Directed by Rahul Dholakia and set in Gujarat, Raees is centered around the story of a bootlegger called Raees Alam, (Shah Rukh Khan), whose drive and ambition leads him to setting up his own business of selling illegal liquor. The sequence of events remind one of 90s gangster Abdul Latif who was known for his bootlegging empire. It cannot be mere coincidence that fictitious Raees appears with those thick framed glasses and garlands around his neck (like Latif) as he is revered by his people. Despite Raees being a messiah for his people through his social work, a non-corrupt cop filled with integrity lies in wait to nail him down. Enter ACP Jaideep Ambalal Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who challenges his seniors by asking for everything in writing – his way of beating corruption. What follows is the standard formula for a gangster flick – betrayals within the bootlegging business and face-offs between Majmudar and Raees.
The backdrop of Gujarat is authentic and enhances the visuals as Raees goes about setting up his business and romancing on the rooftops. The first half of the film entertains as you see a young Raees affected by his mother’s words on dhandha and dharam, grow into a shrewd but menacing criminal. There are several layers to Raees that only peel off in part as the eagerness to prosper and please the people progresses the story. With Majmudar’s entry, the audience get a battle of words that brings humour and keeps the suspense going. The second half however lacks a connect and fizzles out as events unfold but fail to make an impact.
There is no doubt that Raees’ entry is one that sends chills down the spine – Khan makes it unforgettable. His kohl rimmed eyes and body language are first-rate as he displays an icy and intimidating streak at certain points during the story. It is the ‘angry young man’ demeanour that takes your breath away and has you begging for more. Those glimmers of genius are to be treasured as they never fully resurface again. One is reminded of Al Pacino in Scarface as Khan shines in one particular action sequence. It is quite simply, refreshing to see Khan in character from the get-go. Siddiqui has never looked sharper in his aviators and jumper over shirt look. He exudes confidence as the cop looking to get Raees straightened up and punished for his misdeeds. His witty one liners contrasted with Raees’ silent acknowledgements are the highlight of the movie. The spaghetti western background music making use of the harmonica, raises the interactions between the two to another level.
Credit: Deccan Chronicle
Khan started his silver screen journey with grey shaded characters in movies like Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam. Earning praise and accolades, it wasn’t long before Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge made him the romance king. At the age of 51, young romance is a little more difficult to digest. His contemporaries have moved onto masala movies that make big bucks and Raees is an attempt to do the same. Dholakia’s Raees ticks off the checklist for the ingredients. Where it falls is the premise of the story. The illegal liquor business is not that strong a crime for a full on gangster movie. Dholakia fails to tap into Raees’ dark side and plays it safe by making Raees a character to fall in love with rather than hate. The movie is a little too long and you disconnect as scenes switch from one to another too quickly. You just touch the tip of Raees’ world but never really grasp what he feels.
Raees should have been served neat and straight without the fluffy romance. If the second half had delivered as well as the first, this could have been a heady experience. Dholakia may have missed a trick and in the hands of another director like Anurag Kashyap, Ram Gopal Varma or Milan Luthria, Raees could have turned into a classic gangster movie.