Here’s a film that unabashedly gives the Muslim community a new hero and gives Shah Rukh Khan fans a new high. If the promos promised you ‘Baniya ka dimaag miyan Bhai ki daring’, director Rahul Dholakia serves shovels of dimaag and daring for 143 minutes.
With a disclaimer in place, one cannot question the Robin Hood characterisation of a criminal from the liquor mafia of Gujarat. So accept Raees without question from the moment he whips himself during Muharram, an entry that guarantees whistles. When Raees doesn’t have the Chief Minister or a policeman in his pocket, his dimaag knows just how to hoodwink the law. He’s done it since he was a schoolboy who ferried liquor in his schoolbag.
Mahira Khan isn’t the standard Hindi film beauty but the Pakistani actress has spunk and fits well into the mohalla as Aasiya. Her romance with Raees has charming moments as her man gets roadside Romeos to apologize to her with a touch of humor. And she announces the arrival of the stork in her own unique fashion, contributing to the right amount of emotions.
Of course, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as hard-nosed policeman Majmudar is the delight that he always is, making a comic entry at a party where he’s actually come to bust the rampant bootlegging. His special brand of light-hearted seriousness has him whipping out a paper and pen for orders to come to him in writing, a witty trait that also finds him getting transferred with frequency.
The mix of politics and crime is an old cocktail and it’s no surprise when Raees is catapulted from crime to politics, the entire route strewn with blood. There’s rawness in the action, like an intense fight scene in the meat market. Even the remix of Laila O Laila filmed on Sunny Leone comes against a backdrop of palace intrigue and bloody action. But Rahul Dholakia ensures that Raees comes off not as a don with blood on his hands but as a messiah of the masses, a secular man, an honorable criminal if such a term exists. If Raees had a hand in the landing of RDX that led to bomb blasts claiming innocent lives, he did it unwittingly and was filled with remorse for it, says Dholakia. You can’t fault it, it’s fiction.
The intense action gets musical relief from compositions like Udi Udi and Zaalima with an energetic ‘Raees’ as a background score during election time.
Shah Rukh Khan excels as Raees both in menace and romance with reliable support from other actors like Atul Kulkarni, Narendra Jha, and Zeeshan Ayub. The action and minority appeal may not be everybody’s cup of tea but this is unapologetic masala cinema with plenty of crowd-appeasing one-liners plus humor at many turns. And since it’s blatantly commercial, don’t mind it if Raees who’s practically blind without his glasses, forgets his spectacles in the action scenes and fights like Superman.
For a film that’s well-packaged for the box-office, Raees gets a 3-star rating.