Based on true stories, Raid tepidly looks at the efforts of an honest income tax officer, Amay Patnaik (Ajay Devgn), to bring down a corrupt and powerful wheeler dealer, Rameshwar Singh (Saurabh Shukla), in Sitagarh in Uttar Pradesh in 1981. Though it begins reasonably well, a flimsy plot, flat storytelling, sluggish pace and a lack of layering (and complexity) do the film in, saved only to an extent by Saurabh Shukla’s weighty performance.
Raid, looks at one of the longest income tax raids spread over days as Rs 420 crores (yes, Char Sau Bees) or thereabout are to be recovered from Rameshwar Singh’s house called ‘White House’. Much of the film is set up in this location as a much-transferred, honest income tax officer, Amay Patnaik, leads his team to dig out this illegal hoarding of wealth based on an anonymous tip. And while the film builds up some fair suspense in the beginning, we know exactly which way this overtly simple film is going. So sure, initially they find nothing and then gradually the team gets vital clues and uncover more and more of the money and jewelry, even to have it literally raining gold biscuits thanks to a provident gun shot. This makes the task for the film that much harder as since the end result is kind of known, it is the cinematic treatment of the story that needed to be engaging and clever. Unfortunately, barring some stray innovative moments, it is not.
That said, there are things director Raj Kumar Gupta gets right. He avoids some typical Bollywood tropes and tries to make the procedural thriller believable as we get to see how a typical raid works. Thankfully, the hero is not a larger than life and nor is the villain some cardboard cut out and the sharp dialogue exchanges between them actually work at times. There is much that shows us that nothing in the country has changed. If at all, things have deteriorated as the corrupt rich continue to dabble in mega power games at the cost of the poor and honest. The film also does open our eyes to the flip side of income tax officers and the danger they could be in, even physically, if they dare to take on the powers that be. Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, there are logical loopholes that one doesn’t buy. If Amay is so ‘rules-conscious’ and the opening sequences take great, great underlining pain in establishing this. He refuses to enter a club he is invited to that insists on shoes (he is wearing sandals) and even though his host can get him in, he enters only after buying a pair of shoes and thereafter drinking his own cheap booze that he has brought with him stating that he only drinks what he can afford on his salary. And yet during the raid, he plays outside the rules and lets Rameshwar out to go out towards the intermission and do whatever he can to stop the raid. The film, already starting to run out of steam, derails further from this point.
Of the performances, Ajay Devgn is sincere and understated and projects his famous brooding intensity capably but he is also dull. He is defeated by a uni-dimensional role that paints him not just whiter than white but even makes sure the honesty halo remains behind him always. Ileana D’Cruz has little to do and is even more boring, if possible, as the ever supportive wife. It doesn’t help that their romantic track is by far the weakest element of the film. In a gob-smacking sequence, the wife, who supposedly knows the secretive nature of her husband’s job, actually lands up at the house where he is conducting a raid with a tiffin box! It is mainly Saurabh Shukla who lends much weight to the film, managing to flesh out his character pretty well and rise above the script. Most of the supporting cast, even if well-cast, are either wasted. Still, Pushpa Joshi as the toothless matriarch has her moments, particularly in her relationship with Rameshwar, while Amit Sial at least has a character graph to play with in the script even if his turn around is rather abrupt.
Alphonse Roy manages to give the film a polish with his camerawork but the music doesn’t help the film. While the songs are reasonably composed (why use Punjabi though?), they act as terrible speed-breakers in the narrative flow including one in the middle of the raid! The background score is OTT to compensate for the lack of the drama and tends to jar.
All in all, Raid, for all its (few) moments, makes for tedious viewing. Our government servants, at least the honest ones, deserved a better film.
Hindi, Thriller, Drama, Color