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'The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax', goes a famous quote by Albert Einstein. But, Ajay Devgn's Ameya Patnaik in Raid is a genius when it comes to this math. Based on various true stories of IT raids conducted in Uttar Pradesh in the 80s, this Raj Kumar Gupta directorial arrives just in time when topics like 'demonitisation' and 'Nirav Modi' have made their way into the common man's discussion. Of course, the maker packs in some dose of fiction to make it palatable for the masses. But that doesn't dilute its impact and is exactly what makes it a wholesome entertainer.
What's in the plot? We give you a sneak-peek! The year is 1981. An honest, scrupulous IT officer Ameya Patnaik (Ajay Devgn) gets transferred to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Such are his ideals that he 'drinks only what he can afford' even when invited to parties and is a strict believer of rules. At one point yo see him telling someone, "Sarkari naukar ke liye tohfa rishwat hoti hai." His wife Malini (Ileana D'Cruz) is an epitome of a dutiful wife and his pillar of strength.
One day, Ameya knocks the door of political leader Rameshwar Singh aka Tauji (Saurabh Shukla)'s palatial mansion to conduct an IT raid after receiving an anonymous tip about his illegal assets. When Tauji chides and throws him a challenge that he will never find single penny during the search operation, he cooly gives it back, "Main sirf sasural se hi shaadi wale din khali haath lauta tha ... varna jiske ghar subah subah pahuncha hoon kuch na kuch nikaal kar hi laya hoon."
Soon Ameya discovers that Tauji's 'White House' is literally built on 420 crores of black money as gold biscuits and currency notes pop out from walls and other unlikely sources. What follows next is a clash of ideals and egos with one-liners that leave you hooting and cheering.
Mounting real stories on celluloid isn't an easy task. But Raj Kumar Gupta convincingly whips up an offering that's hard to resist and keeps you invested till the very last minute. Ritesh Shah's crisp writing is the backbone of Raid. His dialogues pack a solid punch and add interesting layers to the plot. The scenes of verbal duel between Ajay and Saurabh pique your interest as you try to decipher the character's next move.
On the flip side, the second half of the film gets a little predictable and the narrative slows down at few places. A hint of melodrama too seeps in. Thankfully, Gupta has a firm hold over his directorial reins and things soon fall into places.
Other sore point is the last 10 minutes where you feel the script staggering a bit with an 'unnecessary' song, followed by a tad 'unconvincing' scene which just seems to have been packed in a hurry. However, the filmmaker makes sure that there are no string left loose.
Talking about the performances, Ajay Devgn plays Ameya Patnaik with great conviction. He's not a superhero who flexes his muscle in the battle of good vs evil. Instead, his character is calm, composed and someone who chooses brain over brawn. Ajay brings in the intensity with his brooding eyes and deep baritone which the film demands and convincingly pulls off those powerful dialogues.
Every villain is a hero is his own mind and Saurabh Shukla's Tauji is no different. The talented actor brings in his own quirks to his role and makes sure that he is a robust nemesis to Ajay's heroic act.
Ileana D'Cruz looks replescent in her bindis and sarees and shares an affable chemistry with Ajay. Unfortunately, her character lacks meat and fails to catch your eye. Instead her scenes with Ajay heavily dipped in syrupy romance just deviates you from the main plot.
Last but not the least, it's octogenarian Pushpa Joshi as the 'ammaji' with kidney stones who leaves you asking for more. We bet you won't be able to escape fher charm; she's that good!
Alphonse Roy's cinematography is praise-worthy in a few shots and adds drama and depth. Bodhaditya Banerjee's editing is edged.
Raid doesn't have much to offer when it comes to music. Sanu Ek Pal Chain is hummable. The rest of the tracks just add minutes.
In a nutshell, Raid makes for a compelling watch despite a few hiccups. There's a scene in the film which has a dialogue that goes like, "Ameya Patnaik na kabhi khaali haath aate hain, aur na kabhi khaali haath jaate hain."
With Raid, Ajay Devgn brings with him a film that's quite relevant in today's times and gives us enough reasons to say a big 'No' to black money.