Raees (2017)

Catching the first show of the first day was the target, but alas, went to the second show of the first day. After numerous controversies, Raees released. On a Wednesday, probably to leverage 26th January’s holiday.

Raees, begins with the young Raees Khan getting a beating at school for not being able to read the board, and it is then, after tests from a Parsi doctor of the locality, that he gets his glasses. In the course of the film, we witness the rise of the child with the wits of a businessman and the guts of a gangster, become Gujarat’s most notorious liquor baron who then goes on to become this revered Robin Hood like figure.

The director, who has directed a film like Parzania, comes with a deep understanding of the landscape that the story is set in. And Shah Rukh Khan, who is a co-producer of the film, sets the mould of his character from the very beginning, and what we get is a compelling drama, despite seeming over-done at times.

The young Raees, in the Fatehpura district of 1970s Gujarat, after getting his oversized spectacles, starts working as a runner for a local bootlegger, and shines high with his daring and wits. With all his experience as a runner, he plans to start his own dhanda, and in doing so, comes to Bombay to collect money for his first order. There are some boiling fight sequences which roots from a small quarrel in the meat market, during the Eid season.

The first half is packed with some more compelling sequences, and some crucial plot points, where we see Raees slowly inching his way towards the successful baron he becomes, using his wits and guts. It is these qualities that make him such a magnetic figure. But after interval, Raees has become a messiah for his people, the mobster with a heart of gold, a staunchly secular humanist. It is here that the plot too slips into repetition and predictability, and characters like the corrupt chief minister and other politicians come off as caricatures.

But, if there are a few things to watch out for in the second half, it is the interplay between Raees and the un-corruptble cop Majmudar, played by Nawazudding Siddiqui. Like all mobsters, Raees repeatedly uses his political connections to transfer Majmuder time and again. But, despite all the efforts, the cop remains firm in his resolve to dethrone Raees. It is the scenes between Raees and Majmudar that is to look out for.

The other supporting roles in the film is not roles that require heavy lifting. Mahira Khan, though confident as Raees’ love interest, suffers a shorted screen time and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, playing Raees’ loyal friend, suffers a underwritten role, reducing him to being merely a sidekick.

As expected, the film is powered by the star power of Shah Rukh Khan, from the Moharram scene, lacerating his back to the intense display of rage, Shah Rukh commands attention. But it is during the more pensive moments, that one could catch a glimpse of the actor inside. There are some scenes of him with a glass of chai, and him being called a battery for his specs, that one must look out for.

I’m going with 3.5/5 for Rahul Dholakia’s Raees. Coming with the similar appearance of the Salim-Javed gangster films of the 70s, the film delivers.