Shah Rukh Khan plays a bespectacled bootlegger turned politician with a knack for illegal business. Check out this 80s style masala packed flick. Is it as controversial as the media hype suggests?
By Jas Pandohar
Shah Rukh Khan does his best to avoid controversies, both personal and professional, but somehow manages to land himself in it every once in a while.
Raees should have been a straightforward movie release. Instead the 80s inspired masala action flick has turned into a political football. Kicked by the Indian government ban against Pakistani actors appearing in Indian films, Shah Rukh’s lead actress Mahira Khan was unable to attend the premier or promote the movie across the border in India. A few days later he was slapped in the face by Pakistani authorities who blocked the release of his movie for allegedly misrepresenting Muslims.
Uff! What’s a superstar to do? Rely on a cameo by Sunny Leone and media hype to salvage the situation of course! Despite the real life drama surrounding the movie, is it any good? The answer is yes, but only just.
Based on a true story, Shah Rukh’s shortsighted bootlegger turned politician, Raees, journeys from poverty to extreme wealth by adopting the illegal trade of selling and distributing alcohol in the dry state of Gujarat. “There is no business that is small and no faith bigger than business…” his mother tells him, “..so long as you don’t hurt anyone”. It’s a philosophy Raees adopts for life as he schemes his way through his teens and adulthood.
Along the way he pays off corrupt policemen, politicians and fellow bootlegger bhais while lining his kurta pockets with rupees. He even manages to woo the local fair-skinned beauty (Mahira Khan) making her his wife. How is a girl supposed to resist?
Packed with spicy dialogue, noisy fight scenes and obligatory but unnecessary songs, Raees is an out and out entertainer. Shah Rukh offers one of his more bold performances of recent times, showing once again he is capable of handling bad boy roles just as well as romantic ones.
Equally great is his co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays IPS Majmudar, the honest police officer who makes it his life’s mission to send Raees to jail and rid Gujarat of his boozey menace. The cat and dog chase between the two, and Nawazuddin’s comic one-liners are a delight.
It’s poor Mahira who is left with little to do. Bar a couple of scenes in which she is allowed to step away from dreamy songs and help Raees with his political campaigning, there isn’t must scope for showing off the talent for which she is recognised in Pakistani dramas.
Director Rahul Dholakia does a good job of capturing the 80s flavour and coax a robust performance from Shah Rukh with a little help from perfectly applied eye liner and retro spectacles. With Raees being his highest profile and biggest budget film to date, he manages to hold the storyline and action sequences together.
Though the central premise of the film does not hold water (Raees hurts a tonne of people while going about his business, not to mention the affect the alcohol he supplies has on drinkers), you’d willing to turn a blind eye towards it.
Fans of Shah Rukh, Nawazuddin and retro Amitabh Bachchan movies in particular will enjoy this. Go see.