Cast: Ajay Devgn, Saurabh Shukla, Ileana D’Cruz
Direction: Raj Kumar Gupta
A thriller about an income tax raid set in Lucknow, 1981 – that’s the premise of ‘Raid’. Raj Kumar Gupta brings us an interesting story, but it is just not gripping enough. Inspired by a real-life incident, the plot lacks the edge that portraying a tense operation such as this one demands.
If I were to compare this story to a similar one in recent times, I think Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Special 26’ (2013) comes close. While the raid in ‘Special 26’ was a fake one, the intrigue and build-up was something that kept the audience invested. In comparison, the plot trajectory of ‘Raid’ is predictable and the only engaging aspect are the exchanges between Ajay Devgn and Saurabh Shukla.
Here’s how it goes. Tipped off by an anonymous source, an upright Income Tax officer decides to take on the most powerful person in Lucknow. Undaunted by the threats from local politicians, Devgn decides to walk right into the lion’s den where he takes on Shukla and his family to unearth Rs 420-crore worth of undeclared wealth. Devgn plays the polite, honest and rule-abiding officer who looks to carry out the raids in a legitimate manner. Shukla is his anti-thesis, the brash, vengeful and corrupt local politician who threatens Devgn with dire consequences when he is himself caught unawares of the amount of assets his family has amassed over the years.
Raj Kumar Gupta creates a compelling canvas of the arid Hindi heartland, of a time when there was complete dependence landline phones and limited connectivity to get things done. Also, the joint family dynamics with an authoritarian patriarch at the helm, makes for an amusing interplay.
Unlike his loud and boisterous portrayals in films such as ‘Singham’, Devgn’s performance here is understated, his dialoguebaazi restrained. His brooding looks only add to the overall effect when he’s trying to figure out his next move.
It is Saurabh Shukla, however, who steals the show as Tauji. He nails the portrayal, getting the character’s humour, sarcasm and anger spot on. It is intriguing to see how he remains calm and enjoys a jalebi even as his entire house is being ransacked by IT sleuths. Tauji may look like a buffoon, but you wouldn’t dare take anything he says casually.
What’s utterly disappointing is that Ileana has nothing really to do except make very brief appearances in nice handloom sarees, and disappear after mouthing words of encouragement/appreciation for her husband. Isn’t it time we gave heroines more agency?
We have seen Raj Kumar Gupta deliver immensely engaging films such as ‘Aamir’ (2008) and ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (2011). ‘Raid’ pales in comparison. It is definitely worth a watch. Sadly, considering the theme, not as gritty as I would have liked it to be.