
Barring a few blunders like Ileana D’Cruz bringing tiffin to the husband and his team while the raid was on and a tense scene obnoxiously breaking into a romantic getaway song, to commercially appeasing Bollywood remixed tracks by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan playing in the background and disturbing the mood of an authentic film that was being led to a gripping climax, the film mostly fills us with pride. Also the typical portrayal of a wife of an officer as a thin, beautiful, daring woman is cliched enough to command a change in writing and casting of such characters. Other powerful performers like Sheeba Chadda and Amit Sial made for a very commanding supporting cast.
Raid is worth your time and money. With a wish that filmmakers will be daring enough to make more films on the subjects that concern the country’s future and its people, here we sign off applauding the purpose of RAID again.