Director: Rahul Dholakia
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub
A theme supposedly glorifying a terrorist gangster, a heroine imported from Pakistan, the typical political threats before the release, a date-clash with Kaabil, the crowded on-train promotions, the hateful social media campaigns by Khan-haters…….the controversies kept hounding SRK’s Raees and kept it in the news.
Now that it is out into the theatres, let’s see if the film is worth all that attention.
What’s the plot?
Taking his mother’s advice of ‘No business is too small and the business is the only religion’ to heart, Raees, a poor school kid, decides that he would take up bootlegging banned liquor as his ‘business’. With another chum, he joins as a leg-runner in a contraband liquor baron’s gang. Because of the typically skewed demand-supply equation in Gujarat, a dry state under Prohibition, it turns out to be quite a profitable decision. As he grows up, Raees decides it is time to spread his wings and run his own bootlegging operations. With his ‘Baniye ka dimaag aur miya bhai ki daring’ he soon rises to the top, making him a pal of the corrupt Chief Minister and a thorn in the side of the other contraband dealers. In the crime-world, the rise to the top is almost always followed by a fall and Raees’ downfall is about to begin. His reckless, overambitious actions are going to play right into the hands of his nemesis, an incorruptible cop, who has sworn to wipe out Raees’ sprawling empire.
· Broadly based on a Gujarat based gangster Abdul Lateef’s life story (despite the prominent disclaimers!), Raees’ 80s styled Anti-Hero narrative is interesting as a Masala film.
· Director Rahul Dholakia avoids modern-day directorial gimmicks and tells the story in a lucid linear manner. The first half depicting Raees’ roots, his beginnings and his rise to the top is entertaining.
· Shahrukh Khan (sporting rimmed glasses over kohl-laced eyes!) looks young, and delivers a credible performance as a gangster with a heart of gold. The entire film hinges on his screen presence and he does a good job of holding it together.
· Nawazuddin Siddiqui proves once again why he is a gem of an actor. His one-liners-filled performance (despite its limited scope) is the highlight of the film.
· A few catchy songs.
· The film could have been at least half an hour shorter!
· The second half of the film loses grip.
· The roles for the supporting cast are weak thanks to sketchy characterization.
· Dholakia’s last film Perzania was a disturbingly realistic portrayal of communal riots in Gujarat. Raees, too deals with those elements but in much more guarded, filmi and melodramatic way.
· The effort to turn the gangster into a likeable messiah doesn’t succeed as the main character’s many on-screen actions in the storyline feel unconvincing and don’t evoke sympathy.
· SRK tries to give it the original Angry Young Man-like shades but that seething restraint shackles him from delivering a punchier performance.
· This kind of a film needs plenty of crowd-pleasing ‘dialoguebaazi’. The writers come up short in that department.
· The choice of Mahira Khan as the leading lady is surprising. She doesn’t display either the looks or the acting talent to justify her top billing.
· Sunny Leone’s hyped item number ‘Laila Main Laila’ surprisingly falls flat.
The powerful screen presence of SRK and Nawazuddin makes Raees a fairly watchable film but the story, the characters and the direction lack novelty and polish to make a memorable gangster flick.