Director: Rahul Dholakia
Writer: Rahul Dholakia, Harit Mehta, Niraj Shukla, Ashish Vashi
Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Sunny Leone, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan
Runtime: 155 min
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Released: 25 Jan 2017
Summary: The film is set in the early 80’s and 90’s in Gujarat. The fictitious story of a man who builds an empire in the state of Gujarat, the only state that still follows prohibition. It’s a story about his rise and his relationships, which help him become the single most powerful man in the state.
Review: A boy with humble beginnings sets up an empire by smuggling contraband. All he has going for him are his wits and insatiable ambition. He has a loyal sidekick, a brother, almost. As he grows powerful, he makes rivals. He wants to head a “syndicate” of other more-despicable smugglers. He bribes, kills, goes to jail, turns benevolent towards locals, and decides to run for elections. Add tapped phones and kids who act as eyes on the ground.
Seem familiar? This isn’t the skeleton for Narcos, but Rahul Dholakia’s Raees, a film that seems so remarkably inspired by the TV series on Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar that it is impossible to analyse it in isolation.
Swap Medellin with Fatehpura (a village in Gujarat), cocaine with alcohol, and a trump card: Shah Rukh Khan as Raees, the Escobar of Gujarat.
It’s fast-paced (half a dozen songs notwithstanding). But it also feels like 20 episodes squeezed into three hours. In that, plots and characters are often left without rhyme or reason. It’s like a film racing on skates. Albeit ones with wobbly wheels.
The film opens with a brief childhood sequence, a ’70s set piece. The young Raees is street-smart, and with a head-start into criminal activity. Yes, he’s poor. And overtly touchy about being called “Battery”, slang for someone who wears spectacles. But there’s no scarring humiliation or tragedy, or “Mera baap chor hai” tattoo.
Raees also deserves credit for going with a principal set of Muslim protagonists, a rarity for present-day Bollywood, and even SRK. In the intolerant times we live in, that is a statement on its own.
Yet, the problem is fundamental: the writing is shoddy and unoriginal. And by the time it wades into certain true events, it is left with too little time and meaning. Raees perhaps works only as an SRK showcase. But we’ve seen many of those already.
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