Raid movie cast: Ajay Devgn, Saurabh Shukla, Ileana D’Cruz, Amit Sial, Sheeba Chaddha
Raid movie director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Raid movie rating: One and a half stars
The pithily named Raid is about, well, the raid that’s planned and executed by a ramrod straight income tax officer and his colleagues upon a wealthy businessman. This is the kind of film which needs to play out like a razor-sharp thriller for it to succeed: Raid, plumped up with wholly superfluous songs and stretched passages, is pithy in name only.
Based on true events in the Lucknow of the early 80s, the film has Ajay Devgn play Amay Patnaik, the forever-on-transfer officer, challenging the might of Tauji (Shukla), a well-connected businessman who lives in a mansion called, yes, White House on the outskirts of town.
Tauji lives with his large ‘kunba’—younger brothers, sisters-in-law, an old mother, and appears to have on call endless ‘lathi’-wielding goons. The raid puts into motion the predictable stand-off between the IT raiders headed by the intrepid Amay and Tauji and co: we get, the smug Tauji himself, his furious brothers, the dismayed ‘bhabhis’, and, the most interesting character of them all – the old ‘mataji’, who is diabetic (‘humein madhumeh hai’, she says, with a delightful quaver) and yet asks for ‘mithai’, who is allegedly not all there, but is sharp as the proverbial tack.
If there had been as much attention to quirky detail in sketching out the other characters, and the requisite pace, this would have been a highly entertaining romp, flashing back to the pre-liberalised India of the 80s, the relationship between corrupt tax officers and rich business families (a tip-off meant a sizeable handout), and the nexus between the wealthy and the highest power in the land (a half-baked flash of the then PM and her coterie).
But every time there is a quickening, there comes a bump. Songs featuring Amay and his loving wife (D’Cruz), who is a pretty, tiffin-carrying appendage to her brave husband, with literally just one or two solo scenes. Repetitive scenes of the all-too familiar Devgn brooding and sleuthing and discovering hidden caches of cash and precious metal. And so on.
In all this to-ing and fro-ing, background music blaring to make up for the lack of real drama, even a terrific actor like Shukla is left floundering. His ‘Tauji’ looks the part– corpulent, well-fed, and confident that no one can touch him– but the one-liners, instead of buoying his character, serve to deflate it. I kept waiting for Sheeba Chaddha to deliver something substantial, but the film lets her down, as it does Amit Sial (so good in Titli), as the taxman who starts off complicit yet finds gumption: when does the switch happen?
Raid had potential, but it comes off overlong and tepid. And where is the city of Lucknow? What we get is same-old flashes of historic buildings in all their crumbling glory, as a backdrop to drab songs, but no sign of the vibrant, living culture of the place this film is supposedly set in.