Raid Review: This raid goes on and on without conflict
The film does not entertain and there is nothing that anchors the film
Pop culture does not exist in vacuum. Very much a product of its times, the social and political influence cannot be discounted, even with the creatively bankrupt mainstream Bollywood of the last couple of years. It would be a good exercise to note whom the opening credits of post-2014 Hindi films thank. And it wouldn't be a surprise if the frequency of Chief Ministers' names appearing and, at times the Prime Minister's, has exponentially increased since. Raj Kumar Gupta's Raid thanks Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Raid is set in Lucknow and deals with an income tax raid on the properties of an Uttar Pradesh based kingmaker, Rameshwar Singh aka Taoji (Saurabh Shukla) by the honest-to-goodness income tax officer Amay Patnaik (Ajay Devgn). The party that rules at the centre also guards the fort over Uttar Pradesh and its buzzwords include corruption, black money, Swiss banks, income tax raids. All these words show up multiple times in the film in different combinations. Therefore, in 2018, the 1981-set Raid is a natural Bollywood by-product. Does it at least entertain?
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Saurabh Shukla, Ileana D’Cruz
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
At the very least Raid delivers on its title. The raid is the film. The raid at Taoji's palace lasts about 48 hours and that is the course of the film. It is reaffirmation after reaffirmation about Amay Patnaik's sincerity. His honesty. His imaandari. He invokes Gandhi when he is stopped from entering a country club due to its colonial rules as he has shown up wearing slippers. And he comments on how once again shoes have stopped slippers in this country. He opens a bottle of cheap desi liquor and remarks that he doesn't drink what he cannot buy. He does not reveal confidential details even to his wife Malini (Ileana D’Cruz). As if the bare minimum is supposed to be glorified. He is also a man from a very old, regressive school. He comments on how the wives of government officers across India need to be the fearless ones. Politicians and corrupt men don't escape him but the simple fact that he has women in his own office does.
For a level playing field, Amay goes against the rules - sinful for him - and lets Taoji get out of the house. This is about the halfway point and we think there is some major conflict coming. But nothing happens in Raid except for the raid that goes on and on. First, the officers don't find anything after ransacking the place. But suddenly, they start finding things as if they've changed houses and this is a fresh raid.
Raid is a film that probably needed no script, no direction. No performances either because even Shukla is wasted. The central mystery is not played up and conflicts are non-existent. It is a 2-hour video on a successful two-day raid that happened in 1981. A pity they chose 1981. At least if it was the present times, we would have got some TV news footage with angry bickering, hashtags and heightened drama that this film so badly needs.