I sent this link around to all my friends, of course, and about a minute later I got a message from one of them saying “Shahrukh doesn’t even show up for the first 29 seconds, what’s the point?” Followed by a complaint about the presence of a shirt. So you can see that we have a fairly limited area of interest for song sequences. But, setting that aside and viewing this objectively, I think this is a pretty good one!
First, if you haven’t already, you HAFT to see Qurbani!!!!!!!! It is The Greatest Movie of All Time (stupid action masala film division). Amrish Puri has an Afro! And a fish tank! There is a gentleman thief and a single father who owns a bar! The heroine is a sexy club singer! An adorable small child is kidnapped! And Amjad Khan is a lovable cop!!! And weighs A Thousand Pounds!!!!
That last is kind of sad, if I am remembering my film history correctly he had some debilitating health problem which messed with his thyroid, thus a massive weight gain. And the same problem lead to his death shortly after this film released. But if you manage to block that from your mind and just appreciate the visuals, there is something delightful about the image of this Super Cop who is also so enormous he can barely move.
Oh right, you don’t know yet why I am talking about Qurbani. The new song from Raees is a remix of a song from Qurbani. The music from Qurbani is a little extra special, because it introduced Nazia Hassan to India (and the world). She was a Pakistani teenager who came from a musical family, her brother was a musician too. She only sang one song for the film, “Aap Jaise Koi”, but it was a massive hit.
(this song. Zeenat Aman is also pretty cool lip-synching to it)
She had kind of an amazing life, she and her brother had a Pakistani TV show for a bit (think Donny and Marie Osmond, that kind of show). She retired from music at age 25, interned with the UN, got a law degree, and became a political activist. And was diagnosed with cancer. She married and had a child after the cancer diagnosis, but the marriage ended in divorce (and sounds like it was never happy). She died at age 35, having spent 15 years as a singer and 10 years as a lawyer and human rights activist.
And, if you happen to follow artsy Western movies as well as Indian films, you may have heard this song recently. Bazodee, which looks like a kind of Monsoon Wedding rip-off arty movie with Kabir Bedi, recently used it. I didn’t actually see the movie, but the one more arty theater that sometimes shows mainstream Hindi films played it before Fan.
Okay, I just wasted 500 words talking about the song that is NOT in Raees. Raees chose another song from Qurbani, which was not song by Nazia Hussan or written by Biddu (who also wrote “Kung Fu Fighting”! And suddenly that song’s inclusion in Happy New Year makes a lot more sense).
The Raees song is from later in the movie when, for plot reasons that escape me at the moment, over-weight cop Amjad Khan has gone undercover in Zeenat Aman’s band, meaning he provides both the drums and the male singing voice. Which, so far as I am concerned, brings this whole song video up a notch on the surreal/entertaining scale.
(For a police inspector, he’s a surprisingly good drummer!)
As you can see from the video, Zeenat Aman wasn’t exactly known for her dancing skills. But she was great a really selling a song, you know? Vamping for the camera and shimmying her little heart out and generally being very charismatic and compelling.
Which (finally!) brings me to the new version of the song! I think it is brilliant to have Sunny Leone redo a Zeenat Aman song. She is also charismatic and compelling and more about vamping for the camera than dancing. And she has a similar “sexy modern western” vibe to Zeenat Aman. Plus, Zeenat is still around and active, it’s not like doing a Meena Kumari song or something where there is that vague tinge of disrespecting her memory.
It’s also brilliant to use it in this movie. Because this is a period piece, right? Set in the 80s, back when the original “Laila O Laila” was at the top of the charts. So using the song will create a subconscious feeling of “oh, it’s the 80s!” in the audience as the music brings them back to their memories of that era. Plus, it really does sound like the 80s, more than any new song would. And, most of all, it creates this nice meta effect of “look, we are acknowledging the schlocky kind of crime movies of the past but also showing you how our film is just a little bit different”. Altogether it is the same effect they got by using the “Parda” remix in Once Upon a Time In Mumbaai, which is one of my favorite parts of that movie and an idea well worth imitating.
That’s not the comparison most people are making (because they aren’t as smart as me). Most people are looking at this remix in comparison with the 80s classic remix in Kaabil, the movie that is coming out the same day as Raees. But that remix is, in my opinion, clumsy and dumb.
It’s boring visuals that don’t really pick up on the original or speak to it in any way. So far as I know the plot of Kaabil has nothing to do with the 80s so there is no higher meaning in including the song. And the song itself is fine, but it’s not naturally melodious or interesting in the same way that I find “Laila O Laila”. Most people remember the original version, it seems, more for the visual of Amitabh in the electric suit than for the music itself. And without that visual, eh.
Okay, is that enough context? A whole history of Qurbani, Nazia Hassan, Bappu, Zeenat Aman, Amjad Khan, remixes as used in films, and the Kaabil remix? Are we ready to FINALLY watch and discuss the actual trailer? I think so!
I already pointed out that it takes 29 seconds for Shahrukh to show up, and when he does, he is tragically clothed.
Beyond that, the first thing I notice is that it follows the rule that the hero is always bored by the dancing lady. The bad guy, he’s all sneery and lascivious about her, or even joining in the dance. But the hero, he always finds the item girl boring because he is so caught up in his quest for vengeance/justice/honor/power or whatever else has caused him to enter this den of ill repute.
Although there is that small moment when Shahrukh kind of grabs at her hair, so maybe he is slightly evil in this movie? Or maybe her hair was just getting in his eyeline and he was trying to move it away.
I also can’t tell if that huge action scene at the end of it is just a cool way to end the song trailer or if it is directly related to the song sequence. He is wearing a similar outfit in it, but so far as I can tell from the trailer and set photos, he is almost always wearing an outfit like that. Although it could also be that reason I mentioned above for entering the den of ill repute is to track down his enemies and have a massive shoot-out. Did you notice how he kept kind of looking to the side, away from Sunny? It could be because his character isn’t interested in sexy ladies (except for his wife), or it could be because he was scanning the room for his enemies.
Oh, and one final thing, I love the dorky 80s glasses!!!! They really do add a touch of “boring businessman” to his whole aesthetic, which mixes in an interesting fashion with the “hot Muslim gangster” in the rest of his look.