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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Raid, Review: Concealing ceiling

Raid, Review: Concealing ceiling

Let us warn you in advance that this film is not about an army raid or a guerrilla foray into another country. ‘Raid’ here refers to an operation launched by an Income Tax (the original ‘IT’) official, with the help of his co-workers and the police, to unearth wealth that has not been accounted for and stowed away as ‘black’ assets, evading income tax, by a legislator. Based on a true story, and set in 1981, the movie has just about enough to keep you watching for the 119 minutes it runs.

Events in the film are confined to one day story time, and here is what happens early on in the day. Amay Patnaik (Ajay Devgn) is an upright, courageous and fiercely duty-bound officer. He is married to Nita (Ileana D’Cruz), with no children, and currently posted in Lucknow. Because of his honesty, he is frequently transferred. An unknown caller gives him some leads and wins his confidence. Later, the ‘Deep Throat’ asks him to raid Rameshwar Singh, a.k.a. Tauji/Raja (Saurabh Shukla), among the most powerful politicians in the state of Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow is the capital city).

Patnaik knows that there are informers in his department, so he meticulously plans the raid, giving information about the target to his possé only when the team has almost reached the palatial bungalow of the Don. A large family lives there, including Tauji’s mother, brothers, their wives and their children. Patnaik has a search warrant, and assaulting a government servant on duty attracts a prison sentence of seven years, while there is no punishment under Indian law for a government servant hitting a suspect. When reminded of this fact, Patanik and his team are allowed to conduct the raid.

There is a lot of recurring confrontation, but the combing operation yields nothing illegal. Just then, Amay finds a piece of paper, and the treasure hunt begins to bear fruit. Patnaik is looking for an amount of Rs. 420 crore (1 crore is 10 million), and it now looks like he will overshoot the target by far. Outraged at being discovered, Singh grabs a double-barrelled rifle hanging on the wall. In the tussle, a bullet is shot and pierces the ceiling above. Guess what happens next? Concealed gold starts raining the ceiling.

Writer Ritesh Shah (Airlift, Pink, Kahaani 2) must have taken a strong look at the real-life dramas that unfolded 37 year ago, considering the detailing on view. It is also evident that names and places have been changed, some characters are amalgams of several real-life figures, and characters have been added or removed, in the interest of the narrative flow. All that works well. But in an attempt to add drama and romance, several scenes ring hollow, and are repeated in reconstructed angles and dialogue, without making much difference. Patnaik's bravado too strikes false notes towards the end. The climax itself is over-the-top.

Clap-trap and one-up dialogue often reminds you of films starring the late Raaj Kumar, and Amitabh Bachchan films like Deewar, Don and Shahenshah. They sound off in a film that makes it a point to be largely realistic. Unless, of course, the original Patnaik and Singh did, really, have such spats. Well, even then, if he can take so many cinematic liberties, he could have curbed those bits of ‘repartee’. Moreover, the story is predictable. Honest ‘cop’ raids Big Daddy’s den, has a source of information that is never revealed, Daddy pulls strings, sends thugs to attack cop’s wife, and picks up an XL sized gun to stop the raid. In the end, you know what will happen. Certainly not enough substance to have you craving for more, but the Ramu Kaka joke was hilarious and distancing, at the same time. Rameshwar Singh’s mother is smart piece of character-nuancing.

After Aamir, No One Killed Jessica and Ghanchakkar, director RajKumar Gupta once again visits the docu-feature or ‘inspired by a true story’ genre. This one has a very small base and it must have been difficult, building up suspense and excitement, in a tale about officials searching for a treasure of jewellery, incriminating documents and currency notes, and taking down the house in bits and pieces. Given the premise, he had not done too badly. His attempt to show late Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, only from angles that do not reveal the actor’s face, are good. But his choice of her voice is bad. With no fist hand knowledge of how politicions behave in their private lives, we will have to take the Shah-Gupta version as an approximation. But it is not entirely convincing. Also, he is able to orchestrate a large cast, many of them not very well-known actors, rather well.

Ajay Devgn is Ajay Devgn. Probing, brooding, small eyes and a demeanour that says all the while, “I am the boss.” He has been given at least 119 punch-lines that will wow his fans. For a change, he gets into real action only at the end of the film, and even there, finds the odds against him. In the romantic scenes, he is effective but Ileana D’Cruz (Phata Poster Nikla Hero, Mubaarakan, Baadshaho) does even better. If only her role was not so contrived, the passionate wife would have had more life. Saurabh Shukla pours maturity and competence into Rameshwar, and will be remembered as a villain with style and gravitas.  

Supporting roles have been enacted by Saanand Verma, Gayathri Iyer, Amit Bimrot, Amit Sial, Mukesh Singh Durgapur, Akshay Verma, Neelabh Pandey, Ajay Singh, Ravi Khanvilkar and Devas Dixit.

As I was exiting from the press preview screening on the 15th of March, at PVR ECX, Citi Mall, Andheri, a man with a microphone, accompanied by a cameraperson, approached me and asked me for my reaction to the film. He had two main questions. 1. How was Ajay Devgn and 2. How many stars would I give to the film on a scale of 1 to 5.

Rating: ** ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h4thS-Hcrk

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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