By: Samar Khan
Raees is a very entertaining gangster-inspired film, no doubt about that. For every great point about the film, there is a negative that mitigates it and thus holds Raees back from being a true classic the likes of Gangs of Wasseypur and Scarface.
BRIEF PLOT SYNOPSIS
The plot for Raees was, in traditional Bollywood style, not complex at all and included the requisite love story so as to appeal to all audiences. The film tells the story of Raees from childhood through to middle-aged adulthood and his evolution from a small boy working in a bootleg alcohol factory to eventually creating his own empire peddling the same items. In its roughly 150-minute runtime, the film showcases the trials and tribulations of our anti(?)hero star, his love interest and the battle that ensues against an honest cop devoted to bringing down our protagonist. There was a LOT of plot that was covered in a fairly easy-to-decipher way, to put it gently.
The Acting. I’ll delve into further details of where specifically the acting shone when mentioning the major actors but it was definitely a strong point for the varied cast throughout the film.
Shah Rukh Khan. Remember back when Dilwale was out and we (okay, mainly me) thought that SRK’s era was over and his once-legendary acting prowess was but a relic of the past? Thanks to a diverse range of roles in the last year beginning with the wonderful Fan to the enjoyable Dear Zindagi and now Raees, the romantic legend has regained his form and now is establishing himself as one of the most versatile actors in all of Bollywood. While not his best performance by any means, his mannerisms as the titular character, his willingness to emote again on screen (SRK crying gets us all crying), and his chemistry with his co-stars ensured that Raees is worth watching for all of his fans.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui. For anyone that knows me, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has long been one of my favourite actors not just in Bollywood but in any film industry around the world. A true character actor who disappears into the roles written for him, Siddiqui has been on a tear the last 5 or so years in performances and while his effort in Raees won’t win him any awards, there is no denying that he was the strongest point of the film with his perfect blend of comedic timing and seething intensity.
Mahira Khan. The popular Pakistani actress made her Bollywood debut in Raees as the romantic interest, Aasiya, for our lead character and she shone brightly. While not afforded as large of a role as one would have preferred, her romantic scenes and songs with SRK opposite her were magnificent and the chemistry between the two leads on screen was visible.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. I’ve been saying this since Raanjhaana but Ayyub is a future star. Always the best or one of the best parts of any film he partakes in, Ayyub has a charm that is difficult to emulate and oozes genuine-ness when on screen. His role as the sidekick, Sadiq, to SRK’s Raees allows him ample opportunity to outshine his decorated co-star and he does that with ease.
Authenticity of Period. The film was set in the province of Gujarat and chronicled the boom of the bootleg liquor industry in the 1980’s-90’s in the anti-alcohol state. Each street and character seemed authentic down to the clothing worn by each character. I really appreciated the touch of playing up the different types of religion on display, with Director Rahul Dholakia and co. going out of their way to showcase the Shia Islam practiced by the lead character and how business and faith interacted.
Music. It ain’t a Shah Rukh Khan film without a great soundtrack to accompany the acting and -thankfully-, Raees delivers in spades. Arijit Singh returns with another mesmerizing song, the heart-meltingly beautiful “O Zaalima” which stood out as a particular highlight. The “Laila Main Laila” remake was decent in terms of vocals while KK’s “Saanson Ke” in the credits scene stole the show for me. To put it simply: I WILL ADD THIS MOVIE’S SOUNDTRACK TO MY PLAYLIST.
THE HARD TO JUDGE
Dialogue. Hoo boy. I didn’t know which category to place this in as the dialogue actually had some highs but the corny nature of it became a tad overwhelming. For starters, it felt as if every second or third line for SRK was meant to be heroic or epic which adds up and becomes grating after well over two hours of hearing it. Some of the dialogue was fantastic, such as:
“Dhande mein koi Hindu-Muslim nahi hota“
That was pretty amazing when uttered in the midst of communal tension in the film at the time but its amazingness was outdone by lines such as:
“Saboot le aaiye … le jaiye … Raees hazir hai”
Pacing. Pacing was an issue and was felt heavily in the latter half of the film. The first half is near perfect in its pacing, with the introduction of a young Raees to the introduction of SRK on screen (beating up vendors with dead goats during Eid season is extremely satisfying, it seems) setting a steady yet not overly complex pace. In the second half, trouble begins when the director tries to detail the rise and fall of an empire in just that half along with adding in the chase of Raees by Nawazuddin’s Majmudar character as well as communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims AND still focus on the love story for our lead character. It clearly becomes too much for the film to handle and certain segments either drag for too long or are rushed, with some specific characters introduced that are barely utilized at all.
Plot. The movie could have been so much more. Just reducing certain subplots would have allowed additional time for the main plots of the film to ferment and actually, you know, become good due to added screen-time for all role players. Raees clearly tried to pay homage to the classic Scarface but lacked the rigidity and tight scripting of the latter and is undone by its desire to do too much instead of settling.
We here at The Film Lawyers have graced Raees with a grade of B- (7.0/10).