Rajkumar Gupta’s “Raid” is set in Lucknow in the 80’s when India was still a closed economy. During a tense income tax raid, an honest officer (Ajay Devgn) tries to implicate a powerful politician for his ill-gotten wealth.
Devgn’s Amay Patnaik, the director would have you believe, is an anomaly among government officers - someone who refuses to accept any favours, even defying the country’s prime minister in his quest to catch the corrupt.
When he moves to Lucknow and comes up against local politician and strongman Rameshwar Singh (Saurabh Shukla), Amay realizes he is dealing with a ruthless nemesis. A mysterious caller tips him off about untold wealth hidden inside Singh’s mansion, ironically called “The White House”, prompting Amay to send a rag-tag team of government officials knocking on Singh’s door.
Set over two days, “Raid” is shot like a thriller with anonymous tips, clues that appear at opportune times, and several red herrings that director Gupta and writer Ritesh Shah set up nicely to fool audiences. The dialogue is acerbic, especially the sparring between Devgn and Shukla’s characters.
The director makes sure he gets the details right considering the film is based on real-life tax raids in the 80’s. Devgn wears bell-bottomed pants, the only vehicle on the roads is an Ambassador car and we even get a glimpse of former prime minister Indira Gandhi at work.
To make something as mundane as a tax raid seem thrilling enough for a two-hour film is no mean feat. To their credit, Gupta and Shah try very hard. The visuals of money, jewellery and gold bars would have put Pablo Escobar to shame, and Devgn mouths sermons about how this uneven distribution of wealth is responsible for India’s stuttering economy. After a while though, the repartee starts to wear thin, and the obvious resolution takes much too long coming.
Another sore spot is Ileana D’Cruz whose role as Amay’s wife is so superfluous that she was probably roped in just for the songs.
What helps is that Devgn is restrained in his performance, and Shah and Gupta resist the temptation to give in to too much jingoism. Shukla, as the arrogant politician whose bravado crumbles, is inspired as usual. The scenes between him and deadpan Devgn add some spark to a run-of-the-mill film.