Critic’s Rating: 3.5* / 5*
Duration: 2hrs 10mins
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Writer & Screenplay: Ritesh Shah
Star Cast: Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz, Saurabh Shukla
‘Raid’ is the much-anticipated thriller-drama from Raj Kumar Gupta starting Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz, and Saurabh Shukla. An income tax officer who follows the law to the letter locks horns with a seasoned business-man who is the poster boy for corruption and money-hoarding. There are insiders on both teams, a cameo from a historical figure, a curiously affable character in an old lady and 2 hours 10 minutes of a very decent, very watchable, part-inspired, part-fiction movie.
Ritesh Shah (who bagged the Filmfare for the best writer award for ‘Pink’) has drawn ample inspirations from the annals of income tax officers who as the facts say, raided a lot of shady business-men in the early 80s. The film opens with and maintains the timeline of 1981, set in Lucknow. We have the all-pervasive ambassador cars of the era with government offices piled with little hills of files (but isn’t it the same today?) and a slightly off-color feel to the movie that darkens the scenery and contributes to both the chilling element and the setting. Amay Pattnaik (Ajay Devgn), who has no trouble being transferred around (the movie chronicles the events leading to his 50th transfer) or picking a fight with the big guys has an (almost) anonymous tip. The tip is about someone who is too big to touch. In about of dutifulness and wounded pride, Amay seeks to explore the kaaladhan from the abode (called White House… in English, like that) of Tauji (Saurabh Shukla). The stand-off goes in favor of Amay who is able to unearth the loot from the unlikeliest of places. However, Tauji has a few aces up his sleeve that gives Amay and his band of duty-bound IT officers, a more than difficult time as the story climbs to its okay-ish climax.
Screenplay and Direction
The screenplay, also written by Ritesh Shah, moves with a languid pace but always catches up with the quick escalations in the story. The romantic scenes seem very much out of place as do the songs that have been hopelessly placed to augment said romance (more on that later). The dining table conversations between Tauji’s family and the punchy-dialogues swathed stand-offs between the hero and his nemesis have been very well written. A vital scene where some kaaladhanis very luckily discovered could have been written better, though the glorious scene that follows almost makes up for it. Raj Kumar Gupta handles the direction with a lot of conviction. The scenes are quite crisp, except, well the romantic scenes that are too bland to convince and too desperate to be sincere. But we can give it a pass, seeing the key scenes of the story panning out so well. The direction was also found a little lacking towards the end when the inevitable climax unfolds but it doesn’t unfold to that dramatic an effect that seemed to be building up. The overall verdict is that the screenplay and direction are largely tight and well-done, with some noticeable slump at times that can almost be forgiven.
Performances and Dialogue
Ajay Devgan is, of course, going to be lauded for his performance and rightly so. But what actually takes the cake in the performance chart, is the inimitable Saurabh Shukla. Having won our hearts as the affable but unscrupulous Judge Tripathi in Jolly LLB 2, he is back with greater depth (kudos to the writer), greater acting chops and laser-sharp timing. His ‘Tauji’ act is as convincing as it can get. His performance shows a human side of him when he wants the dessert in spite of being a diabetic, but that same humanity assumes a twinge of insanity when the walls close in around him. Ajay Devgn’s no-nonsense style is very buyable, helped through his dry but apt delivery of the decently penned dialogues. There are also quite the flaws in his character which we would have liked to come out better in his performance. Amit Sial (plays an IT officer named Lalan who has his own mediocrely written redemption arc in the movie) supplies the occasional burst of humor that will make you smile at his predicament. Ileana D’Cruz has been placed to be the face of all brave wives of Indian officers and her performance is decent for a couple of solo scenes that she gets.
The best dialogues for Raid were almost completely revealed in the trailers, but we still enjoyed them. From ‘main shaadi ke din hi sasural se khaali haath lauta tha’ to Saurabh Shukla’s unforgettable ‘raja ji ki fauuj’ (we added the double ‘u’ s and you will know why) the dialogues were fun and well integrated into the theme of the movie. The cameo of one of India’s former Prime Ministers has been handled quite well and the historical character’s well-known suaveness has been hinted at effectively. Another notable performance is that of Pushpa Joshi, who lights up the screen as the fire-breathing but still adorable old mother of the entire family. The performance and dialogues are definitely the stronger points of Raid.
The music done by Amit Trivedi and Tanishk Bagchi is where ‘Raid’ disappoints in a big way. The movie opens with a racy scene that tells us that something fishy is going to unfold quickly. But in comes a song (‘Nit Khair Manga’), which is well sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, but is placed at a point where the song only distracts no matter how nice it sounds. The background score is well done and it matches up with the pace and climatic scenes in the movie. When we thought that the background score will make things better for the music, another song comes in, which is well sung and a good spin on the Punjabi classic, ‘Sanu Ik Pal Chain’, but it is still distracting and does nothing to advance the story or complement it. There is another song towards the end which is kind of lukewarm considering that it backgrounds the final climax in the movie. ‘Black’ is the only song that actually works for the movie and is commendably rendered by Sukhwinder.
‘Raid’ is intended, as it claims, to pay a tribute to the efforts of Indian Income Tax Officers who frequently operate under the cross-hairs of wealthy, corrupt and influential business-men. The movie does do justice to this theme, even if it is flawed at places like some of the character development and music. As Amay Pattnaik discovers fresh stashes of cash and gold, you cannot help but feel repulsed at the kind of things a corrupt enterprise can pull off. This is what works in Raid’s favor. With a strong sentimental value, a strong array of performances and decently done direction, Raid will make you feel satisfied for having got your money’s worth, sympathetic to the jobs of income tax officers and a tad bit inspired towards the cause of eliminating corruption. We would definitely recommend Raid to you if you can just put up with the distracting songs to enjoy the story of what is apparently, ‘one of the biggest tax raids in the country’.