Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Kyta Productions, VA Film Company and Red Ice Productions’ R.A.W. (UA) is the story of a secret service agent of India who spies in Pakistan.

Romeo (John Abraham) works in a bank but is picked up by Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Shrikant (Jackie Shroff) to go as a spy to Pakistan. Romeo goes to the neighbouring country as Akbar and soon wins the confidence of Isaq Afridi (Anil George). Isaq Afridi is an arms supplier and has an equation with Gen. Zorawar (Purnendu Bhattacharya). Isaq Afridi’s own son, Nawab Afridi (Shadab Amjad Khan), has attempted to kill him as Nawab’s rise is stunted by Isaq’s presence.

Akbar soon becomes a trusted lieutenant of Isaq Afridi. He keeps sending secret news about Pakistan to India. Akbar also learns that Pakistan is planning to bomb Badlipur in India very soon. Isaq is asked to supply arms for the Badlipur attack. Shrikant uses this information to thwart the attack – and this he attempts to do by asking well-known journalist Rehana Kazmi (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi) to write about a related incident on a fixed date. However, all of a sudden, the date of the Badlipur attack is advanced, leading RAW chief Shrikant to understand that someone has leaked the news about India knowing the Pakistan plan, to Pakistan, prompting the country to advance the date. Who is the person leaking the news to Pakistan?

Even as Akbar is trying to gather more data on the in-the-planning Badlipur attack, Colonel Khan (Sikander Kher) sees red. He overhears a conversation between Akbar and Indian diplomat in Pakistan, Parul (Mouni Roy), leading him to believe that Akbar is an Indian spy. He seeks permission from Gen. Zorawar’s deputy, Gen. Ghazi (Aashit Chatterjee), to put Akbar under surveillance. On getting a more solid proof, Colonel Khan arrests Akbar and tortures him mercilessly. But Shrikant does nothing to save Akbar.

Once Akbar is released, thanks to the intervention of Isaq and Gen. Zorawar, he telephones Shrikant in India and questions him about not coming to his rescue. Shrikant tells him something which prompts a heartbroken Akbar to actually volunteer to bomb Badlipur on behalf of the Pakistani army.

What is it that Shrikant tells Akbar? Does Akbar actually bomb Badlipur? What happens thereafter?

Robbie Grewal has written an interesting story about spying and RAW. The first half is slow but the second half is fast-paced. However, the emotional angle has not been tackled properly. The screenplay, penned by Robbie Grewal, with additional screenplay by Rahul Sengupta, is quite interesting and engaging. The drama doesn’t give the audience time to think as there are many twists and turns. But a few twists towards the end do appear far-fetched. Although the drama is about India and Pakistan, claptrap moments and dialogues are few. Actually, since every action of Akbar is about a mission (Badlipur bombing) which he has to thwart, immediate gratification for the viewers is missing. In that sense, heroics and heroism, which masses are used to applauding in a film, are almost completely missing. Likewise, scenes or dialogues inspiring patriotic feelings in viewers are few. The abovementioned are the biggest drawbacks of the screenplay. By its very nature, the drama would appeal more to the multiplex and city audiences. Dialogues, penned by Robbie Grewal, Ishraq Eba and Shreyansh Pandey, are good but they lack the punch needed in a film about India and Pakistan.

John Abraham does a fine job as the secret service agent. He makes his character believable. Jackie Shroff delivers a good performance in the role of Shrikant. Mouni Roy gets limited scope but is nice as Parul. Sikander Kher springs a surprise with a spirited performance as Colonel Khan. Rajesh Shringarpure lends able support as Shrikant’s assistant, Awasthi. Anil George looks and lives the character of Isaq Afridi. Shadab Amjad Khan has his moments as Nawab Afridi. Raghubir Yadav makes his presence felt as Mudassar. Purnendu Bhattacharya (as Gen. Zorawar) and Aashit Chatterjee (as Gen. Ghazi) leave their marks. Gyanendra Tripathi is effective as Capt. Adil. Alka Amin makes her mark as Romeo’s mother. Suchitra Krishnamoorthi lends good support as Rehana Kazmi. Shivraj Walvekar has his moments as Mishraji. Others do as required.

Robbie Grewal’s direction is good. But his narration caters more to the city audiences. Music (Ankit Tiwari, Sohail Sen, Shabbir Ahmed and Raaj Aashoo) is nice but it is more functional than anything else. There’s no hit song. Lyrics (Shabbir Ahmed, Murli Agarwal, Prince Dubey and Ashok Punjabi) are appropriate. Bosco-Caesar’s choreography is alright. Hanif Shaikh’s background music is very good, magnifying the impact of the scenes. Tapan Tushar Basu’s cinematography is nice. Production designing (by Madhur Madhavan and Swapnil Bhalerao) is of a fine standard. Nilesh Girdhar’s editing is quite sharp.

On the whole, R.A.W. is a fairly entertaining fare but it lacks the patriotic flavour and the instant gratification one expects in a film about India and Pakistan. As such, it does not have claptrap moments so necessary in a film about India and Pakistan. Also, its limited window of just 12 days (before Kalank invades the cinemas on 17th April) will restrict its business. It will, therefore, not be able to do much at the box-office to make money.

-KOMAL NAHTA