About ten years back, Rahul Dholakia wrote and directed a very sensitive movie PARZANIA which was themed around the Gujarat Riots. And quite justifiably, he won the National Award for the best directorial effort. The movie was a stark and brutal attempt to bring to the screen a tragic tale and devoid of any make-up of a commercial kind. When commercial movie production houses like Red Chillies Entertainment (Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan) and Excel Entertainment (Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akthar) joined hands and signed up Rahul Dholakia to direct RAEES, I had expected that the output would be sensitive but cloaked in commercialism.
I therefore have no disappointment about the commercial clothing that RAEES dons, but the fact that the movie had no soul or sensitivity at its core certainly saps the movie of its potential to have made a mark. If RAEES (in the manner it has been made) had been released during the eighties, it would have been acceptable and would have scored high on several counts. But cinema making in Bollywood has come a long way from the productions of the eighties. Shah Rukh Khan turns in a convincing performance and Nawazuddin Siddique matches him step for step and in a few frames even gets to better him, thanks to the pithy one-liners in his dialogues. The rest of the cast don’t get their act right or have fairly peripheral roles. There isn’t much effort at detailing; a few scenes in which Shah Rukh Khan manages to move around pretty normally without spectacles seem quite incongruous. The goons and the bad boys don’t look menacing enough; perhaps this was done to make sure that the grey character played by Shah Rukh looks suitably grey.
That brings me to the dilemma which was perhaps faced by the writer: how does one bring the audience to sympathize with the character whose tales of bootlegging in a dry state are not exactly flattering? Remember how are hearts thumped with sympathy for the criminal Vijay in Deewar (played by Amitabh)? That is missing in RAEES. So neither do we have a straight biopic nor a purely commercial presentation. Is that the reason, why as a reflection of how the movie has turned out in the end, Shah Rukh’s first scene shows him beating himself (as part of the rituals during Muharrum), although that scene has no bearing on the rest of the happenings? Alas, King Khan’s quality of performance (paralleling his act in DEAR ZINDAGI and CHAK DE INDIA) cannot rescue the movie from slipping into the list of average movies.
RATING: 3 out of 5
January 25th, 2017