For anyone interested in Indian regional politics, Gujarat easily has been one of the most exciting states. With a natural appetite for business, as our hero points, “Gujarat ki hawa mein vyaapar hai saheb”, the stakes are always high. Around the ‘80s things started warming with the entrant of this interesting character called Abdul Latif. He rose from nowhere to become the king of the liquor mafia in the state apart from other bootlegging activities. Needless to say, he featured in political propaganda too. Some have even credited him as a reason behind the incredible rise that BJP saw in the state over last 30 years.
While the makers of Raees wash their hands off, calling the film entirely fictional in the opening slate, the numerous references to Latif’s life are unmistakable. For example, both Latif and Raees started as delivery boys, both contested and won municipal elections while still in jail, and that like Raees, Latif too was seen as a modern day Robin Hood. And then there are those obvious political references. Of course, there is enough and more fiction added. Latif in real life had fled to Pakistan for a year in 1995 before was arrested in Delhi. Raees is different.
A few years back Milan Luthria struck gold when he put on screen a larger than life, fictionalised account of the rise of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim in with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Rahul Dholakia takes a similar approach. He takes us into the childhood of Raees, shows us how he started his journey, and his growth to becoming a don. There are heroics by the dozen and there are moments that will get claps and whistles. So much that this could have very well been called Once Upon a Time in Gujarat!
Raees is made on a taut script. The intention of the writer-director is abashedly clear. He aims for an out and out commercial action drama. Hence the screenplay is packed with sequences that add to the flavour. There is something for everyone – romance, action, emotion. And he gets it done without really letting the storyline dither.
Where however Raees falls short are dialogues. Of course, there are a few remarkable ones that will be used by people in conversations. But most of these have already been seen in the trailer. A film that portrays characters as large as Raees, needed power packed dialogues - like ones written by Rajat Aroraa for OUATIM and The Dirty Picture. Raees also falters on music. The background music is just not strong enough, especially the signature tune for the lead character. These are stuff that make characters like Raees work. Songs are weak too.
What the film lacks in other departments is, however, more than compensated by Shah Rukh Khan. The man is at his best. After Fan and Dear Zindagi, SRK is back to an out and out commercial venture. And this time he has chosen a script far superior to the likes of Dilwale and Happy New Year. SRK does not let down. He sings, dances, jumps over roofs and kicks some ass… all in a day’s work! Shah Rukh adds his charm to Raees, makes Raees his own.
And then there is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who after long is not repetitive. The actor does away with his usual mannerisms and makes his character of the unwaveringly honest cop an addition to the highlights of the film. Ditto for Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, an actor who deserves a lot more than the tidbits that he usually gets offered. It is also good to see Atul Kulkarni have an important role. Pakistani actress, Mahira Khan does her bit, calls SRK battery in style.
In a recent interview, Shah Rukh Khan had made his stand clear on how he believes that bad guys should not be glorified on screen. If someone does wrong, he has to meet justice, the actor had said in the interview. The poetic justice that Rahul Dholakia hands the character of Raees could remind you of some Amitabh Bachchan film. Or for that matter one of SRK’s own films. However, that does not take away from the fact that when the going gets tough, you will root for Raees. And that is the biggest strength of the film. It gets you involved.
Watch Raees for good entertainment that might also hand you a few moral lessons. Watch Raees for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. And above all, watch Raees to witness SRK at the top of his game.