Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is an eloquent attempt at propagating peace through a war film. The variegated film highlights themes which attach a higher meaning to the storyline while simultaneously preserving its flow. One of these themes includes the forceful eradication of innocence, which is presented subtly yet aptly by Meghna through the transformation of Sehmat (Alia Bhatt) from an amicable college student into a murderous spy. Another underlying theme that perpetuates itself throughout the film is the emphasis on the various shades of nationalism, from harmonious to life-threatening. Relating an adjective like ‘harmonious’ with the inherently violent, rivalrous feeling of nationalism is rare, yet at a certain point in the course of the film, Meghna forces the viewer to acknowledge that there exists harmony in nationalism across borders. Meghna is an admirable director who has proved that she can convey her ideas clearly, through layers of beautiful subtlety, for her style is that of a storyteller who can seamlessly mould stories with socially-straining themes.
Alia Bhatt, through her role as Sehmat, the innocent, carries the theme of the destruction of innocence for a higher cause. The destruction of innocence, or the push from a gaited garden into the abyss, is thrust upon the audience through Sehmat’s father’s (Rajit Kapur) terminal condition and Sehmat’s decision to follow her father’s legacy. Portrayed initially as the promising, childishly innocent college student, Sehmat abandons it all in order to carry forward her father’s espionage work in Pakistan. The viewer realizes that the innocent cannot retain their innocence forever, for it is chipped away slowly by decisions such as these. The pure, soft hands of a child are dirtied, but not with mud - with blood. Meghna instils in us this feeling of unease throughout the two hours and twenty minutes - that there is something inherently wrong with a twenty-year-old college student becoming a spy.
Meghna presents the epitome of irony in Raazi. It is irony that is subtle yet fascinating, the way irony is meant to be portrayed. Sehmat, the Pakistani wife, while she’s a part-time teacher in a local Pakistani school, teaches the children how to sing ‘Ae Watan, Mere Watan,’ which roughly translates to ‘This Land, My Land.’ Or, in more revealingly ironical terms, Sehmat, an Indian spy masquerading as a conventional Pakistani wife, teaches a bunch of innocent Pakistani children how to sing a hymn that reeks of nationalism, but subjective nationalism, depending on the mouth it is sung from. Nationalism shares the same stage; the only difference that exists is that of the two countries being represented on the stage, and that these countries were at war with each other. Meghna may be trying to convey that there lies common ground in our innocence and in our feelings. She highlights the importance of bonding over the feeling itself, rather than elevating that sentiment to a murderous rivalry. Those who can find harmony in nationalism can find hope for peace where there is none.
Meghna visibly strives to link nationalism with the negatives of war - death, loss, and sorrow. This underlying theme by which she tries to propagate peace presents itself when Sehmat takes her first life in the name of her nation. She cries her heart out the night of the murder. It is evident that the deeper she delves into espionage, the burden of her actions weighs heavier on her shoulders. From the first murder to the end of the movie, the same overbearing, dark atmosphere of loss was maintained to underscore that which is disheartening about war. We have left behind ‘living casualties’ in war, and one such living martyr is Sehmat. She is an unsung hero, a silent saviour, and those who have been of service to the nation in the manner she was may never receive the recognition they deserve. They are those who dwell in silent honor. Through Raazi, Meghna has created a visual ode to immortalize the ideas they stood for.
Header Image Courtesy: Dekhna Jaroor
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