Raees Movie Review
After watching Rahul Dholakia’s gut-wrenching but brilliant Parzania I had high hopes of Raees, and happily it did not disappoint. Despite a few softer edges and a few other commercial compromises this is a film that holds on to the raw edge of a gangster’s life without the glamour and airbrushing that deaden some movies into a mushy justification . Shah Rukh Khan is a force of nature as Raees Alam, the young boy who needs glasses and won’t let anyone call him “battery salaa” (Four eyes) except his wife Aasiya (Mahira Khan). Raees is a smuggler during the prohibition of alcohol in Indian Gujrat, where state, (from the Chief Minister down) and police collude to earn money off illegal alcohol sales. It’s a happy game everyone is willing to play except ACP Majmudar played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a man determined to catch Raees Alam no matter what.
Shah Rukh Khan delivers yet another brilliant and powerful performance as only he can, getting deep into the skin of his character without once overplaying his hand. His cat and mouse game with ACP Majmudar is a matter of life and death , but also a matter of honour and pride because his mother has told him that “Koi Dhanda chota nahi hota aur dhandey say barra koi dharam nahi hota “. This is vintage Shah Rukh Khan , instead of the urbane jet hopping hero of Karan Johar movies, we see a return to the play of light and formidable shades of darkness from Baazigar , Anjaam and Darr.
The film has some great dialogues and confrontation scenes between the smuggler and the policeman, which Nawazuddin Siddiqui underplays to great effect at least for a while. Towards the end Siddiqui’s ice cold, relentless pursuit looks more tiresome than thrilling because there is very little emotion behind it and his final regrets sound a little hollow. However for most of the movie Siddiqui provides a fascinating counterpoint as an officer stifled by bureaucracy to Raees’s larger than life character, who breaks all the rules.
Mahira Khan looks absolutely stunning as Aasiya and her chemistry with Shah Rukh Khan is one of the key points of this film’s success. Her fresh looks aside, after a limited appearance in the first half, shines in the second where she emotes with all her usual clarity and power Whether she is promising her jailed husband “main Vote laaoongi” or waving goodbye to him, their son in her arms, and the knowledge that they may never meet again, she brings all the heart and soul of a courageous woman to her portrayal. Much as I enjoyed the movie, the one weak point for me was the lack of Aasiya in the first half. A few more scenes of integrated into the beginning would have added a little sweetness to the spice. I hate conspiracy theories but from some of the previously tweeted behind the screens pictures it does look as if certain scenes were cut, either due to political expediency or artistic, we will never know. There were scenes of Raees walking ahead of Aasiya in a red suite (from baby Faizaan’s Aqeeqa?), then scenes of Aasiya and Raees with the baby in a jeep and a few more all come to mind.
Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, manages to make a huge impression as Sadiq , Raees’s right hand man. His chemistry with Mahira Khan and Shah Rukh was flawless and I loved watching every one of his scenes. He is a very talented actor and is someone to watch out for.
My favourite song has to be Udi Udi jaaey, which showed a couple completely comfortable and easy in each other’s love. Zaalima however had a very old school Bollywood feel to it and though beautifully picturized looked a little out of place in the context of the rest of the movie. I am no fan of vulgar item numbers to begin with, and Sunny Leones oddly vacant gaze as she gyrated to “Laila Main Laila” did nothing to dispel that feeling, but at least it served a purpose and moved the plot forward.
In short Raees is a great movie to watch, and it is much more than just a mass entertainer. Rahul Dholakia is an incredibly talented director and has not made another Company or another Once upon a time in Mumbai, but something closer to the Godfather. As the audience follows Raees’s ascent through the dusty streets of his neighborhoods, there is a deep sense of affection for the time and place but also a current of subtle critique. Like some tragic symphony playing in the background are all the notes of terrorism, poverty and crime, Hindu Muslim rioting that we would all like to ignore.
Scenes I missed :