January is almost over & we have the first major releases of the year in "Raees" & "Kaabil" on the eve of the 68th Republic day. Since I was busy with my work commitments, I thought to watch them over the weekend after all both the trailers seemed to give the impression that it was worth watching. With the FEDAL match set to commence in less than 6 h, I decided to first check out SRK's "Raees" which has been in the news for quite some time be it for the Pakistani actress or the clashing of the movie with "Kaabil" which was frowned down upon by Rakesh Roshan. Anywaz it has hit the screens now & it remains to be seen whether it will be able to challenge the undisputed run of "Dangal"???
The film unfolds in Fatehpura in the 70s where Raees (Shubham Chintamani) his buddy, Sadiq (Shubham Tukaram) in their school years also doubled up as carriers for the local bootlegger. They later on join the gang of Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni), who was the kingpin in this business. With time, Raees (SRK) in Jairaj's words due to his "baniya ka dimag aur Miya bhai ka daring" becomes the trusted lieutenant of his boss. But Raees's dream to set up his own empire makes him loggerheads with Jairaj & Co. All their efforts to stop Raees fails, but a bigger threat for all of them was Jaideep Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an honest police officer who was hell bent to wipe out the illicit alcohol business in Gujarat. Will Jaideep prove to be nemesis of Raees???
Rahul Dholakia's credentials as a director needs no introduction as he was awarded the National award for "Parzania" in 2002 which was based on the Gujarat communal riots. His previous outing "Lamhaa" didnt make much stir at the box office; there are huge expectations from "Raees" after all it is a SRK movie. Even though Rahul & his team who had penned the script claim the characters to be fictional, there is no doubt that the protagonist is inspired from Abdul Latif, the king of illegal alcohol business in Gujarat. The first half is absorbing as SRK rocks the screen with his negative character shades. However post-interval, the character is mellowed down & made to play to the galleries showcasing him as a gangster with a heart of gold.
In the technical department, there were some fantastic dialogues while K U Mohanan visuals deserve praise. The VFX effects weren't exactly top notch & the action sequences could have been choreographed better. Ram Sampath's music was ok with "Zaalima" rendered by Arijit Singh & Harshdeep Kaur being the stand out one while Deepa Bhatia ought to have done a better job with the editing in the latter half.
Shahrukh rocked as the protagonist & carries the movie with his charisma whenever the screenplay faltered. His scenes with Nawazuddin were the best ones in the movie & the latter was brilliant as the police officer. Mahira Khan has done a very average job & her chemistry with SRK wasnt upto the mark. It was a role which could have been much better performed by any of our leading Bollywood ladies. Zeeshan Ayyub has done justice to his role while Narendra Jha & Atul Kulkarni were fine as well.
Verdict: "Raees" is creating waves at the box office as expected as it has collected close to 60C in the domestic market in just 3 days. It's been a while since SRK had a blockbuster & from the looks of it, this is likely to do just that. There is no doubt that the fans will love the movie while the rest can be assured that it is worth a one time watch provided you dont expect anything out of the ordinary, In short, you can give it a try!!!
Three years after the cataclysmic riots in the Indian state of Gujarat of which only the spectators are alive today, Rahul Dholakia charmed us with his hard-hitting drama Parzania (2005). He talked about the hardship of Muslims fighting for their survival then. More than a decade later, his sloppy drama takes you into another world of crime in the same state, this time criticized for its alcohol prohibition.
Set in the prohibition era of Gujarat (officially since 1960), the story is set in the early 80s where a small schoolboy named Raees Alam helps local bootleggers by signaling them about the arrival of the police. Tired of apprehensions, although always inconsequent, Alam decides to go work for Vijayraj (Atul Agnihotri) who only deals in English liquor. A decade and a half later, Alam (Shah Rukh Khan) becomes his master's right-hand guy to the extent where he decides to start his own business. He does, much to Vijayraj's bitterness, and succeeds tremendously. Around the same time, a policeman named Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is transferred to Alam's town, and things get messy for everyone.
Alam lives and works by the slushy watchword that was taught to him by his mother about how no type of work is lowly and that no religion is above work. Alam makes it a point that he slurs it at least a dozen times throughout his life (the movie, too), not even sparing the law enforcement who appear to be doing their job much fervently as other similar Hindi films hesitate to manifest. The wordy phrase becomes his life lesson even as he begins his own journey as the master bootlegger in the whole of state. There is no escape from the fact that everything laid out by the writers here has a touch of artificiality, and we know better than consuming artificial alcohol, don't we? Alam is frequently teased with the name "battery" by almost everyone he meets, forcing me to use the word "contrived" at least once in this review.
Based on the extraordinary story of Gujarati gangster Abdul Latif, Raees is nowhere near the charismatic chronicle of the man which led to the current state of illegal alcohol flow in the state. Director Dholakia evidently aspires too much of his rags-to-riches story making himself believe that its sheer rawness would appeal its audience who are thirsty of something more than water. However, it has nothing new to offer other than the import from the neighboring country. The action sequences, as is customary in Bollywood, defy gravity. Stunts are shown between short intervals, and none of them are leading enough to make the broth an enjoyable affair. Over- dramatic slosh coupled with itsy-bitsy romance, a dash of revenge, and a puerile plot line – the first big Bollywood film of the year 2017 is a letdown. There is also this slight hint of criticism for the prohibition in the film's undertone which may be easy to overlook. As a result, it is impossible to detect if it was intentional or forced. (Depends on the makers' political orientation.)
Shah Rukh Khan is in good form, although nothing can beat his performance in Maneesh Sharma's Fan (2016) in recent times. His portrayal as the uneducated yet intelligent miscreant here is decent, enough to impress his servile fans who are even ready to give their life (see Vadodara station mishap). The dialogues that he munches out definitely give more power to the film, but when perceived as a single, whole piece, Khan's solo show becomes inadequate. His character is filled with sugary syrup ready to dissolve in its viewers' diabetic mouth. Even the stunts look messy, despite the cranking cameras doing their best to hold up. Siddiqui is the real star as I found myself, among others, rotting for him as he goes against Alam regardless of the attacks aimed at him from all possible directions. Last year, he was criticized for his portrayal as a deplorable school teacher in Shlok Sharma's Haramkhor (2017) and his inability to drive a film singlehandedly, and in here he confirms that the latter part is very much true. Just because Khan takes care of the rest, Siddiqui influences his audience and makes them love him for what he does. While the lead actor is the anti- hero, the plucky policeman is the real hero here. Newcomer Mahira Khan does not have much to do, which should have been obvious. Supporting actors Agnihotri and Zeeshan Ayyub are better. All in all, if you are capable of appreciating the performances, then Raees will be more palpable.
Overall, director Dholakia's latest feature is an ambitious film that is written poorly but shot well, executed averagely but has good performances, and ultimately looks like aged Scotch but tastes like that liquor which was produced in the go-down of the local bootlegger whom Alam worked for in the beginning. Raw, substandard, and sickeningly acerbic.
BOTTOM LINE: Rahul Dholakia's Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Raees" is a very purposeful film, with the aim being to establish the story of an established historic character at a time when prohibition of all types seems to be rampant in the country. The only problem is that the story seems to be a "history-cheater". Wait for TV premiere if you are not a fan.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
The story has same plot again n again of SRK finding new ways to transport liquor n Nawaz to counter it....
Songs are awesome.