Director: Rahul Dholakia
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan, Atul Kulkarni
Only in Bollywood would you find a film that is a serious action thriller, a gangster movie, and a musical all in one, and only in Bollywood would they actually be able to pull that off without the whole thing seeming ridiculous.
‘Raees’ is set in Gujrat, India, where for decades now there has been a ban on alcohol. The film takes place in the late 80’s and early 90’s and follows Raees (Shah Rukh Khan) as he rises as a maker and seller of alcohol. His problem comes with Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a cop who won’t give up on catching him.
The story is pretty standard, but the film works because of its great direction. The film moves so well and everything just seems to work. The action is really well done, it was well shot and manages to avoid the trope of constant quick cuts. It constantly treads a line where it never crosses over to become too brutal to not be fun, and isn’t so light that it feels completely weightless. The set-pieces never feel forced, which sometimes proves to be a problem in Bollywood.
My biggest worry is that the songs wouldn’t really fit in. Much like action scenes in Bollywood films, they can sometimes feel very forced in, but in ‘Raees’ they work really well; assisting rather than hindering the plot, and the songs are actually pretty good. Oh and the dance sequences are marvellous! I know its a standard in Bollywood, but they are always great to see – so elaborate, colourful and fun. Honestly I have no idea why Bollywood isn’t more popular in the west; it is literally everything people would love!
The performances here are what really sell the film though, and the film wouldn’t work without them. Most of the work goes to Shah Rukh Khan, and he does great. He’s one of the few actors who can make any line, no matter how cheesy it is, sound good. He does really well with the character, and manages to make this criminal/messiah character not seem annoying. The other great performance comes from Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as Majmudar, the cop trying to arrest Raees. As we’ve seen in the ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ films, ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ and most recently in ‘Lion’, he’s a fantastic actor, and he gives a great performance here again. However, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It wasn’t to do with his performance, but with the character. Majmudar need more internal conflict, and whilst he was a fine character played by a fantastic actor, the character could have been handled better.
This brings me to my biggest problem with the film, some of the characters feel a bit one dimensional. Whilst Majmudar felt just real enough, the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t, and whilst they don’t really do enough to need it, it would have added an extra layer of depth.
Overall I had a great time with ‘Raees’, it was a lot of fun, and often goes in directions you wouldn’t always expect Bollywood to go. ‘Raees’ could gave just been another throwaway Shah Rukh Khan vehicle, but it manages to be a lot more than that and is definitely worth checking out.