Raees movie cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Atul Kulkarni
Raees movie director: Rahul Dholakia
Raees movie rating: 2.5
Shah Rukh Khan returns in and as Raees, a golden hearted mobster who does bad things for a good cause. It is a role constructed to grab back his pole position, and to that end Shah Rukh Khan strains at fulfilling every single point of the In and As trope. He sings and dances, he fights and romances: he also tries to fulfill the outlines of a character.
And that’s where the film gets stuck, between the two stools of restraint and full blown tamasha: the In and As SRK is as familiar as he has ever been, despite the trimmings added on to induce freshness — the gold rimmed glasses, the kohled eyes, the deliberate delivery, and that ‘Scarface’ moment full of guns, arcing bullets and spraying blood– which all actors dream of.
Which makes Raees a mish-mash of things we’ve seen before in a plot which owes allegiance to the real life story of a liquor baron who made his pile and his name in dry Gujarat. The filmmakers have denied any similarity but anyone with half an eye can see the overlaps – the ingenuity of a man who could think on his feet (hooch-filled tomatoes!) and cart his maal under the eye of the cop (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who swears to catch him.
In fact, amongst all the effective supporting parts which bouy SRK, it is Nawaz who shines most. His dry, wry one liners, and he has several, have a zing which SRK’s don’t. And in a film where the leading man’s dialogue baazi is meant to wow the crowd, that is telling.
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Dholakia knows his Gujarat . That was clear in his ‘Parzania ‘. There are some flashes of that insider knowledge here too, but you can see how fear of being censored has blunted the edges of this film which could have really lifted off the screen. The riots, both in Mumbai and Gujarat, have a seriously anodyne feel. And the predictable arc of the story weighs the second half down.
SRK’s romantic interest, Mahira Khan, too is not as fresh as she could have been: the coyness is old Bollywood and in a film which should have embraced its masala roots much more firmly, it just sinks. So does item girl Sunny Leone, who shakes it, shakes it, but raises zero steam.
So this is what we get: a Nawaz who is having the time of his life, and making us crack multiple grins, up against an SRK who breaks through in some moments (especially one in which he shares with his bete noire, when the film shuts everything else down so that we can focus on the duo ) but gets bogged down in florid, seen-too-many-times flourishes in the rest. That brief exchange makes us sigh for what might have been, and I will take it away. There’s some zest in the beginning when we see a winning bunch of boys — the young Raees and his bestie, played by Zeeshan Ayyub — learn the ropes of their ‘ganda dhanda’, but soon enough adulthood is upon them, and so is the slide.
A song in the film reminds us that SRK who plays Raees is a ‘single piece ‘ in this ‘akkhi duniya’ ( entire world): it is meant for the character, but we know it is for the star.
Yes he is. But maybe we’ll be more aware of it the next time around, when he is not so wrapped in slo-mo advances, and lack-lustre song-and-dances.