There is no doubt that Shah Rukh Khan films are a big pull for the audience and there was a lot of a hype and speculation around the release of ‘Raees’. From the casting of Pakistani actress Mahira Khan to the focus of the film being the alcohol trade in Gujarat, many had criticised the film even before it has made it on the big screen. When the trailer of the film released, the audience was hooked on the scenes and the dialogues. It was clear to see that Khan was going to be back with a bang with dialogues such as ‘Battery Nahi Bol Ne Ka’ becoming memorable with viewers even before the film had a release date. To add to the masala of the film, Ram Sampath’s songs were also giving the audience something to look forward to, particularly the item number Laila Mai Laila, a remix of the classic, picturised on Sunny Leone.
Raees (Khan) lives in Gujarat where as a young boy, alongside his best friend Sadik (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), he acts as a delivery boy for illegal liquor in the state. Alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat and as a result, it fuels an underground trade for the substance. As Raees grows up, he decides that he can have his own liquor business and branches off trading in imported alcohol. He plays a clean trade, selling imported alcohol and using his profits and influence to look after his locals and earn their respect. When a new ACP Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) joins the police force, he goes after Raees and vows to shut down his business for good.
The first half of this film is a cat and mouse game between Raees and Majmudar, which intensifies in the second half. It is pacey, mischievous, action packed and leaves you on the edge of your seat as you watch Raees’ story unfold. The film shows how deeply entrenched the illegal liquor trade is in Gujarat with the town being recruited into the business on some level from a young age. The relationship between Raees and Aasiya (Mahira Khan) is also introduced in patchy ways however in the first half, her character has a very small and rather pointless presence. It is only in the second half where the story becomes more interesting with some purpose being introduced and Aasiya’s character having more presence. The effect being part of the trade on Raees are related to the audience and some realism is fed into the narrative showing how closely criminal activities and politics can come together in small towns in India.
This film is solely carried by Khan’s very able shoulders and there is not much he can’t do. He sings, he dances, he romances and he fights off the bad guys and comes out unscathed. This film’s narrative just shows how experienced Khan is an actor but even an actor of his caliber struggles with the narrative. The best way to describe this film is that it is somehow being stuck between being a serious film about the illegal alcohol trade and a masala blockbuster. One of the most unconvincing parts of the film is Khan romancing Mahira Khan’s character. There was just no need for the love story because it is incredibly patchy and sadly there isn’t much chemistry between them. Mahira Khan looks stunning on screen and there is no doubting that she is a good actress but she needed more of a character to work with to start with. Instead she becomes the sideshow next to Khan’s show as the lead. The one character Khan shares a lot of chemistry with is Siddiqui’s character, both actors have fantastic dialogue delivery and it would have been great to see more scenes of them together.
The cinematography for this film is spot on. Director Rahul Dholakia knows Gujarat and it is perfectly portrayed on the big screen, from the atmosphere to the narrative around its setting. The music for the film is great and weaves abruptly at times into the storyline. Laila Mai Laila, Udi Udi Jaiye and Zaalima are visual treats and give the audience a break from the storyline but they were not necessary overall.
‘Raees’ is a popcorn film – it is an easy watch and full of some great action scenes. Fans of Khan will love it and he is the real star of the film as expected with a lot of Shah Rukh Khan to go around.
BizAsiaLive.com rating: 3/5