Just How Predictable Is ‘Raees’?

RaeesDirector: Rahul Dholakia
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Atul Kulkarni, Mahira Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub
Rating: ★★1/2

Raees is manna for Shah Rukh Khan fans. We watched the film at the posh Metro Cinema but it felt like we were sitting at the erstwhile Novelty in Grant Road. Like Novelty, where movie goers were as unabashedly boisterous as patrons in upper-class cinemas are restrained, the audience at Metro hooted, shrieked and even danced when Khan appeared on the screen for the first time and each time he delivered a punchline. In Raees the camera is glued either to Khan’s face or his ripped body. For instance, a moharram procession in the early minutes of the film is an excuse for a slow pan of Khan’s physique. He plays Raees, a bootlegger in Gujarat, and the scene shows his transition from a young boy flagellating himself during Ashura to a muscular adult whipping himself with knives, rivulets of blood throwing his six pack into relief. For fans, moments such as these will be enough reason to watch the movie as there isn’t much else to it.

The movie is a standard cops and robbers tale
The film is supposedly based on the life of Abdul Latif, who ran an illegal liquor business in Gujarat till he was shot in 1997. Though the filmmakers deny any similarity. Raees starts his career as a kid couriering bottles of alcohol for Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni), the top bootlegger in the area, and goes on to run an empire of his own assisted by childhood friend and right-hand man Sadiq (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub). Naturally he forms enemies – his former boss Jairaj, the cops, politicians, all of whom at various opportune moments switch from being his friends to his foes. Naturally Raees outwits each of them using, what his mentor Jairaj calls, his “baniye ka dimaag, miyanbhai ki daring”. Along the way, he gets married to the neighbourhood belle (Mahira Khan). The cop in the equation is Jaideep Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the best thing about the film
Siddiqui is one of those actors who is watchable in just about any kind of movie. In Raees the balance is entirely tipped in favour of Khan. Attention is lavished on his face, his body; he gets to mouth all the one-liners, of which there are several. Perhaps the story might have been more compelling with a different lead. That way the narrative might have taken precedence instead of simply being a convenient star vehicle. Yet Siddiqui snares your attention with his intelligent gaze, dry humour and subtle performance. A clean cop, Majmudar is the bane of his corrupt bosses and criminals. He makes it his mission to nab Raees, who finds all sorts of ways to smuggle alcohol to people, from injecting tomatoes with booze to hiding bottles in cartons of school textbooks.

The end is unsurprising yet significant
Raees’s fall is tied to the bomb blasts in Bombay in 1993. (Abdul Latif was a suspect in the blasts case.) He’s done in by a Bombay mobster, who’s no doubt an allusion to Dawood Ibrahim. Predictably, Raees, the benevolent gangster, delivers comeuppance to the orchestrators of the blasts and then hands himself over to Majmudar. While the end is a foregone conclusion, it makes something of an impact as the manner in which the coda is delivered reminds you of the Gujarat police’s shameful history of extra judicial killing.

Raees was released in cinemas across the city on Wednesday, January 25.

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