RAID (2018)

Raid is directed by Raj Kumar Gupta (Aamir, No One Killed Jessica, and Ghanchakkar) and relates the story of one of income tax department’s longest Raids conducted in Lucknow. The film though based on real events paints a fictional picture evidently to avoid any controversies. Amay Patnaik (Ajay Devgn) is an uptight income tax officer who is transferred to Lucknow. He has been transferred 49 times in a 7-year long career with the department and it has always been for his nature to net the biggest fishes. Once in Lucknow, he goes after Rameshwar Singh aka Tauji (Saurabh Shukla) a man he believes has siphoned 410 crores of government tax money and sits at the height of power. But as he begins his raid, Amay realizes that Tauji might be smarter than what he believed him to be. The rest of the film is about how Amay extracts the money and evidence from Tauji leading to one of the biggest nets in terms of value in the history of Indian Income Tax Evasion recoveries.

Raid had the potential to be brilliant. It is interestingly timed as with the Nirav Modis and the Vijay Mallyas making way with the tax payer’s money, people would obviously root for a protagonist who is out to get them all. The people are looking for some much-needed retribution. If not in the real sense of the term then at least in the reel-sense of the term. Raid had the potential, the material and the players to make that happen. But strangely enough, the director takes an insanely generic and pattered down look at things. The moment he mentioned it to be fiction, he could have easily gone anyway and added the much-needed tadka or drama to make this film work big time but he doesn’t. What we get instead is a safe and “been there, seen it before” film that never for a second surprises you.

Speaking of the positives, Ajay Devgn and Saurabh Shukla act out the film in between them. They are both brilliant and literally carry the film on their shoulders. It’s not that the others have anything much to do but it has to be said that if it was not for the performances of Ajay and Shukla Raid would have been a morbid affair. They both share an electric chemistry that is neither hyper-charged nor low on energy. Some of the best parts of the film are the give and takes between them. The fact that Tauji looks supremely confident about the fact that his treasure will never be found and that the Income-tax team spends a long time without much of a success only heightens our tension. A lot of that has to do with the expressions that the two men have on their faces. I was immersed in their acts and I believe that will be the case with one and all who see this film.

The problem with the film starts the moment you take your attention off the performances of Ajay and Shukla. The film starts with a bang but the immandari-traits of Amay are thrown at your face with such incessant regularity that you are forced to say, “that’s would be enough man!” In a similar manner, the power of Rameshwar Singh is also amped up and hurled at you in his every dialog and in the feeling of intimidation that the men of the Income Tax Department are feeling. This also gets tedious after a while.

The film repeats everything that we have known and heard and seen about raids in almost every other Bollywood film. My attention was time and again diverted to a Neeraj Pandey film, Special 26 that I believe had better envisioned and tense raid sequences. Every trick and set-piece related to the raid here can be traced back to Special 26. Thus there remain no surprises. The director also feels confused about how he wants to approach the film tonally. At many junctures, it feels like a serious and no-nonsense film while time and again it jumps in a mode that reminds us that it is fiction. Choosing one of the two would have been better for the film.

The film also tosses believability out of the window time and again. Some sequences like the one where Amay lets Rameshwar to do everything in his power to stop the raid, fact that the 3 brothers of Rameshwar were stockpiling money and he didn’t have any idea about it even though they literally had to construct storages inside the very same house that he lived in and many more similar sequences were hard to digest. The feel of the film also got repeatedly marred by songs that neither added anything to the film nor were good enough to be forgiven. Ileana D’Cruz is ravishing to look at but in this film she is unnecessary. Every time she appears on screen, either the story screeches to a halt or there is a song looming large. Thus quickly she becomes synonymous with “break” in the narrative. Amit Sial as Lallan was just getting interesting when he is reduced to a nothing.

The film is 2 hours 8 minutes long but sans the song and the romantic parts between Ajay and Ileana, it remains breezy. That is thanks to the terrific acts of Ajay and Saurabh Shukla and also because of the fact that we are interested to see how and when the money comes out, what Rameshwar does to stop it and who is the mole in his family who rolled the dices for the raid in the first places. All the questions are answered but in the most generic and one dimensional way possible. I never feared for Ajay’s safety. Neither did I care that much for Ileana to be worried when Rameshwar threatens her safety. I wasn’t even filled with hatred for Rameshwar’s character.

These are what I believe the biggest problem for a film that needed to immerse us in the narrative. Make us take sides. Make us anxious and worried to an extent that the final climax ends with a sigh of relief for us. That is not the case here and hence this film never reaches its true potential. I was expecting more from Raj Kumar Gupta.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)


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