I’m tired, it’s late, but I also really want to start talking about Raees with you guys! And I want to do it in a place where we won’t spoil it for those poor people who haven’t been able to see it yet. And thus, a mini-review! I still get to write and put up a better review sometime tomorrow, but this is just something to hold you over until then.
Okay, just to get us all on the same page, one paragraph to cover the plot of the entire film:
Lil’ Shahrukh works for his local bootlegger in Gujurat, until his factory is raided. Lil’ Shahrukh talks his way into working for Atul Kulkarni (at least, that’s who I think it is, I can’t find him or his character on any cast list), the biggest bootlegger who only works in imported liquor, not poisonous country made. Jump forward some number of years, Shahrukh is fully grown and the top enforcer for Atul, but wants to start his own business. Atul humiliates him and gives him 3 days to raise the money to purchase from him. Shahrukh goes to Bombay to sell goats for Eid and while there runs afoul of the top mob boss in the area. But, the boss is impressed by his chutzpah and gives him the money to start his business. Success success success, and we also see that Shahrukh has a flirty relationship with local girl Mahirah, who he marries. But Nawazuddin, the new local cop, is giving them problems. Shahrukh gets the better of him, but he is getting over confident and Atul decides to take him out. Massive fight scene, Shahrukh gets the better of the assassin and has him killed. And then goes and kills like 7 guys including Atul in vengeance. Nawazuddin arrests him for this, and to get out, Shahrukh decides to run for office. He wins, but in the end his sense of responsibility is what brings him down. He spends all his money helping his neighborhood and to make more to pay back his debts, he takes a job from the old Bombay boss. Which turns out to be bomb materials hidden in gold cases. Shahrukh kills everyone in Bombay, and then goes home to turn himself in and let Nawazuddin kill him in an “encounter”.
Phew! That was LONG! Okay, what are the big points I want to bring up right away? I know what the BIG BIG point is that I need to talk about, but I’m going to save that for the end. First, the guyliner. And the whole bearded traditional look, and just generally Shahrukh’s appearance. It was great, right? Except, I think he did have fillers or something put in his cheeks to make him look younger. And, while I loved his intro action scene, and both of the ones in Bombay, but the “Laila” one got a little over the top. And the one during Muharram got really bad at certain points. If it was a standard Rohit Shetty kind of movie, then I wouldn’t mind the physically impossible fight movies. But the rest of the film is fairly grounded, so it kind of stood out.
Second, how AWESOME was Mahira???? She did a great job with her role (as I was expecting, after seeing her in Humsafar), a believable partner for him in every way. And it was a really great role! I can’t decide if we meet her in the middle of their romance as an artistic decision, or if they cut some scenes. But I could believe either way, because it was really cool to have Shahrukh this tough clever awesome guy, and then all of a sudden we see him take off his glasses and fix his hair and look unsure, and we don’t know why until suddenly Mahira shows up and we realize that this is his little routine. I also really liked how their relationship progressed. She was completely in control of their courtship, and some of the flirty moments later. Clearly, Shahrukh got off on giving up control to her. But then way at the end when things started to fall apart, we see how when it gets down to the wire, he is in control and she is okay with that.
Third, what was up with Nawazuddin’s character? He’s one I’m really going to need to sleep on. I think maybe there was a progression in corruption from his side at the same time that Shahrukh was progressing in goodness? But I’m not sure. We see him constantly getting transferred for honesty. And then suddenly he is Superintendent of Police? There is also a moment towards the middle when it looks like maybe he has been sleepwalking through his latest job, until he gets a clue that Shahrukh might be involved, and that inspires him again. So maybe he is supposed to be going from a dedicated and excited cop, to a burnt out cop, to finally one who has learned to play the game?
And finally, fourth, This:
Is what Shahrukh wants to do to Yatras.
This is the point that I’m not sure if it is a reach or not. But I can tell you, as I was sitting there watching this scene thinking “wait, what?????”, my friend leaned over and said “Is this some kind of wish fulfillment for the Ram Rath Yatra?”
Yatras are a political thing that all sorts of groups have done for all sorts of reasons. It could just be an image. But the image is a bunch of saffron wearing people supported by police going through a Muslim slum. And the residents of that slum being ready for it and slamming them down and pushing them back.
Sure, at the end, we have the alternative wish fulfillment of him brutally killing the Bombay boss who ordered the bombings. So both sides of extremists get their punishments.
But come on, when was the last time you saw a bunch of aggressively-coded Muslims just plain beating the tar out of a bunch of Hindu politicians? That CAN’T be “just a movie”, right?