Movie Review: 'Raees'
Opened: 25 January 2017
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahira Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Atul Kulkarni
Director: Rahul Dholakia
Producers: Gauri Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani
Event cinema: Isn't that what they call it when one of the Khan triumvirate has a release? Remember when Arbaaz Khan came up with the concept of Dabangg? It's was pure cinematic fodder, but Salman's swag made it all that much more! Then came the copycats, the cliches, ultimately getting to a point where the Dabangg formula was rinsed until it became a little blah and pastiche.
We are a fickle lot we cinema-goers are, and we need a constant up-cycling of new visions, albeit of the same old ideas. Which is where Raees comes in. A film reminiscent of all those films from yours (and mine) childhood – (sans any gratuitous rape scenes, yes Kaabil, you're guilty of this milking this one).
Coming back to Raees, cinema has long since romanticised the notion of gangsters, guns and maverick coppers. Picture this. A wisecracking kid, born in poverty, grows up to be the community's misunderstood Robin Hood (Shah Rukh Khan in case you're wondering), taking with one hand, giving with the other, all in the name of business, but benevolent to a fault. The strait laced by-the-book copper (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), transferred from another patch, natch, unwavering in his duties, making it his life's mission to rid society of all its ills however or whatever it takes. The demure damsel (Mahira Khan), deaf and mute save for a few lines generously bequeathed to her, but such a doll.
Raees starts life as a runner, supplying bootlegged hooch to desperate drinkers in the dry state – Gujarat. From the onset, the setting, his attitude, all that 'dhamakedaar' dialogue, a complete throwback to the Amitabh Bachchan of yore, particularly during his 'angry young man' phase.
In one scene where Raees is rinsing some two bit mill owner, a scene from an Amitabh film smashing Prem Chopra to bits is playing in background – meta much? Deewar, Naastik, Ram Balram, it's all referenced here, but for me it was Bachchan's Vijay Deenanath Chauhan whom SRK most resembles in character. His voice is a few octaves lower, the skin tone darker, more earthy. Where Bachchan donned that white suit, SRK wears the traditional garb of Gujarati Muslims oh so familiar to me – a Pathani 'kurta pyjama' ironically unmarked, and pristine even when he is blowing baddies' brains out at close range.
For every anti-hero though, there is always a nemesis. In this who or what ultimately proves to be Raees' downfall? Is it Jairaj Seth? Head of the local crime syndicate and under whose tutelage Raees grew wings and prospers? Is it crime kingpin Mussa bhai in faraway Mumbai who kept a close watch on Raees rising through the ranks? Or is it Raees himself - soaring so high his wings had to be clipped?
Siddiqui as Inspector Majumdar (so straight, he may as well have have a rod up his backside), is as expected, chipping in a fine performance right from the Irrfan Khan school of acting, where he's both understated and restrained in his one dimensional turn as a man of the law, determined to scalp Raees by any means necessary, but ultimately thwarted at every opportunity.
Farhan Akhtar's stamp is all over this and his reincarnation of Don foremost in my mind with the background music, a mix of funky 70/80's piano, bongo drums and those horns! He seemed to have utilised an almost Tom & Jerry plot full of baiting and chasing, so beloved of SRK's Don avatar - but who's the cat and who's the mouse?
The lines come fast like never-ending shots fired to and fro, each hitting their mark - bullseye.
The flip side of this venture is the pristine Mahira Khan and the humdrum soundtrack both sorely off the mark. Was Mahira's role as Raees' love interest always a bit part or did the Pakistani actor ban render her redundant? She's hardly there even during her brief screen time, or was it just that she just lacks presence? Like Fawad in ADHM, she's severely underused, all coy smiles and cheeky winks and little else. There are a couple of scenes where you see Aasiya develop but not enough to satisfy viewers' thirst for a meaty lead actress role.
The music - Yes yes there's 'Laila O Laila', and yes there's a piping hot Sunny Leone, but the rendition here is lazy, crass and so unnecessary. It's just plonked during a key scene, in a vain attempt to titilate with Leone's gyrations, but leaves you essentially hankering for the original when Zeenat Aman was way sexier, despite being fully clothed. For all the buzz about 'Udi Jaaye', again it's hardly catchy or sensual enough to be any great shakes.