Sandy on Raees


Saw Raees. Thought it was an interesting concept, with plenty of potential to be an excellent masala crime thriller, undermined by uneven, unclear characterisation of the central character. The first half is good enough, but it is the second half where most of the real tension occurs. The first half devotes time to Raees’ ascent and there are a few scenes that uplift the drama. The action sequence in the meat centre is stark, raw and chilling. Also, you get a rare glimpse of Raees’ vulnerability when he sees a new side to his boss, Atul Kulkarni at the card table. But I was disappointed not to get a real sense of who Raees really is. I wish I could call him complex or fascinating. But without knowing him at all, how can one tell? What are this character’s motivations? Why does he feel compelled to take to crime? His mother’s words that no dhanda is too small keeps getting repeated, as if to justify what he does. But surely, there needed to be a stronger motive here. Why would you cheer for a criminal otherwise? Why would you celebrate him being able to get the better of Nawazuddin (brilliant!) each time? A criminal’s story has to have a strong emotional core –take Deewar, take Satya. The compulsions are weak in Raees. And that is part of my frustration with this film. This aspect could have been taken care of by paying more attention to character development.

The action keeps you engaged, but it does not affect you emotionally. Also, doesn’t help that many of the film’s punch lines (fabulous of course, but nothing new from the trailer) are repeated more than they should have been. Like the fantastic baniye ka dimaag line. SRK repeats it three or four times and Atul Kulkarni says it referring to SRK. Like a good joke and a welcome that should not be overstayed, punch lines must not be overused.

The second half has plenty of material, and this is where much of the central plot is. The political angle is interesting, and I wish it had been explored more. Suddenly, Raees’ character changes. He turns into a messiah for his community, and Dholakia forsakes any objectivity in portraying who is at the end of the day, a criminal. The script demands sympathy for Raees, and this is hard to give, because he has not earned it.

The scene that then makes some real impact is the pre climax one, a wonderful, chilling twist, where you see Raees breaking down. SRK brings to the scene an intensity and vulnerability, and my first reaction was this man is now scared – for himself. But again, the script lets the character down by being hell-bent on portraying SRK as a true-blue hero who puts others ahead of himsef. Shah Rukh’s expressions portray terror and fear, and it is testament to his acting prowess that he manages to give more to the scene than what is implied on the surface. In many ways, Nawazuddin’s character is more well-formed and solid. Raees remains a sketchy, unclear part.

The pre climax twist is so powerful that with a well-delineated part for Raees, the film would have soared. The emotional impact could have crushed you. But none of that happens, because you are not invested in this person. Blame it on Dholakia or SRK, but the script does not give you that chance. Ultimately, Raees dies not as a criminal, but as some kind of an angel (in pristine white kurta). This exposes the film as an empty star vehicle, when it could have been a truly wonderful action-packed crime thriller.

It appears like many small scenes have been chopped on the editing table, which makes the crucial plot points appear disjoined. Like Raees’ misunderstanding with a politician. When did this escalation happen? You don’t get a sense. Again, there is a glimpse of Raees’ vulnerability, when he dials the politician’s number again, in spite of being rudely snubbed the first time. His ego is hurt, but he knows he is weaker. These un-hero like scenes are what lend heft to a character that is underwritten and over-stylized.

On one level, I thought Raees to be a fantastic idea for a film, and some of that has been realized on the screen. The setting is realistic, even though the tone of the film keeps changing. Some of the scenes are extremely memorable and are sure to stay in public memory for some time to come. Nawazuddin is having the time of his life. Shah Rukh takes away from the film, as much as he gives to it. He brings to the film charisma and style, and infuses life into some crucial scenes. But his presence also takes away realism and depth. To make this film great, SRK needed to invest his full time and energy into it. This kind of project needs a couple of years to realise its full potential. The film got delayed for all the wrong reasons, when in fact that time should have gone into refining the script and character.

The film will be an easy success at the boxoffice. There are enough seeti-maar scenes to keep this one going. If an empty films like Dabbang and Dhoom 3 can be successful, Raees which is overall a much better film, deserves its numbers.

The disappointment is with what this film could have been. With more attention to character development and less pressure to make it appeal to SRK fans, this could have been that critical and commercial monster SRK had been waiting for. 3/5

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28 Responses to “Sandy on Raees”

  1. excellent review..will watch either of them…” depends “

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  2. Good read Sandy.. each new contemporary masala effort (barring an exception here and there) reveals how this genre at its peak (in the 70s) wasn’t quite as easy to make as it looked! And the gap becomes even more evident on the better efforts. But the central point you’re making here has long been my criticism (or one of them!) with this contemporary reinvention. The cathartic element which was always crucially part of those great masala films and which itself usually depended on a much longer story arc involving all sorts of traumas is considered superfluous these days (not necessarily in the best Southern masala efforts today but certainly so in the dominant Telugu strand or even some of the Tamil ones). Masala then becomes all about surface level gesture and ‘effect’. This is why I always give high marks to Ghajini. This film has the cathartic element. Khakee too had it. Of course both films are more narrative-based but they respect this central aspect of the tradition. This is precisely what one gets in Bahubali. Ironically everyone thinks the world of this film (I do too) but people think this is only about scale when in fact it is the most authentic masala. All these weak misreadings have persisted for sometime. My point here is that these films mostly trend poorly (including all of Salman’s films with the exception of Bajrangi… wonder why!) because the Raees problem as you’ve highlighted it here is present in all of them, irrespective of how good or bad the films might be. It is that same cathartic element that’s also present in Dangal. Not a masala film but Aamir when he does a serious subject never forgets this aspect of things. So it’s not as if audiences have changed on this score. A film that truly moves the audience as opposed to simply entertaining them for a while will always trend better. We see this at every end of the production spectrum. But masala especially depends on this. People think masala is about style and great lines and so on. Not really. Or only poor masala is about this. The stronger films always had strong narratives, the lines and gestures and so forth organically emerged from the latter.

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  3. Thanks Satyam! SRK’s performance has been much-talked about, but the lack of emotional intent, undermines his character and weakens the portrayal.

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  4. Great thoughts Sandyi.

    For one, I don’t think this could have been ‘truly wonderful action-packed crime thriller’ as you put it. There is nothing thriller aspect in this movie, the whole tone of the movie is from Raees as kid to his growth, rule and then politics and MLA then fall and end. Its the ‘biographical’ account of person named Raees. The high points of his life over a period of 20 odd years. I think the whole film is not set in 1 timeframe and folks are thinking that as the disjointed screenplay as the time keeps moving and once friends turns foes and politicians once close keep using gangsters until they are useful to them and then send him to jail or end his plans. Its the whole system and even his own friends use him in the end (climax).

    For your question: “Why would you cheer for a criminal otherwise?”
    Its not about being criminal. In his mind and head he’s just doing a business. When he meets Nawaz first time, he says.. he just does dhanda and Nawaz replies.. jisko tu dhanda bolta hai, crime hai woh. Even when arrested, his wife claims to cop – Saab, yeh bura aadmi nahi hai, yeh sirf dhanda karta hai’. I think the whole base to work in ‘illegal’ business has been setup very well and he has no issues unless he doesn’t harm other people(as said by his mother). The day he harmed other people unknowingly, he regrets – twice – once with the Apni Duniya colony and other the climax part.

    I don’t think this movie could have been fast paced as its not about an event or anything. Its the highlights of the person’s whole life. I believe you have issue with the tone of the movie.

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    • Is it fair to say this film has any resemblance to Guru?

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      • You can say to an extent. Guru did ‘legal’ business with ‘illegal’ ways and Raees did ‘illegal’ business with ‘illegal’ ways but both are people of the masses and helped them when needed.

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      • judging by the trailers the film always seemed to have a bit of a Guru hangover.. obviously in a more masala format. But the whole business ethic tied to the Gujarati ethos, the Guru ‘main bas dhanda karma chahta hoon’ seems to have more than an echo here.

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  5. Not at all. Both are very different films. As a middle-class, enterprising young man, Guru is driven by ambition, and that needs no justification. Raees has the smell of an authentic real-life story (and it is perhaps) but there is nothing to say why he takes to crime. Perhaps a sense of adventure? Guru and Raees’ worlds are very different. Guru hints at the immoral in the moral, while Raees attempts to show moral in the immoral.

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  6. Felt the same things about the second half..there seems to be a lot of portions missing where it shud have been.. And suddenly, this building a colony idea seems to be forced upon. Which made me wonder, what wud have been the real reason which led to the actual person’s, on whom this film was based, downfall? Wasn’t that a noble enough cause, which could have been portrayed in the film also?

    Or was it the threat by that person’s son about going to court for defaming his father, made them change the story?

    Also how long was the film, I wonder. Maybe they cud have made a lengthier one elaborating on all points needed.

    It is always a disappointment, to see that a film which was in the making for two three years, show up very obvious gaps, however small, which cud have been easily fixed. Spending so much of money and time on it, why not think through everything and keep every detail in place?

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    • ” And suddenly, this building a colony idea seems to be forced upon. Which made me wonder, what wud have been the real reason which led to the actual person’s, on whom this film was based, downfall? Wasn’t that a noble enough cause, which could have been portrayed in the film also?”

      In the 1st meeting with Aasiya, Raees says he’ll make Apni Duniya and he’ll show her first.

      Regarding the real person.. the housing colony part might not be in his real life but the *SPOILERS* blasts involvement was there and they had nothing to prove him. So they took and him and shot. The official report by police about shooting – “Latif had been taken for an investigation and was being brought back to the jail. He asked permission to answer nature’s call and tried to escape by firing at the police. The police retaliated, shooting him dead.”

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      • hmm..That part about his end, I have read also.

        And I rem him talking about Apni Duniya..That all withstanding, what was the actual need for that colony? They seemed to be living in pretty much okay residences.

        Compelling reason..that was missing.

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  7. Lovely to see a full fledged out review Sandy from you. Seems like despite some minor things you’ve liked this.

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  8. Splendid review this. Nailed all the questions i have had about the film after watching it. The Character Development for Raees was inconsistent, he larger than life part was done well where in Raees is street Smart, fighter etc etc but his heart change for the good of people etc etc is all over the place. Thats why you dont care as an audience for the Raees’s cause, the emotional connect of his messiahpan is lost as well.

    Honestly the Politician actors were a BIG letdown. They took SRK, Nawaz and didnt spent any money on Politician actors as this could be a heavy weight film. That brings me to a point of how SRK and Rahul D are invested in this script and with these inconsistencies the movie loses its monster hit potential to a 15 min fame kind of a movie.

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  9. Re: “His mother’s words that no dhanda is too small keeps getting repeated…”

    I haven’t seen the film but this line stuck out even in the trailer: this is used if someone is taking up low-end work and is feeling embarrassed to do so; and the advice might be “hey it’s honest work and there is dignity in labor”….never heard it used in the context of liquor smuggling or a criminal enterprise (“hey I’m a drug smuggler because my mom used to say koi kaam chota nahin hota!”)…

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    • …and the irony is that it is being compared to Agneepath , jahan Maa key bataey Path par nahee chala Vijay !!!!

      Aside – I remember in Khoon Pasina the Mother prohibits Bachchan to engage in violence , bechara pita rehta hai , then later Maa says – Jaa beta , injustice chupchaap sehna bhee violence hai, Jaa Vijay Ja Maar unko !!!
      Phir apna daring Bachachan bahut Maarta hai unko ..LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Re: “To make this film great, SRK needed to invest his full time and energy into it. This kind of project needs a couple of years to realise its full potential. The film got delayed for all the wrong reasons, when in fact that time should have gone into refining the script and character.”

    These days the frequency of SRK films is no greater than that for Aamir films, and yet there is a huge difference in the quality of output. Perhaps the tagline should have begun: “Chariye ka dimaagh…”

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  11. Was that ‘Dhanda..’ line repeated so much? I thot the ‘Baniye ka dimag..’ was the one repeated. Raees was pretty proud about that!

    and two times the ‘dhanda’ dialogue was said, were not about liqour business.

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    • Oh yes, the mother’s line keeps ringing in his head quite a few times. It is said aloud, and shown in flashback too I think.

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  12. hmm..I guess I dont remember then.

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  13. Is it me or is it SRK’s habit to bring in the great words of wisdom coming from his mother whenever he templates a Muslim character. For .e.g Raees has his mom teaching him “Koi Dhandha line…” and in MNIK his mom telling him “Iss Duniya mein do tarah ke log hote hai..”….something on the script level to give a subtle sense of emotional ethics in place coming in from moms. This should have been dealt with and instead in the movie they should have developed Raees character to a tone that has his own life learnings.

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    • Moreover, the mother did not say ‘ koi bhi dhanda galat nahin hota’, she said ‘chotta nahin hota.’ How Raees interprets his mother’s words to mean that even illegal business is okay is puzzling. Selling illegal liquor is not the point. I was searching for answers on what his goal is ultimately? Does he wish to be rich, powerful? What drives him to do what he does? The film does not consider these whys at all.

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      • Raees says that line to Moosa and that was about selling of goats. It was when Moosa said, “bakri pathan ke khurak hote hai, dhanda nahi” and thats when Raees repeats what his mother said. And Moosa was impressed by that line and helps him by giving the money for the goats. From there he starts his business of liqour and then never change the profession after that. So why shud he use that line again?

        Or is it that the line is familiar from the trailer?

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  14. Chalo…..evenif SRK is not back…..atleast Sandy is……with a BB review 🙂

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  15. I pretty much agree with your review here Sandyi. SRK regains some of the lost ground and wish movie remained true to the genre with less masala, focused on the unblended and mechanical plot line. Keeping the success of Dangal in mind, we are entering a new era where audience is ready to accept a dry undiluted screenplay as long as the presentation is honest and the movie plays out with the right ‘accent’ ( tone) throughout. I don’t wish to say much on the movie but like you found the direction uneven. Scenes and confrontations seemed posing at many places and surprisingly Nawazuddin was weak overall and a heavyweight personality wise was needed to confront SRK….say a Nana or Naseer

    Surprised with the box-office of both Raees and Kaabil even with a clash and affirms star power despite recent failings. I feel SRK is going to level up big time with that Imtiaz- Anushka love story and the box-office may be on fire this Independence day though music is important for romantic movies. You never know Imtiaz finally gets the hero his scripts are screaming for and can transform his screenplay to magical levels because a low key Shahid and Ranbir have not let him fly as a director.

    My concise thoughts on the movie Raees and srk in this indicine tweet –

    ‏@indicine Jan 25
    A very strong statement from Shah Rukh Khan on Wednesday. In 20 odd years, opening day star power, the best there is. #Respect

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  16. I didn’t mind Raees too much. SRK as Raees is well played. Mahira khan so dull (reminds me of Manisha Koirala) and has limited screen time. I found it far too similar to Guru but obviously with violence. Songs didn’t register. This review gathers the main issues, there is a lack of real empathy for Raees. The performance of SRK at moments reminds me of the darr, anjaam & baazigar days probably 10 years too late.

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