NEW DEHLI: The infrequent combination of commercial and critical success that Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi has received does more than just validate the cinematic skills of the cast and the director – it also serves as a welcome reminder that the Indian audience is not averse to a patriotic, wartime tone that humanizes, instead of demonizing, the people of Pakistan, even as it reminds you of a patriot’s untold story, reports the Times of India.
Raazi, set in the months preceding the 1971 war, is the story of a Kashmiri girl (played by Alia Bhatt) married into a Pakistani Army family to spy for India.
Exceptions such as Bajrangi Bhaijaan apart, efforts to gain box-office success have often found it convenient to pitch patriotism through the prism of an evil and incompetent enemy, from Sunny Deol uprooting the handpump in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) to Saif Ali Khan finally getting to Hafiz Saeed in Phantom (2015). In the case of Raazi, however, not only the director but also the cast of the movie have been consistent in how they view the story. “For the very first time, a Pakistani family, a Pakistani officer is being portrayed in a way which is not negative,” explained Shishir Sharma, who plays a Pakistani Major General, while Ashwath Bhatt asserted that “just because (his character) Major Mehboob is a Pakistani, doesn’t mean he has to be a villain”. Vickey Kaushal (Major Iqbal) made the point that “so many people came and told me that while you are watching the film, you forget the nationality of the characters.”
This is, of course, in sync with Meghna’s own vision. “Pakistanis living abroad were originally averse to watching the film since they assumed that it will run down Pakistan. But when they saw it, they were surprised. They have come on social media to talk about it, they have engaged with me about it. This dialogue is overwhelming for me, it is my reward. This is the message I wanted to put across,” says a satisfied Meghna. What was the message? “That to love your country does not mean to hate another. The two are not related. To love your country, you don’t need a punching bag.” Given how essential punching bags have become in public discourse, didn’t she get flak for the absence of hate? “There must be two per cent or five per cent of responses which say, oh, this is too ‘soft’ (in the way it depicts Pakistan) but everyone else is appreciating the fact that it is not jingoistic, especially in today’s time. It feels good to hear that.”