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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Review: Raid is a non-taxing sting operation on the conscience

Ajay Devgn's movie, based on true events, is watchable in most parts and provides a soft corner for the financial police

Ajay Devgn leads the hunt for black money in Raid. Courtesy Panorama Studios
Ajay Devgn leads the hunt for black money in Raid. Courtesy Panorama Studios

A visit from the taxman is rarely good news, unless it is from Ajay Devgn in Raid.

Director Rajkumar Gupta has taken a look at the true story of a case in the 1981 Income Tax raids in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, while taking cinematic licence to tweak the plot without going overboard and becoming preachy.

The director of critically acclaimed Aamir and No One Killed Jessica also negotiates tricky pitfalls to do his own sting operation on the corrupt behaviour of hoarders while bringing focus on how the taxman in India works.

The lead role is fit for Devgn, where he slips into his usual stoic self armed with punchy one-liners as tax official Deputy Commissioner Amay Patnaik. The dependable pot-bellied Saurabh Shukla looks the part as the antagonist politician Rameshwar Singh.

The film revolves around a rustic mansion, cheesily named White House, as Devgn and his team scourge for sources of black money, or undeclared wealth.

That quirk does not take anything away though from the fact that the film's real hero is the script writer. Ritesh Shah (Airlift and Pink) has made sure the dialogue breezes over the pouring over reams of paper while revolving around dusty offices, cowsheds and a mucky well.

The film flicks through a litany of socio-economic themes that gripped India at the time; tax is important as long as others are paying it, political grey areas, public sympathy of high-profile subjects such as Singh and moles in the tax department. Amit Sial did a good job portraying the latter.

Sadly, the movie credits do not reveal which incident forms the crux of the plot but it seems like there have been too many embellishments that have introducing a few bloopers.

The opening scene shows couple of tipsters jumping over rooftops and risking their lives just to know who is getting raided. The use of children shown in the house is also clumsily handled.

Then Ileana D'Cruz is portrayed as a perky wife who comes across more as a forced prop to give a voice to the secretive Devgn's thoughts and actions.

Two songs - Nit Khair Manga and Saanu Ek Pal Chain Na Aave - make up for the awkward chemistry, but the rehashed gems of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have been wasted.

The stash of cash recovered has been exaggerated and so has been the sequence of events stretching to over four days for the raid.

Aside from that, there is a good amount of attention to detail of the constraints in which the taxmen work and how they do a search operation.

The worry is that some of this will be lost on the majority of the audience who are either not in a position to pay tax or liable for big amounts. According to December reports, only 1.7 per cent of India's population pays tax of any amount. The movie is still entertaining and enlightening nevertheless.