Like Alia Bhatt in “Raazi”, John Abraham is air-dropped into Pakistan (don’t miss those fluttering green flags with moon crescents) by a gravelly-voiced intelligence officer Jackie Shroff who reminds Dear John that country comes first.
John looks all clenched-jawed and determined. His only condition? Please look after my Ammi, no matter what happens. Ammi is fine. But what about our spy hero’s love interest? Slinking in the shadows is Mouni Roy. Clearly she has no say in what goes across the border.
RAW (Romeo Akbar Walter) is the story of an Indian intelligence officer spying in Pakistan. It seems to be yet another effort after “Parmanu” for John Abraham to grab some of the patriotic space from Akshay Kumar.
This film could have easily starred Akshay (for the record it was started with Sushant Singh Rajput but ended with our strong-and-silent Mr. Abraham).
From the trailer, there are two things that emerge clearly from the dark whispering waves of espionage during times of stressful peek into the “biryani bartan” in the neighbour’s kitchen.
My fear, from watching the trailer, is that there may be an excessive dependence on John’s limited acting abilities in a script that has been written to aggrandize the leading man’s fan base. John enjoys getting into the shoes of a hair-lipped Everyman who will blend into the enemy country.
I liked the played-down jingoism in the presentation which was also the USP of “Uri” which saw that film become a blockbuster. I am sure the makers of “RAW” are hoping to cash in on the current climate of aggressive infiltration into the enemy territory to become another “Uri”. But the thing about “Uri” was that it didn’t aspire to be a flag-waving homage to the cinema of Manoj Kumar and J.P. Dutta.
The trailer of “RAW” is somehow not the dizzying espionage thriller we would like it to be. It seems restricted in its thematic resonance and also delimited by a cramped spatial disharmony evident in the hemmed-in places where stealth secrecy and suspense is attempted to be created.
All this may just not matter because Indians want to see Pakistan being brought down to its knees. Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW) falls right in the category of topical films. What I liked was the projection of John not as an action hero but a ‘reaction’ hero. He is shown holding back his spleen opting for understatement instead of extravagant aggression.
The restraint we see in the trailer of “RAW” could be a budgetary consideration. But then it could also be a freedom of aspiration that comes to a director who has nothing to lose (in this case Robbie Garewal who hasn’t seen much success) and a leading man who has just convinced himself he could be as successful as Akshay Kumar provided the patriotic card is played well.