After setting high standards with a terrific teaser in July 2015, Rahul Dholakia has spectacularly disappointed moviegoers with the diabolical ‘Raees’. Obviously inspired by the bootlegger and gangster Abdul Latif, ‘Raees’ is the tale of an enterprising young boy in Gujarat, who works up the ranks to rule the illegal liquor trade in the state.
The problem, though, is this rise and sustenance is far from compelling. Raees, played with simmering gravitas by Shah Rukh Khan, is shrewd, conniving and gutsy, but is shown to gallop to the top of the food chain without doing much heavy lifting. The persistent stupidity of the police further accentuates ‘Raees’ intelligence, making him seem smarter than he actually is.
Once he achieves kingship over the trade, the director throws Raees into more plot-lines than several sequels could handle. Raees is laden with a misguided sense of morality that is downright risible. An illegal liquor trafficker operating with a conscience of not harming innocent people? Dholakia would’ve made more sense by making a movie on baboons swimming in the deep waters of the Atlantic.
Then there is the undeniably avoidable love track. Mahira Khan adds little to no value here. By avoiding the romance and the associated melodrama, Dholakia might have served a taut crime drama, focused on the stony relationship between the antagonist and the protagonist.
The film boasts of a talented cast that’s been criminally underutilized. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is reduced to a hapless fellow in uniform, who plays catch up throughout the film. He is given a few witty lines, but that’s his saving grace to say the least. Rarely have we seen Nawaz play such a limited role in recent times. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. Shah Rukh Khan’s sidekick in the film, is just that, a sidekick. He seems to be making a living by playing second fiddle to the lead, although he is capable of so much more.
There are a few bright spots in this otherwise dull film. Shah Rukh Khan excels in grey roles, with just the right amount of intensity to impress. We are glad that he has returned to this familiar space and hope to see him donning the mantle of the baddie more often. Dholakia gets the setting and the background score right, which makes the movie more palatable. The dialogues, albeit designed to elicit hoots, are admirably smart.
All in all, ‘Raees’ is utterly disappointing post the interval. Sit through the second half if you have nothing better to do.