I am a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I was much disappointed after watching Happy New Year (2014), Chennai Express (2013); why did Shah Rukh resort to such shallow films, especially Happy New Year. After Fan (2016) came, I was relieved that the actor inside the star is still very much alive. He was brilliant in the double role of anti-hero superfan and the (anti)hero. Like every other fan of the King Khan, I too was waiting eagerly for 2017, for Raees.
Raees is the story of a poor boy whose mother taught him that no business is small and there is no religion as big as business. The boys grow up to be a bootlegger in the land of prohibition, crime boss and messiah for the poor of his locality. He is bad for the good reasons. He has a sweetheart, whom he marries and fathers her son. He also has a trusted companion in the form of a childhood friend; and numerous well-wishers, the people for whom he cares and helps them in every possible way. Then comes Majmudar, the IPS, not the antagonist though he appears to many as such. Starting from his entry, his witty dialogues and his affinity towards Raees combined with his clear conscience and loyalty to law makes him a likable character not an antagonist. He is more of a complement to Raees; in terms of Bollywood rom-com features this kind of complementing features are associated with the boy and the girl: with their differences complement yet fulfill each other.
Shah Rukh Kahn in and as Raees treads in his familiar territory as both an anti-hero and romantic; he played negative leads in 1993 films Darr, Baazigar, Anjaam (1994) and recently Fan; romantic roles ranging from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and many others. He plays Raees with anger, with intelligence, with controlled emotions and without most of his trademark styles. He delivers a top notch performance in the role of a witty and business-minded bootlegger but also shows the soft emotions without being overdramatic. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is one of the best actors of the industry and he doesn’t need to prove it everytime, but he does time and again. Majmudar is sharp, efficient and just in his line of work. He bows to no one; be it his superiors, politicians or circumstances; the rivalry inevitable. Apart from these two, the most screen time is given to Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as the childhood friend and associate to Raees, who plays the sidekick with ease as he didn’t have much to do. Mahira Khan didn’t get much screen time, despite being the love interest and wife of the titular character. But she shines where she needs to be and laments when the need arises; keeps the spirit of the hero alive throughout the tough times.
Rahul Dholakia sets the story in his familiar Gujarat, which has been a major character in his National Award Winning 2005 riot drama Parzania, though it is reduced to a more of guest role. He mixes some elements of good cinema and recreates a commercial version, though not entirely successful at all times. His plot is filled with elements which mix up the good and the bad ones and the dialogues varied in sharpness, mostly in the latter part. But what needs to be praised is the editing; the film is filled with some good match cuts, taking the action from one place to the other fluently; a great piece of continuity editing by Deepa Bhatia. But just before the introduction scene of Majmudar a legend appears in some digitalised form saying the distance between the two places and the camera zooms out to a real map view and then goes to the new place; this I felt does not match with the setting time of the film, as such things are good only in a ultra-modern or sci-fi film. The cinematography is also worth praise; Mohanan refuses to be type casted in any specifics throughout his versatile career. He lights up the scenes brightly to bring out the aura of Raees and contrastingly uses a sober more realist feeling when Majmudar is shown.
I saw some articles in various dailies criticising the smaller role of Aasiya (Mahira Khan) saying the character is there as an eye-candy in typical Bollywood style, she is there only for romance and etc. While watching the film before I read those articles I didn’t feel any such thing. I felt that though Aasiya is Raees’ wife, the real focus and romance of the film is on the relationship between Raees and Majmudar, they are the lead pair as Majmudar puts it “pass rah nahi sakta… aur dur jaane nahi deta” (Cannot stay close, don’t allow me to go far away). The film as whole could have been better, but the performances by Shah Rukh and Nawazuddin are more than enough to sustain the movie. And I am still a huge Shah Rukh Khan fan.
Film Score: 70
Director: Rahul Dholakia Screenplay: Rahul Dholakia, Harit Mehta, Niraj Shukla, Ashish Vashi Cinematography: K.U Mohanan Editing: Deepa Bhatia Music: Ram Sampath Production Design:Donald Reagan Gracy, Anita Rajgopalan Lata Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahira Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub