Let me put this into context right at the beginning of this review and that is, I am a Shah Rukh Khan fan. Not the blind type, even though I am wearing glasses in my display picture. I am on the logical side of the fandom and that is why I think I am not going to go easy on Raees. I was fairly excited about this movie since the first teaser. Then came the second teaser and the cracks started to appear. So allow me to get on with it.
SCREENPLAY – So the movie is written by Rahul Dholakia himself. The co-writers are Harit Mehta, Niraj Shukla, Asish Vashi. I have a very bleak memory of Parzania(2005) and since then his filmography hasn’t been so bright. Even then all his movies were relatively grounded in reality. Here, he went full on filmy. He sprinkled the plot with too many villains and an anti-villain. There was a start, but right from his childhood he was skipping from one boss to another. I am hoping that the movie showed that he was under one boss for a long time because I wasn’t really feeling like he had any chemistry with any of his bosses. Due to that, the confrontations with his bosses do not serve as a moment of character building. Talking of character building, what is with this anti-hero shiz? Make a character start from a slightly grey area, put him in a moment of darkness, turn him completely dark and allow the character to cause mayhem until the end. Why make the audience root for him? Rahul Dholakia was probably scared of doing that due to SRK’s stature and that just stopped Raees from going full on beast mode. The times he did go full beast-mode, it was instantly interjected with a sugar-coating. Coming to the dialogue in the movie. I am very, very sure that people, humans, don’t talk like that. Some of the scenes which included Raees and Majmudar managed to turn the heat on, but then a sucker punch of a one-liner shattered all the intensity. I am not a a fan of narration. Want to know why? Tell me if you’re reading this? Who was Majmudar narrating the story to? If you’re answer is us, the audience then that is called exposition and exposition is laziest form of writing.
DIRECTION – The primary problem with Dholakia’s direction was that his movie didn’t have a sense of place. I couldn’t make differentiate the place Majumdar was initially in, the place he was transferred to the first time, where he was transferred a second time and when he was transferred back. You can argue that there were title cards to suggest that, but every good director uses a title card only once. He/she takes the time to establish the intricacies of the place and then never uses the title card. Mila ke dekh lo. There was no intensity to any of Raees’ actions and part of it goes to the writing, but the other part goes to the songs. There were too many songs. If you delete those songs and replace them with scenes involving Raees That would have given his character more substance than him dancing and lip-syncing to Arijit Singh’s song. The anti-hero vibe was really vexing. Majmudar didn’t have any character motivation. He was just portrayed as the anti-villain to the anti-hero just because he is on the other side of crime. There should have been something that Raees should have done to Majmudar that would have had me rooting for both of them. In this case, at least one of them. The action scenes had extensive use of wire work and no laws of physics were obeyed. If this was a superhero movie, I would have understood but, as far as my observation goes, it wasn’t one. The length of the movie is also a factor which bogs down the movie’s intensity. The editing is good in some parts and absolutely jarring in others. The only thing that I can give props to was the set design. The colour tone of the movie was pretty constant throughout. If you’re fuming already, you won’t like the next segment.
ACTING – Let me start this on a positive note. Raees couldn’t have been played by anyone else other than Shah Rukh Khan. That said, SRK’s acting skills felt like a sinusoidal wave. Sometimes he was absolutely owning it and then in the next scene he was being himself. Which basically means he was phoning it in. He looks awesome though. The curious case of Mahira Khan is very disturbing. She isn’t any good. I am not saying this because of the controversy. I haven’t seen the soaps she has acted in so I have no idea of her abilities. Judging on the basis of this movie, she shouldn’t have made the cut. Nawazuddin and Atul Kulkarni were extremely underutilised mainly due to the writing. The only one who is worth mentioning is Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. Even though he is the side character, his voice modulation and expressions were synonymous to every situation. Somehow he managed to get out of the shackles of the writer and do some good. This guy has been getting great roles in mainstream movies and it’s high time that someone cast him in a major role of his own.
FINAL VERDICT – My final verdict will be two-fold. One for the hardcore SRK fans and another for the regular movie audience.
Hardcore fans, please go watch it in the theatre. I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it. There are many seeti moments. There is a bunch of one-liners you can quote for the rest of the year and you’ll come out of the theatre beaming with pride.
For the rest. My advice is to give it a pass. It isn’t worth watching in the theatre. If you’re in a good mood, you can go but at your own risk. Don’t come out complaining that nobody warned you. If you have watched the first teaser and not the main trailer, you will be disappointed.
I sincerely think that the release date was postponed due to re-shoots. This is pure speculation and I can be wrong. I think as Fan(2016) didn’t gross enough, SRK went into panic mode and shot a few songs and scenes with those one-liners. As I am a SRK fan, I’ll like to end it on a positive note. I think SRK is going in the right path. He is choosing the right stories but now he should start subtracting all these cliched Bollywood tropes. Keep it action-packed or drama related but keep it grounded in reality.
P.S.- This is my personal note to the people who have recently gained access to the internet and are comparing this to Narcos. Narcos had 20 episodes(20 hours) to set up a character. If you have some logic, use it or else don’t punch above your weight.