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Raees review: Typical underworld entertainer with high dose of Shah Rukh Khan

Release Date: 25 Jan 2017 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 41min

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Keyur Seta

Raees is a Shah Rukh Khan film all the way and the actor lives up to expectations while playing such a character for the first time.

Before Raees, director Rahul Dholakia has made films like Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar (2002), Parzania (2005) and Lamhaa: The Untold Story Of Kashmir (2010). The Shah Rukh Khan-starrer is his first try at a hard-core commercial film. His first outing outside his comfort zone hangs in between and is helped a lot by Khan's presence.

The film begins in Fatehpur, Gujarat, in days gone by. Raees (Khan) hails from the lower strata of society. He is brought up by his mother after his father's death. Poverty forces Raees to start working at a young age for Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni), a bootlegger. It’s a thriving illegal business since liquor is prohibited in the state.

Raees grows up to become the bootlegger’s most trusted man along with his best friend Sadiq (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub). After a while, he starts dreaming big and parts ways with Jairaj to start his own bootlegging business. He falls in love with Mohsina (Mahira Khan), a young woman from his neighbourhood, and marries her. 

The road ahead is not smooth for Raees as he comes into direct confrontation with police inspector Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Majmudar is an honest and upright police officer who is hell bent on shutting down the sale of illegal liquor in Gujarat. 

For most of its duration, Raees is a typical masala entertainer with all the commercial elements thrown together. Naturally, it has its share of seeti-bajao moments. It boasts of a fast-paced screenplay that makes sure you don’t realize how the 143 minutes passed by. The confrontation scenes between Shah Rukh Khan and Siddiqui are memorable for their humorous moments.

The film, however, doesn’t rise too high as far as overall satisfaction is concerned. The basic tale is tried and tested. The audience has been subjected to such stories many times before. Amitabh Bachchan's Deewar (1975) comes to mind immediately. The last 30-odd minutes become too heavy. This portion looks disjointed from the rest of the film. But the biggest disappointment is the climax which doesn’t quite generate the effect the makers probably intended. Moreover, the biggest negative turn in Raees's life, which comes in the latter part, is not touched upon in the climax. This also fails to justify the title, which, according to the film, means largehearted.

If you look deeper, you will see that the plot is about an honest cop who would go to any extent to stop a criminal. The only difference here is that the story is told from the point of view of the bad guy. 

There was talk about the film being based on the life of the late gangster Abdul Latif, though the makers have denied this. After knowing the story of the notorious criminal, it is easy to guess that the film is indeed inspired by his life. However, the protagonist is shown in a much more positive light. Raees isn’t shown to be as notorious as Latif. More importantly, he is shown to be strictly secular as opposed to Latif’s communal ideology. Sanjay Gupta did the same with the character of Manya Surve in Shootout At Wadala (2013).

As per the need of films in this genre, the music is impressive. It’s a rare case of every song being worth listening to again. It is surprising to realize that the title track, ‘Enu Naam Che Raees’, was not used in the promotions at all.

Coming to the technicalities, the editing is sharp, while KU Mohanan’s camerawork is skilful. The background score plays a large role in adding to the entertainment value.

As far as performances are concerned, it’s a Shah Rukh Khan film all the way and the actor lives up to expectations while playing such a character for the first time. It may not be one of his best acts, but he displays street-smart herogiri and his emotional side with ease. He scores highly in the action and stunt sequences too.

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It takes an actor of Siddiqui’s calibre to create his own space in the film with Khan's towering presence throughout the duration. Siddiqui is outstanding. It seems he can never go wrong. His comic timing during serious situations deserves mention. Newcomer Mahira Khan is, thankfully, not reduced to just a heroine. She gets a good part and does pretty well too. 

Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub, as Raees’s best friend, once again shows his talent. The supporting cast comprising Kulkarni, Narendra Jha and Jaideep Ahlawat also play their parts well. Sheeba Chaddha leaves an impact despite her role being a cameo. 

Overall, Raees is a tried-and-tested underworld saga that can be seen once for Shah Rukh Khan's heroics.

Reviewed by Keyur Seta