Wisely staying clear of naming names and only showing hints of true events, Raees, directed by Rahul Dholakia is a film that’s loosely inspired on the real life gangster Abdul Latif. I’m happy to report that despite the plot holes and bloated length, Raees is a compelling drama that keeps you hooked because of Shah Rukh Khan’s (SRK) commanding screen presence.
Set in Gujarat in the 1980s, we’re first introduced to Raees, a young boy who works as a runner for a local bootlegger. As we move forward in time Raees (SRK) has grown up and has practiced smuggling alcohol in and out of the Prohibition state. On the strength of his quick thinking and sheer ruthlessness, Raees branches out to set up his own business as he lives on his mother’s teaching of “no job is too small” and explains to his sidekick Sadiq (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub) that he’s got a “baniye ka dimaag aur Miya bhai ki daring”. Then enters Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a police officer who’s obsessed to take Raees down.
Keeping his audience hooked, Dholakia shows how Raees built his business from the bottom to become an underworld kingpin. However, things start to derail post-intermission as the writers and Khan who co-produced the film turn Raees into a more likeable fellow despite being a gangster. We see Raees take on a corrupt chief minister, crooked politicians and only kills men who are truly nasty. Raees is now a mobster that has a heart of gold and looks after everyone in his neighbourhood.
What does work in Raees is the action from a terrific shootout sequence, high drama fast-paced action, and of course we got some eardrum shattering background music to add more urgency to the film. We also get a killer item number ‘Laila’ performed by Sunny Leone as Dholakia pays homage to Salim-Javed and Mr. Bachchan who gave us some of Bollywood’s best action flicks in the 70 and 80s.
It’s the performances in Raees that holds the film together as Mahira Khan is drop-dead gorgeous, and her chemistry with SRK is fresh. Showing why he’s one of the finest actors in Bollywood, Nawazuddin is terrific and seems to be having a blast on screen standing toe to toe with SRK as we get some great dialogue-baazi between Majmudar and Raees.
Of course, Raees rests on the shoulders of Shah Rukh Khan himself as he completely sinks his teeth into the character. Khan is charming, defiance, cunning, ruthless, yet shows vulnerability and breaks down in one of the film’s most hear wrenching moments. Khan completely owns the part as it’s impossible to take your eyes of him when he’s on screen.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Raees. SRK fans rejoice, the ‘Badshah’ of Bollywood is back with a bang.