Raazi (2018): ‘The Bollywood Spy’ – A Film Review



Admittedly my knowledge of Bollywood films isn’t the best. These films which are a Mumbai (Bombay) based film equivalent of Hollywood which feature a Hindi speaking cast and always have a musical elements, are undoubtedly a huge part of cinema. But they exist as a Hindi alternative to Hollywood cinema, and though this is far more complex than that (again see here), it does reflect that Bollywood films are for a specific audience, in part, as an alternative to Hollywood. Furthermore, those who do not like Musicals or even just don’t like Bollywood musicals are often hard pressed to enjoy such films. But they are certainly a huge part of cinema and a strong force amongst World Cinema filmmaking. Raazi is a film based upon the book Calling Sehmat by Harinder S. Sikka which is tied to real events during the Indo-Pakistani war in 1971. This espionage film therefore shows ties to James Bond and other spy films like the much more recent Red Sparrow, of which, there are quite a few similarities. But it would be far too reductionist to say that Raazi is the Bollywood Red Sparrow.



Raazi is beautifully shot, and uses many techniques to get an emotional depth to each scene; showing an often sophisticated use of the camera and Depth of Field. It does however use flashbacks sometimes patronisingly. This, to make a generalisation about Bollywood, is also felt in the running time, being the rather long 140minutes. Despite this, the film manages to propel itself through the narrative as soon as the lengthy set up manages to settle. For the main concern of the film is tied within the main character of Sehmet (Alia Bhatt), who takes a while to show herself on the screen.


It is the Characters who Drive the Story

Acting throughout is consistently stunning, with many of the actors pulling some really emotional scenes together as the character’s ties to loyalties and the family struggles to create the conflict and tension. The sympathetic Pakistani characters, make for an interesting development; especially of the question of ‘What is good?’ and ‘What is the right path?’ This central theme plays into character motivations in a well criticised aspect of spy films in general. Where James Bond is basic fun, films like Raazi and Red Sparrow through you off balance in the inherent difficulties with being a good spy and knowing your path. This creates a good amount of tension and emotional depth throughout the film.



Raazi is ultimately a very powerful film, hindered only by running length and (perhaps this is thematic) the jarring musical numbers thrown into a dark and tense Thriller. Raazi does, however, fall into a category of worth watching, despite any restrictions or hesitancy of spectators in seeing films of this genre (Bollywood or indeed Spy Thrillers!). The performances more than make up for the films short comings and this consistently propels you through any weaknesses of the narrative.



Answering her dying fathers wish, Sehmet weds into a Pakistani family in order to gain vital information to the Pakistani/Indian war. Quickly learning how to become an effective spy in order to go deep undercover and into such an important military family.





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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Raazi (d. Meghna Gulzar India 2018)

Red Sparrow (d. Francis Lawrence USA 2018)


Further Reading



Interview with the Cast

Interview with Meghna Gulzar

Interview with Alia Bhat & Vicky Kaushal

Behind the Scenes

Making Of

Public Review

Brief History of Bollywood

Popular Hindi Cinema and Narrative Style


If you liked this…

Red Sparrow (2018): ‘The Gritty Spy Film’ – A Film Review

Den of Thieves (2018): ‘Emotion and Plot’ – A Film Review

Darkest Hour (2017): ‘Politics in Britain’ – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


Raazi (d. Meghna Gulzar  India 2018)


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