In Harinder S. Sikka’s 2008 debut novel Calling Sehmat, a young Indian Kashmiri girl is sent to Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pak war as an undercover spy. The idea for the novel came to Sikka, a former Indian Navy officer, during the 1999 war Kargil war when he went to the war-torn area to write about the Army’s alleged intelligence failure. It was then that Sikka met an army officer who told him about his mother who was married off to a Pakistani Army officer to help India with classified information in 1971.
In the movie version of this real-life story, titled Raazi, Alia Bhatt plays the young Sehmat and Vicky Kaushal her unsuspecting Pakistani husband. Sehmat is described as a ‘masoom ladki jise jasoosi ka ilm bhai nahi hai’. We see her being put through rigorous training so that she can surreptitiously send classified information back home without being found out. A voiceover in the trailer says that Indian history is filled with faceless heroes like Sehmat who are never given any recognition or medals from their bravery. This is fantastic role for any young actress, and Alia is perfectly cast for it.
The film is directed by Meghna Gulzar who has also been credited with screenplay and dialogue. From the trailer it appears that Gulzar has effectively spun this real-life story into a nail-biting spy thriller. In her last film Talvar (2015), Gulzar did a splendid job of taking the complex and controversial Arushi Talwar murder case and creating a gripping narrative around it.
Co-produced by Junglee Pictures and Dharma Productions, Raazi releases on May 11.