Mar 162018

Raid does an honest job of showing all that’s wrong with modern India. Do catch this at a theatre near you

Ajay Devgn
Ajay Devgn in a still from Raid

Director: Rajkumar Gupta
Actors: Ajay Devgn, Saurabh Shukla
Rating: Three and a half stars

This film, written by Ritesh Sinha (Pink, BA Pass), gets to the point right from the first scene itself—crack of dawn: bunch of Income Tax (IT) sleuths setting out to conduct a massive raid. This early ‘locking of goal’, as it were, might disappoint those who’re into back-stories, especially since the whole movie thereafter is set in a fortress, where the raid carries on forever.

But, then, what back-ground could you possibly need for two characters who belong so intrinsically to middle India—and therefore heartland films—that they’d just be B-grade clichés, if the plot didn’t support their being on screen so strongly in the first places. And the performances didn’t match the story’s quality. They do.

This is a clash of titans, of sorts. On one end is a “zamindar-thekedar-karobari-bahubali”, basically any other Uttar Pradesh Mafia-don—as many of whom exist in the movies, as they do in real life. And yet the delectably portly Saurabh Shukla plays this part with such menacing realism, remaining dorably under-stated, that you want to pull his cheeks and slap ’em at the same time.

Opposite him is Ajay Devgn, of course, as the immeasurably ‘imaandar afsar’ (upright officer), displaying that casual swag that we’ve always known Devgn for. In fact, he operates at such a fine cusp of being a proper ‘hero material’ (Singham, Shivaay, etc), and someone who can be cast without going against ‘type’ into regular middle-class, lead characters (Gangaajal, Zakhm, etc)—or as in this case, a sandal wearing IT deputy commissioner—that it escapes popular notice sometimes, how long he’s been noiselessly straddling two paths, without calling any/much attention to himself.

The ensemble cast in this picture, right from a sweet ol’ Amma (of the house), to Amit Sial (as the shady one in the sarkari crew) equally stand out. The film however scores not so much for the story alone, as in its telling. And anybody who’s seen Aamir (2008), No One Killed Jessica (2011), would admit director Raj Kumar Gupta has a firm grip over craft— can’t be easy for an audience inside a dark hall to be thoroughly engaged by a movie that also takes place almost wholly inside another hall (or mansion). Those disinclined towards such talkie dramas might find the goings-on tad tedious, perhaps; if not slightly “boring”, if you may.

But the way the narrative plays out, consciously (or sub-consciously) sub-divided into the four stages of Chanakya’s infamous political neeti (tactic): Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed (translations won’t do justice: being crafty, slimy, essentially), makes it all a rather riveting watch.

Which is to take away nothing from the plot itself—a true account, set in 1981, Lucknow, that apparently involved the greatest ever haul by the IT department, especially from the era of the ‘Inspector Raj’ (that we could be heading back to, by the way).

The film reveals all that’s wrong with modern India, where crores are cornered by a few (by hook or crook), while the middle class gets harangued over its meager incomes. The same rich politicos—patriarchs for places they’re from—are in fact secretly admired by locals for being champs at bending the system. They become the system. Not much has changed since. Only what the crooks look like may have. Raid does an honest job of showing it, almost as is. Hence the Raid Alert: Do catch this at a theatre near you.

Also read – Raid movie: Ajay Devgn wages war against Saurabh Shukla

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