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