Entertainment Movie Reviews 27 Jan 2017 Raees movie review: ...

Raees movie review: This is SRK’s very own Don

Published Jan 27, 2017, 11:20 pm IST
Updated Jan 28, 2017, 7:59 am IST
Raees is not half as great as the original Don.
Raees poster.
 Raees poster.

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Mahira Khan, Atul Kulkarni
Director: Rahul Dholakia



There’s that thing na that gyaani, evolved people keep saying: “Be yourself”. Shah Rukh Khan seems to have finally figured it. In 2006, when SRK released his remake of the Amitabh Bachchan classic, Don, there was lots of gossip about why he had done that. The story that stuck was that he wanted to knock off the memory of AB’s Don and take that place. But aise thodi-na hota hai. You can’t remake a 1978 film in 2006 and pretend that you are the icon of young, bristling anger of the Seventies. All stars have to find, create their own Don.   Raees is not half as great as the original Don. But it is his very own. Years later it’ll probably be remade by another wannna-be, but Raees will always remain Shah Rukh Khan’s Don.


Set in dry Gujarat, where booze business is worth Rs 25,000 crore, little Raees lives with his hardworking Ammi (Sheeba Chaddha) in a small town called Fatehpura. He skips around with his pal Sadiq in khaki shorts, carting desi booze bottles snug and safe in his school bag.   He and Sadiq (who grows up into Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) have a warning word for danger, and Raees lives by a code: Koi dhanda chota nahim hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharm nahin hota. Ambitious, he soon graduates to becoming a carrier for one Jairaj Seth (Atul Kulkarni) and after a few years, when they are all grow up, he uses ponzi promises and deals to become a bootlegger himself. A vintage car leads to a flock of goats, which leads him to a slaughterhouse and meat mandi in Mumbai. Egoistic and easily offended, he initiates a bloody battle in the middle of hanging meats, with dismembered goat heads, their eyes dazed, flying about.


The gore is simply gorgeous and not for the faint-hearted, and the fight — its pace, cinematography and editing — deliciously dizzy. Raees loses, but his chutzpah is established. And that brings to him one Musa and help to rise up the bootlegging ladder. Enter ACP Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddique), a dogged, upright cop who has submitted his fate to the system, but not his soul. In trying to escape Majmudar, Raees — famed for having both, Baniye ka dimaag, aur Miyan Bhai ki daring — comes up with new plans, different routes, leading to more money, greater clout, hardened rivals. Most cops, politicians, including the chief minister, are on his payroll. So marriage, grand Robin Hood gestures and dreams of a housing colony follow. But then something happens that changes the course of his life and that of others.


Raees is not a biopic, but it is based generously on the life, rise and death of Abdul Lateef up to a point. The point being where the negative character turns evil. A lot has been added to Lateef’s character and story, and I read a lot into that and I’ll tell you why. Indians look askance at our own filmstars every time some white Hollywood actor stands up and turns an acceptance speech into a go-viral moment that involves dissing a rightwinger and a teary audience. Rhetorical questions are asked aloud. People wonder when our own stars will rise and shine. Won’t happen. Can’t. We Indians are seriously schizophrenic.


First, all our filmy awards are a joke. They are essentially an ensemble of item numbers interspersed with slightly lame comic routines. Those who give and those who accept don’t take these awards seriously. So where’s the space, the moment to go all political and holier-than-the-cretins? Second, as a nation, as a state we can’t protect an individual’s right to hire who he wants. He is hounded blackmailed, made to grovel. So to expect them to take a stand is really like asking them to invite a lynch mob. That’s why our stars, a few of them, smart as they are, have taken a slightly different route to say what they want to.


In the Bollywood food chain, stars sit on top. They have the power to commission a script and see it through till it hits the screens.   And these days they are making interesting choices. Bajrangi Bhaijan, Fan, Udta Punjab and now Raees. Consider this: A man who is unapologetically Muslim in appearance — a beard, Pathani suit, kholed eyes — and flails himself on Moharram, sells booze and yet walks with the coolest swagger in Gujarat. He even plays dandiya with his lovely wife Aasiya (Mahira Khan). There’s also a rath yatra, an encounter orchestrated by Gujarat police.   Few, hardly any actually, have the dum to play characters with a negative tinge. Shah Rukh Khan does that, but he is also grand and, eventually, a victim — of double-dealing associates, and the system.


I read a lot into this as well. Because Raees is Rahul Dholakia’s second outing in Gujarat. And director Dholakia ka dimaag, with Miyan Shah Rukh Khan ki daring have to make Raees a very interesting film. If Fan mocked the hollowness of stardom, Shah Rukh Khan reclaims it and celebrates it here. Raees is dazzling when it employs the full star power of SRK. He gets a fully filmy hero’s entry, with the camera caressing his sweaty, bloody torso, while Nawazuddin’s ACP Majmudar gets a silly, funny entry, establishing forever who will remain on top. Through out the film SRK’s Raees struts in bhai- ishtyle, often in slow-mo, accompanied to cool instrumental. It’s a cool, cocky film that uses all it can to make a criminal cool and mast, while taking away the moral sting.


The background score contributes a lot to upping SRK’s cool quotient here. It’s seeti-bajaao fun. Raees, shot on location, has dialogue with a sprinkling of Gujarati, not just words but also flavour. Several scenes, especially those with Nawazuddin, are laced with humour and bring a spring to the film’s narrative. I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. Have never been. But I have always bowed to his power on screen, often while cringing at his three-trick ham routines. But since Fan, I’ve started wondering. And now, with this badass Pathan who is really very hot, I can say that I am now finally acquiring a taste for SRK.