Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Mahira Khan, Atul Kulkarni
Director : Rahul Dholakia
From Gaurav (Fan) to Dr. Jehangir Khan (Dear Zindagi) to Raees Alam, let’s say SRK is having a good streak compared to the highly forgettable Happy New Year and banal Dilwale. Playing three absolutely distinct characters with aplomb, one would like to believe as he keeps quoting “some films for mann (heart) and some for Dhan (Money)” he would do more for mann. Raees is of course an attempt to marry mann and dhan.
Rahul Dholakia who directed the national award winning gut-wrencher Parzania among others, and SRK coming together for a film was interesting news to say the least. The subject was Dholakia’s turf, Gujarat in the times of upheaval, add to it the era of bootleggers and underworld, smuggling and scotch, and though he claims it is not, the life and times of Abdul Lateef.
But as the trailers started hitting the screens one could see less of Dholakia and more of masala. The Gujarat prohibition backdrop, a larger than life anti-hero with a heart of gold, an incorruptible cop whose sole mission is to destroy the protagonist, a web of politician-crime nexus… Well, Raees has all the trappings of Salim-Javedesque 70’s blockbusters. There is even a doff to their Amitabh Bachchan starrer Kaala Patthar as it plays in the background of a crucial scene. But Raees also gets trapped in its own vehicle carrying a superstar.
Where Raees scores :
Shahrukh makes a great good hearted bad guy. He brings in his classic charm and charisma to the film, even as he guns his enemies down. Shahrukh gets his goods together, shining in many moments. His Raees is made believable by his getting comfortable and settled in the character, and he is clearly enjoying going all out with many hard core action sequences. He pulls off the romance alongside the unflinching killer when required with same conviction. He is endearing when cooking for his wife, flying a kite and is menacing when he decides to take revenge. His and Nawaz’s chemistry crackles.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He is brilliant in the film. He gives his Inspector/SP Majmudar teeth and tongue in cheek deliveries. A delight to watch a properly fleshed character in a superstar film, that too of a cop, which are mostly seen mouthing same old lines. I loved him in Raees. Every scene that has Nawaz in it, is made better by his nuances. The writers have made him quirky and even when there are no dialogues, Nawaz gets in a “see what I did there” moment.
Supporting cast : The film has a very good cast all around, from small blink and miss roles to meatier ones, Raees gets it right mostly. I have two grudges, but that is for later.
Dialogues are another high point of the film, especially the repartee between Nawaz and Shahrukh. From the already popular “Baniye ka Dimaag, Miyaan bhai kee daring” to “ Bete ka baap bana hai, Gujarat ka nahi”, there is good old fashioned dialoguebaazi, and unlike some other underworld based franchises actually pack a punch and not make you laugh at their absurdity.
Action : The film has some well choreographed action sequences, and I don’t remember the last time I saw Shahrukh do that.
Rahul Dholakia’s understanding of Gujarat, his research on that era, the character, the detailing add to Raees. The first half is excellent.
Where Raees fails :
The stretched second half. The film loses steam, too many songs slow the proceedings.
Predictability. Like many anti-hero films in Hindi cinema, one can predict how the film is going to unravel and end. Some of the portions in the second half seem forced and further bring down the story telling.
The self-censoring of the controversial layers. I was expecting Dholakia to be braver, but alas, the riots, the blasts, all were treated in a hurried, shoddy manner, without ever scratching the surface. The film obviously wanted to stay as far away from controversy as possible.
Mahira Khan : She doesn’t add anything to the film, neither is her character given it’s due nor has she made it stand out, despite a few scenes where a better actress would have made an impression. Another casting fail for me was if you have a fabulous performer like Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, don’t waste him so mercilessly.
Music. With so many songs, appearing at whim at the most unrequired places, cutting into the film’s pace, it would have helped if they were better compositions. Even Laila fails to impress, and sadly same goes for La Leone.
Raees could have been a hard hitting commentary on the times it is set in, but it chooses to be more of a commercial carrier. Nothing bad in that, only it sometimes pretends to be what it is clearly not.
Having said that, I enjoyed most of it. Shahrukh and Nawaz, both made it worth the ticket price.
I would say watch it.
My verdict : 2.5/5