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Film / Raazi

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Raazi (Willing) is a 2018 Indian espionage drama directed by Meghna Gulzar and starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal. Set in 1971, it tells the story of Sehmat (Bhatt), a 20-year-old girl from Kashmir, India, who is married off to the son of a prominent Pakistani army officer in order to spy and pass on military secrets to the Indian Intelligence. Sehmat fits in easily with her new family and genuinely loves her husband (Kaushal). But when it comes to choosing which comes first - family or country - there is never any doubt in her mind. How far will she have to go to accomplish her mission? What will be the collateral damage? Will she survive? Does it even matter, given that the nation's interests are at stake?


  • Break the Cutie: "Cutie" may be debatable, but poor Sehmat- her stay in Pakistan eventually becomes this for her. Her agony over having to kill people and massive Survivor's Guilt over Iqbal's death in particular lead to her remaining a Shell-Shocked Veteran years after she escapes Pakistan.
  • Brutal Honesty: Mir wastes no time in telling Sehmat that one small mistake on the mission could result in her death.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Becomes a secondary theme as the story progress. Sehmat always chooses her country and family of birth over her equally caring Pakistani in-laws, and becomes increasingly broken up inside as her choices lead to her taking more desperate measures to protect her cover and her life.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The anklet that Iqbal gives Sehmat plays a role in blowing Sehmat's cover.
  • Cynical Mentor: Khalid Mir, full stop, in comparison to Naïve Newcomer Sehmat.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: Sehmat has several of these during the entire duration of her stay with the Syed family, but things really go downhill when Abdul finds out that she's a spy.
  • Deconstruction: The film brutally deconstructs a lot of tropes seen in spy thrillers by stripping away the glamour and Rule of Cool. It instead focuses on the the cold hard pragmatism required for the trade and psychological toll it can take on the spy in question, especially one who's unable to fully embrace the aforementioned pragmatism.
  • Determinator: In an odd way, Sehmat qualifies. She ploughs on with the mission despite her immense guilt over having killed two people close to her husband.
  • Dramatic Irony: Compare Sehmat's Establishing Character Moment with later in the film when she runs over an innocent man to protect her cover from being blown.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: What else can you do when your husband walks into the bathroom before you have time to hide away your Morse messaging equipment?
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • We first see Sehmat when she rescues a squirrel from being squashed by a motorbike. This suggests at her innocent, compassionate nature.
    • Iqbal's status as a Nice Guy is established very early on in two ways: first, he looks sympathetic when Sehmat and her parents bid each other a tearful farewell after the wedding, and secondly, he makes it clear on his and Sehmat's first night together that he doesn't expect to share a bed with her until they grow to love each other - something that he didn't have to do given that they were legally married.
  • Female Gaze: As the film is from Sehmat's perspective, the build-up that often precedes a hero's first glimpse of the heroine is gender-inverted. Sehmat first sees her future husband from the window of her room as he gets out of a car in their yard, and looks away in embarrassment when he happens to look up at the window and sees her watching.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on the 2008 novel Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka, which is allegedly based on a true story.
  • Foil: Mir serves as one to Sehmat in this manner by being part of Cynic–Idealist Duo with her. It's implied that his ability to let go of his compassion when he feels it's necessary (see Knight Templar below) is exactly why he's lasted in the spy/intelligence profession for as long as he he has. Sehmat, on the other hand, comes out of the her first mission severely traumatised.
    Sehmat: (to Mir, crying) Please take me out of this business before I become like you.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Sure, Sehmat is spying because of her loyalty to her country. But killing a faithful family servant? Her brother-in-law? Taking a child hostage? And while her family by marriage are the "enemy", it's difficult to point to any reprehensible conduct on their part throughout the movie.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Hidayat's fate is clear from the first shot in which he appears.
  • It's Always Sunny at Funerals: This is true of the three funeral scenes.
  • It Runs in the Family: Sehmat's father, Hidayat, was a double agent for India and his father, before him, was an Indian freedom fighter. Sehmat herself acknowledges that she is taking up the spying assignment for no reason apart from the fact that the same blood flows in her veins.
  • It's All My Fault: Major-General Syed realises that his decision to make Sehmat his son's bride has resulted in his family's ruin.
  • Knight Templar: Khalid Mir, the Indian Intelligence officer to whom Sehmat reports, combines this and Moral Pragmatist. The extent to which he is prepared to go to make the mission succeed becomes apparent when, despite genuinely respecting and caring for Sehmat, he doesn't hesitate to fall back to "Plan B" - an explosion which would involve killing Sehmat and a whole host of other people - when it seems that it isn't possible to extract Sehmat safely. She escapes, but Iqbal is killed in the blast.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song that plays in the background during Sehmat and Iqbal's wedding, Dilbaro, describes how a girl, once married, doesn't turn back, signifying that married women are expected to become one with their husband's family and more or less forget about their own parents. This couldn't be farther from truth for Sehmat, who is getting married in Pakistan precisely so that she can continue to help her own country, India.
  • Manly Tears: Iqbal when he figures out that his wife is a spy. Hidayat is also pretty tearful when he gives up his daughter in marriage, knowing too well what she is heading for.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sehmat has a couple of these moments.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Subverted. See Stealth Pun.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Iqbal, his brother and father all count.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Two key events are explained this way: (1) how Iqbal works out that Sehmat is a spy and (2) how Sehmat manages to escape the explosion.
  • Real-Life Relative: Sehmat's mother Teji is played by Soni Razdan, Alia Bhatt's mother.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: See the above poster.
  • Shower of Angst: Sehmat takes one after she runs over Abdul to silence him.
  • Sleeping Single: It starts that way in Sehmat and Iqbal's marriage because they didn't know each other before their wedding.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: The child Sehmat has with Iqbal becomes this for her, as the boy is born after his father's death.
  • Stealth Pun: Sehmat's name means "willing", as does the title of the film, "raazi".
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Iqbal.
  • The Ingenue: Sehmat certainly has hints of this. She's a young woman (20 at the beginning the story) who comes from a very loving family. While she agrees to join the spy profession of of her own volition and eventually becomes proficient at its technical aspects, the the moral ramifications don't fully sink in until she makes her first kill. It's a matter of professional exigency considering her position and circumstances, but the incident haunts her and she has her first major breakdown in its aftermath. Emphasised with her introductory scene being one of her saving a squirrel from getting run over by a motorbike.
  • Unknown Character: Spies are meant to be this, to both people of their own country and those of foreign lands - never identified by face or name.
  • Visual Pun: Mixed with Foreshadowing. The first time Sehmat sees her future husband, she is trying to watch him unobserved from a window in her room, i.e. spying on him. That is precisely what her role is to be throughout their marriage. Also, Fridge Brilliance in that Iqbal glances up at the window and sees her watching, which foreshadows the fact that he will find out that she is a spy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is painful to contemplate how Major-General Syed fared after the events in the film come to an end. The man has lost both his sons, a daughter-in-law, a faithful servant, and is now probably the subject of military inquiry because of the espionage that went on under his roof.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sehmat is willing to take a child hostage to get her across the border safely. Would she have been prepared to hurt the child physically? Who knows?