Shah Rukh Khan and Mahira Khan in 'Raees'. Pic/Raees film's official Twitter account
'Raees'U/A; Action/Crime/DramaDirector: Rahul DholakiaCast: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahira Khan, Nawazuddin SiddiquiRating:
This underworld drama is so over-packed with material that either 148 minutes of this film will seem too long to you, which it is; or in fact, far too short to patiently absorb the story of the rise and fall of an Ahmedabadi bootlegger don — without the audience feeling slightly hung-over by a breathless narrative-overload.
At its core though, this script is a very Salim-Javed 'angry young man' type from the '70s. There is, of course, the prologue — a boy who grows up to become a don. The story itself is centred on the reigning hero (Shah Rukh Khan), playing a character with shades of grey, and a conscientious cop (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, striking swagger) — making this equally a fine battle of morals, and tremendous wit. But of course, there are loads of punch lines: "(Acche) Din aur raat logon ke hote hain. Sheron ka zamana hota hai"; "Gujarat ki hawa mein vyapar hai sahib"; "Baniye ka dimaag aur Miyanbhai ki daring."
Most of this you would've already heard or seen. Which is the issue with over-promoted pictures that break down a film's favourite scenes and dialogues into several trailers. It does kind of mess with the novelty of a first-time viewing, with pop-corn and coke, right in the front row of a packed, single-screen theatre, which are the ideal coordinates for this film that I'm joyously reporting from.
It isn't that Salim-Javed's Amitabh Bachchan actioners haven't been made since the '70s. There was 'Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai' (2010) more recently, even if you ignore its dud sequel. Bachchan himself, at 48, altogether altered his voice and posture to play the immortal Vijay Deenanath Chauhan in 'Agneepath' (1990).
'Romantic king' Shah Rukh Khan (51; but looking so much younger) makes no special effort in voice training, for instance, to get his Gujarati accent pat down. He makes up for much of that with his clothes and body language. Over the past year or so ('Fan', and now this), it does appear that SRK has been working hard to unlearn playing the super-star he's known to be, gradually gravitating towards painstakingly written, alternate characters you can also remember him for — along the lines of Aamir, if you may. You know that's a trend of sorts, when even Salman has to do the same. Last year was the first time in 19 years that all the three Khans were nominated for Best Actor Filmfare.
Slightly floppy hair, tanned skin, an earthy style, headband, and glasses (although I didn't quite get the constant 'battery' reference for a bespectacled fellow), if anything, SRK reminds you more of how he began his career as a street ruffian in Deewana (1992). He has a gorgeous love-interest (Mahira Khan) in the film, but that angle is hardly explored, which is only for the better.
The film mixes research, realism, and more than a whole lot of 'Bollywood' to look exclusively into the politics and the inevitable underworld around the booze-trade in prohibitionist Gujarat of the '80s. Being an anti-prohibitionist myself (how can any sane human not be), you align yourself with the heroic anti-hero instantly. The character is ostensibly based on the real-life rags-to-riches don Abdul Latif. The pesky cop seems more like a high-level Dhoble, although he's merely doing his job.
Between the don on the run, the cop on the chase, there are so many facets to 'Raees', recounted through a gasping episode after another that you wished the filmmakers had calmed down just for bit, given us few moments to pause and soak in the material. They could have turned this into a fantastic 'Narcos' like television series. There's nothing niche about a Spanish show being loved by global mainstream audiences anymore, by the way. Yeah, we'd love to see SRK attempt his own version of a Pablo Escobar.
For now, Raees will certainly do.
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