Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Review by: Anupama Chopra
Raid comes at the right time – once again, the headlines are filled with breathless reports of a scam involving thousands of crores and white-collar law-breakers, who are likely to get away. In life, these criminal masterminds will spend their loot in a luxurious foreign country. But on-screen, we have Ajay Devgn to deliver justice. And there is a genuine satisfaction in that.
Here he is it Amay Patnaik, an upstanding and painfully honest Income Tax officer in Lucknow – think of him as the bureaucrat brother of Bajirao Singham. Amay doesn’t get a killer line like ‘Aata majhi satakli’ but a character does call him pagal and this is said with admiration. Amay is a man willing to risk his life and career to fight corruption. Early in the film, we are told that Amay has been transferred 49 times. This is a man who carries his own booze to a party because – main wohi peeta hoon jo kharid sakoon.
Which of course pits him against Rameshwar Singh, the local politician-goon-feudal lord. It’s 1981, pre cell-phones and social media. And Tauji, as he is fondly called, runs the show. Amay is tipped off that Tauji is hiding hundreds of crores. The undaunted officer decides to do the unthinkable – he conducts a raid on his mansion, tellingly called the White House.
Despite unnecessary romantic interludes, the first half of Raid plays like a taut police procedural. Director Raj Kumar Gupta, writer Ritesh Shah, and editor Bodhaditya Banerjee create a suspense thriller in which the good guys need to find the stolen goods before the bad guy shuts them down. The cast of characters – from Amay’s juniors like the cheerfully corrupt Lallan to Tauji’s venal family – are nicely etched. My favorite was Tauji’s mother, the 85-year-old Pushpa Joshi, who gets some of the film’s best lines. The tension is broken by a few laugh out loud moments.
But finally, how cinematic and thrilling can an income tax raid get? Around interval point, Raj Kumar and Ritesh seem to have run out of ideas. So a contrived narrative twist leads to the imposition of a deadline. The story, which is inspired by true stories, starts to become implausible. The narrative is tied down mostly to one location and one event. There is little room to maneuver so Raj Kumar resorts to dialogue-baazi. At one point, there is a clumsy attack on Amay’s wife Malini, played by Ileana D’Cruz. She’s lovely but her character is a prop placed there to help Amay make the right decision at the right time. There’s a ridiculous scene in which, in the middle of the raid, she shows up with lunch.
Ajay Devgn has mastered the art of portraying the common man superman. He has the heroic stubbornness the character requires. It’s fun to see Amay spar with the quietly ferocious Tauji. Saurabh Shukla brings humanity to this villain. There are scenes in which he seems so pained by his own family’s incompetence that you feel almost sorry for him.
In its textures, Raid aims for a gritty realism but the characters are painted in broad strokes. Eventually, the punch is predictable but after a few stumbles, it does land.