Don’t Listen to Your Friends, Go Watch Raees

By Shazia Habib
February 9, 2017

Or have you watched it already? And do you hate it already? Then take the challenge as I walk you through the film once more, but this time, with an open mind…because…I think we need a ‘Take Two’ on this one! Read why I loved Raees, although I AM NOT a diehard Shahrukh Khan Fan. Neither am I too big on Mahira Khan. But I love Bollywood Cinema and an evening well-spent would involve a bag of chilli chips, coupled with some Chilli Milli, popcorn, Coke and the latest Bollywood flick onscreen: song, dance, a good fight, masala…the works!

This is why I am a bit peeved to hear so many, and I mean so, so many negative reviews from fans, friends and the odd film critic about Raees!

I, for one, absolutely loved the film! Yes, I did! I thought that if anything could redeem SRK for delivering his stereo-typical onscreen expressions and dialogues (don’t get me wrong, I like him, like an old jacket that feels snug and comfy, but a tad too shabby), it would have to be something original, something out-of-the-bag. To put it plainly, I wanted a new jacket, but with the same, snug fit! After all, he is our biggest ‘Super Star’, is he not ?  So I had every reason to expect more from him! I wanted action but with some real kick-ass jazba. I wanted a lead that did not just walk, but drove the storyline, like a star who leads from the front. And wow, did he get it right this time!

Shahrukh Khan shone in Raees like never before. The role of the bootlegger, the small-time child peddler who grows up to become a mafia ring-leader, the love-struck husband, the trusty friend, the neighbourhood Robin Hood; it all came together with a realness to his character, an absence of unnecessary drama (though drama was all around), a crispness in dialogue and a touch of humour that tickled the funny bone at the right moments.

For the diehard Mahira fan-base, (the Pakistani camp), who expected a more substantial role, you have my sympathies. I walked in with zero expectations and I walked out feeling, ‘Wow! Thank God she didn’t fall into the rona-dhona typical Mahira expressions (Bin Roye is still raw for some of us)’. She actually had a backbone in this film, maybe one meaningful Shahrukh-Mahira scene was called for, but you know what, she delivered quality with what she had. And that, at the end of the day, is what will carry her forward. To her Indian fan-base, and I know there are many, you expected more from her ? Well, I hope this is the beginning of many more Indo-Pak ventures. There is always someone who blazes the trail, and you will definitely see her again. She’s very much on top of her game, and this is a sneak peek of much more to come in future! For all of you, tone down your expectations please, this is not the last film involving cross-border actors, and for what it’s worth, Mahira Khan has shown us a glimpse of what she’s capable of, and that too, when paired with the leading ‘Super Star’ in Indian Cinematic history to date! She has shown us yet again that she will always do us proud! (And need I say again, this, coming from some one who’s not too big on Mahira Khan)!

Before I go on to the rest, let me tell you about Mahira. Why, oh why were people so disheartened by her performance? I thought she fit the role like a glove. She delivered her lines with a cheekiness that suited her character. The charm, the innocence, the wink, all came together to support the lead character and added that extra onscreen oomph for the viewers. When I tried to imagine any other actress in that role, Kareena, Deepika, even Kajol, I couldn’t picture them quite the way she carried it off! And, I repeat, I am not a Mahira fan! So cut her some slack viewers. She outshone! Yes she did, especially in her bright red dupatta, and especially in the scene where she sits SRK down, takes off his glasses, utters the customary oath under her breath with a smug wink…’Battery Saala‘. That expression alone said it all for me; the mafia leader who could not, would not, tolerate being talked down to by anyone, happily subjugating to her every whim. The romantic in me did a silent song and dance routine right there in the cinema hall, as my heart fluttered a few times over!

Now, for the rest of the cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui…my man! If you could have gone one up from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, you just did, and how! It’s not easy to match up to the big, bold, larger-than-life King Khan onscreen, but you really stood your ground! Loved his low profile, undramatic yet effective persona. His dry humour, his expressions, even his low-key wardrobe, set just the right tone for a force to be reckoned with!  He played his part with an astuteness demanded from the role. Two thumbs up for the casting decision here! You rocked Nawazuddin…the one to watch out for, for sure!

Shahrukh’s side kick, Sadiq (Muhammad Zeeshan Ayyub) deserves a mention here. He did a commendable job as the trusted ally, the Batman-Robinistic formula fit in admirably! Both the villains, in fact every character, fit in to add complete value to the production.

The song placements were very well timed. From Laila Main Laila (well-performed by Sunny Leone, considering she had to rewrite Zeenat Aman in a classic performance) to Zaalima…with our very own, very stunning, Mahira Khan. Every song helped move the story forward.

And now for the costumes. Mahira definitely worked her proverbial charm with her wardrobe, but boy, did Shahrukh rock those Kurtas like a star! Eid and Diwali might usher in a new look for the male wardrobe, you never know! The solid colours, the loose, flowing garb sported by a swarthy Shahrukh Khan…I never, ever in my wildest dreams imagined that this look could rock the screen, but let me tell you, even that Kaajal seemed to add, rather than take away from his look. Full marks to the costume and make up technicians. Well done and take a bow! This could have gone either way, but thankfully, it gelled in like Super Glue and worked like magic to complete Shahrukh’s look!

Ok so now onwards to the storyline. It was a plot based on a mafia leader’s rise and subsequent fall. There has to be VIOLENCE! Too much? Just close your eyes till it passes. You cannot handle this theme with zero or minimal violence. You cannot NOT show blood, broken bones and revenge when you portray a bootlegger, a terrorist plot and an underground mafia gang battling it out for their lives. So bear with the guns or don’t bring the faint-hearted along for this one!

I could go on really, about the neatly choreographed action sequences, the ability of the film to keep my attention, despite the fact that it was a bit too long. But I will stop here and say this instead, especially to those who were disappointed by this film:

‘There are themes that rule the Box Office: Love, hatred, betrayal, extramarital affairs, revenge and some comedy thrown in to break the monotony. Some films pull at our heart strings when they handle issues such as a physical or mental disability, racism, or both. But most films are just fillers. Fillers to fill our time with a happy hour or two of fun, song and dance. These films, we happily label as ‘a good time pass’. But when we are confronted with a topic that is very real, that is a bit, if not a lot of, gore, blood and violence, when the storyline diverges from the run-of-the-mill formula; the filmmaker has taken a risk. He wants you to imagine what is possible when we diverge from the formula. And you, as an audience, have a responsibility…to also take that risk, and appreciate the story behind the storyteller. It is like deciding one night to not read the same old Goldilocks and the Three Bears to your child but invent a new story and let his imagination take flight. Have we, as viewers, stood up to the storyteller’s expectations here? Have we found it in us to appreciate a film that diverges, that takes risks and to not put our super stars, Mahira and SRK on a pedestal that churns out the same song and dance routine yet again ? Let them play a different story, dance to a different tune, and let them help you make your imaginations soar!’ 

I am not disappointed by the film really, I am disappointed by the audience! Please move on from Goldilocks so you can read Harry Potter! With every film that’s made to take risks, that steps out of the box, Indian cinema is trying to evolve. Fall into step and grow with it! In short, don’t listen to your friends, go watch the film and make up your own mind! What did YOU think about Raees?

To wrap it all up…have you heard the grapevine? There might be a RAEES 2 in the pipeline, and guess who’s looking forward to it?


About Shazia Habib

Shazia likes to pen her thoughts when she feels passionately about a life experience, a person or an event. She is mother to 3 lively boys and along with her husband, attempts to settle in her new country by taking German lessons so she is able to soak in the culture, language and spirit of the region. "Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and exhale! Keep on living with a passion that inspires others! "