Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Raid, starring Ajay Devgan, is loosely inspired by the story of one of the most dramatic Income Tax raids, which occurred in the mid 80s in Lucknow, and took two full days to complete. It has some powerful moments, but it’s so thin on plot and sluggish in pace that by the end of it you’ll feel the film took just as long to unfold.
Devgan plays Amay Pattnaik, the sort of upright and incorruptible government servant whose unwavering honesty is ‘rewarded’ with repeated transfers to different postings. Amay, who is an officer in the Income Tax department, has been transferred some 49 times in seven years, we’re told. The actor plays him – like he plays all of his ‘serious’ roles – with a quiet sort of confidence. Amay isn’t easily excitable, not even when he’s discovered one more stash of unaccounted wealth, or when it’s literally raining gold biscuits from a fake ceiling.
The story pits him against Saurabh Shukla’s character Rameshwar Singh aka Tauji, one of those well-connected businessmen who has links with politicians, the police, and with local goondas. When Amay receives a tip that Tauji is hiding close to 420 crore rupees, he shows up at his sprawling home with an army of fellow officers to raid the premises and ferret out the undeclared riches.
Director Raj Kumar Gupta, who’s helmed films like Aamir and No One Killed Jessica, knows a thing or two about building tension. The initial portions of Raid play out nicely as Amay and his team pat the place down, even as Tauji and his extended family of siblings, their spouses, and offspring flare their nostrils at the gall of the officer and the inconvenience he’s causing them. Writer Ritesh Shah mines humour from a colourful cast of supporting players, giving them whippersnapper dialogues and moments to shine. The most memorable character of this lot is Tauji’s ageing, toothless mother, played by a terrific Pushpa Joshi, who steals every scene she’s in with just the right claptrap line.
The film stays on course for as long as it remains within Tauji’s mansion. Repeated scenes between Amay and his wife (Ileana D’cruz), and a spectacularly ill-timed romantic song reveal poor judgment on the part of the filmmakers. In the second half, especially, when a key character leaves the premises to knock on political doors, the narrative further loosens. From this point on the conflict feels contrived. Tauji’s last-ditch effort – let’s just say it involves a mob attack – feels far-fetched and hints at a bankruptcy of ideas.
The standout performance in the film comes from Saurabh Shukla, who’s excellent as the entitled Tauji, confident that no one and nothing can touch him. Watching his character slowly unravel, as he discovers what his family has been up to behind his back, it’s hard not to feel at least a little bad for him.
In the end Raid left me very frustrated. It’s promising and delivers many rousing moments, but it runs out of steam well before the finish line. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.