Raees Review: Rahul Dholakia's raw and gritty crime thriller featuring riveting performances from SRK and Nawazuddin Siddiqui

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Laila Mein Laila, SRK, Sunny Leone, Raees

Raees is an action crime thriller co-written and directed by Rahul Dholakia. Produced under the banners of Red Chillies Entertainment and Excel Entertainment, Raees stars Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Mahira Khan. Set in the backdrop of 1980s Gujarat, Raees is a crime saga of a small-time bootlegger who rises to become the undisputed king of the state’s liquor mafia. The eponymous character, said to be inspired by criminal Abdul Latif's life, is played by Shah Rukh Khan with Mahira Khan playing his love interest and Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing his nemesis, Superintendent of Police Jaideep Ambalal Majmudar.

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Raees starts on a rather sedate note. But once we get past the first 20 minutes we get hooked until the very end. The choice of a linear narrative and the brave decision to not open the film with Shah Rukh Khan appear somewhat calculative but there is no denying that the SRK fandom would certainly have preferred otherwise. It is the Muharram sequence that sets the movie’s pace; it is coincidentally also the first scene to feature SRK. A few sequences later Siddiqui’s cop character enters the fold. Voila, we have a good old crime thriller at our disposal! There are a few scenes of high graphic violence but some clever editing helps to keep the gore quotient under check except for a couple of sanguinary, no-holds-barred sequences.

SRK, Raees, Hockey scene

Raees is about the extreme sides of human psyche, good as well as bad; there are no half measures here. It is also about survival in a dog-eat-dog world. Raees also touches upon the all important issue of communal harmony. Although, Raees draws heavily from crime classics like Scarface, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Untouchables, manages to stand on its own thanks to Rahul Dholakia and team who manage to keep the plot engaging throughout. Shah Rukh Khan, at the age of 51, resuscitates the iconic Angry Young Man of the ‘70s and the ‘80s in Raees. He steals every scene that doesn't feature him and Nawazuddin together. As for the scenes that do feature the two of them, they are not about supremacy but about acting synergy wherein the end sum is more than the individual efforts of both the actors. That's what makes their clash so exhilarating to watch. Siddiqui's character has a humorous undertone which adds a layer to the caricature. As for SRK, we get to see a very different side to him—a side that lets his anger and machismo get the better of his charm and suavity.

Udi Udi Jaye, SRK, Mahira Khan, Raees

The chemistry between SRK and Mahira is electrifying to watch. The grace, elegance and subtlety with which Mahira carries herself is commendable. The showdown between SRK and Nawazuddin is an absolute treat to watch. It is heartening to see Sunny Leone finally making it to the Bollywood's A-list. With the moves to kill and the looks to transfix, she has all the makings of a new age Helen. While Raees has several memorable sequences, drive-in theatre sequence that pays homage to Amitabh Bachchan's Angry Young Man stands out. The scene succeeds in drawing a parallel between Raees’ caricature and a myriad of memorable characters that Bachchan played in movies like Deewaar, Zanjeer, Shakti, Coolie, Agneepath, etc. While the supporting performances are solid all around, Atul Kulkarni, Narendra Jha, and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub deserve special mention for their respective portrayals. 

Raees, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, SRK

Overall, Raees makes for an engaging cinematic experience that takes a departure from the recent films of Shah Rukh Khan. Although Raees does hark back to some of SRK’s early films, it is quite unique in its own right. The film is both raw and gritty and succeeds in transporting us back to the Gujarat of the 1980s. The movie’s attention to period detail is striking to say the least. Behind the facade of fiction, Raees is actually a dramatization of actual events and despite the maker's efforts to project it as a work of fiction in its entirety the reality, albeit muffled, speaks for itself. And, make no mistake! The film is as much about Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Majmudar as it is about SRK's Raees. Siddiqui, a chameleon of an actor, continues to impress with each and every role that he does. He is easily one of the best character actors to have graced Indian cinema. The ending of Raees is a gamble just like Fan's. If it pays off we have a blockbuster at hand else another Shah Rukh Khan film will fizzle out at the box office not because of its cinematic value but because of the word of mouth. Regardless of film’s show at the box-office, Raees is a film that no SRK fan can afford to miss.

Rating: 7.5/10

Raees Trailer (YouTube)
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  1. Hi there! Nice review. I liked seeing SRK go back to both his suave Raj style and his darker bad guy roles, but fuse them together into one more complex anti-hero. And I liked the vintage masala notes throughout. Siddiqui and SRK should be pleased with their performances here, even if the wheels fall off the plot towards the end. Cheers :) Temple


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