Movie Review
Raees:The Rise and Fall of Raees: The Man and the Movie

(Director: Rahul Dholakia Writers: Rahul Dholakia, Ashish Vashi, Harit Mehta, Niraj Shukla)


Finally, the wait is over. The magnet that Shah Rukh Khan is, returns to the silver screen this time as the infamous liquor baron Raees Alam. He has the swagger of a one-man army and the eyes of a thoughtful schemer. His words are philosophies and his actions their testimony. He has the “Baniye ka dimaag aur Miyan bhai ki daring". Yet, for all his multitudinous traits, Raees is a not-so-neat potboiler. It has the essential spices, but not in the correct proportion. As a result, it smells good but its taste leaves a lot to be desired.

We first see Raees as a poverty stricken, visually impaired, school going kid living with his mother who, though a ragpicker, takes pride in her occupation. It is her philosophy that 'no business is big or small and no religion is greater than one’s business', which has a profound effect on young Raees. Spurred, he begins to bootleg for the local liquor baron Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni) along with his friend Saadiq (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub).

Grown up and feeling inappropriately paid, Raees quits Jairaj’s business and starts his own undisputed liquor empire with the help of Musa Bhai. But enter the eccentric, tough-as-nails IPS officer Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), whose sole mission is to crack down every bootlegger operating under the shadow of Prohibition, Raees knows he has found his equal in law.

Thus begins an interesting cat and mouse chase that promises to be riveting as the story progresses but the meandering of the narrative into several disjointed segments leaves you confounded and makes you wonder what the story is really about.

If the first half of the movie clearly focuses on the meteoric rise of Raees the bootlegger, the second half summarily depicts the tragic downfall of Raees the man. There is almost a sudden jump from his bravura persona to his charitable Robin Hood alter ego and as an audience you feel like you are almost watching two entirely different films.

The writers try to infuse political correctness into the script which essentially eats up the core plot of the movie. As a result, though there are some terrific scenes, the consistency is lost upon the viewers.

Yes, the screenplay, is not exactly bad. It has scenes that demonstrate detailed research work and dramatic flourishes that make you reminiscent of the good old gangster flicks. The dialogues are effective in eliciting mad whistles and crazy claps and the action scenes are raw, brutal and believable. The setup and payoffs are also brilliantly employed.

But what reduces its effectiveness, apart from its deviating narrative trajectory, is the repetition of the same mode of Raees’s ingenuity. Also, the constant trip to Raees’s memory, which the audience is well acquainted with, to act in the present makes the script old fashioned and predictable.

But what the script lacks is made up with some fine performances of its cast. Shah Rukh Khan delivers a performance worthy of his stature and makes you wonder why he doesn’t do more of such stuff. He is almost flawless in his expressions and for once it is refreshing to see Shah Rukh Khan as the actor and not the superstar.

Matching him from top to bottom is the quintessential supremo Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He is tough and funny and as Majmudar, carries his trademark way of responding to his opponents with their own words to stamp his authority with élan. It is therefore disappointing that with such a dynamic protagonist-antagonist pair, the screenplay focuses elsewhere.

Mohammad Zeeshan Ayubb as Saadiq, Raees’s loyal friend and partner in crime, once again plays his part of the supporting character with as much zest as Murari in Raanjhana . Atul Kulkarni is efficient in his brief screen time and so is Narendra Jha as Musa Bhai.

Mahira Khan, however, has little to do except smiling and appearing in songs, which are not so hummable. Her character as Raees’s lady love doesn’t add much gravitas to the story and her acting skills are less explored.

The production design is praiseworthy and so is the background score. As a couple, they do enhance the viewing experience despite the flaws.

For fans of Mr. Khan, Raees will probably be seen umpteen times but for honest cine-lovers, I am afraid, it will not require more than one viewing. It started with so much promise only to squander it on its own word.

It is a worrying trend how most of our movies lose steam post interval. It is an issue that needs immediate attention lest it should become a standard. For if that happens, it won’t be long when we will skip our movies for better Hollywood fare.


   Chiranjib Sahoo

Chiranjib is a trained screenwriter from Whistling Woods International, Mumbai. He can be contacted at csahoo449@gmail.com. .

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