Shah Rukh Khan needs a success, especially at this time when all other major Khans have given back to back blockbusters and have been busy breaking and making their own records. SRK’s last few films have failed to impress both the audience and the critics, in a way that a movie starring a superstar like SRK should and that would have been detrimental to the massive but vulnerable egos that an actor like him must have. So ‘Raees’ is crucial for the star to remain shining and not collapse under its own gravity.

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‘Raees’ is the fictional story based loosely on the life of Abdul Latif, who was an underworld figure based out of Gujarat and was also an alleged associate of Dawood Ibrahim. Though the makers have denied any connection to any real person, the resemblance is uncanny. Anyway, giving the makers a benefit of doubt, let’s for the scope of this review assume that the character is completely fictional and the movie does not glorify a criminal.

Raees is the typical large-hearted bad guy who engages in his ‘dhanda’ as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. He is an ace bootlegger in the dry state of Gujarat who spends a lot of his illegal earned money in the community he lives in. He is loved by his people, respected by the politicians as long as it’s mutually profitable and feared by his enemies.  The character of Raees is not completely refreshing especially if you are familiar with the character of Pablo Escobar from Netflix’s Original series – Narcos. What makes Raees unique is the daft enactment by Shah Rukh Khan, he brings alive a character who despite being the serious law breaker manages to get the audience to root for him. Another element of the movie – Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who portrays the cop and also the anti-thesis to the anti-hero Raees, brings out the true essence of a cop-criminal chase drama. He not only holds his ground well but in some cases even overpowers the screen presence of the superstar with his witty one-liners. Though the character of Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui ) doesn’t have an arc or depth, he still manages to captivate the audience with this megalomaniacal obsession for the character of Raees. In a certain sense, Majmudar can be assessed to be Joker to the Batman, only in essence and not in intensity.

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Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays the sidekick to Raees is limited by the space the script offers him. He is a good actor and could have been used better in the story. Another character that could not live to up to its potential was Aasiyah, wife of the titular Raees. Though Mahira Khan is a competent actress, especially within the context of dramas, her role was not meaty enough to match up with the prowess of her husband. Also, the importance of her character in the story is never justified. If the writers went ahead and just deleted the character from the story, there would be absolutely no impact on the arc of Raees or the story. For me, all the character of Aasiyah served was a distraction from the main storyline, which is a shame considering the scope of what the wife of an unassailable Robin Hood can do. Another element which distracts the audience from the core story is the songs. There are 5 songs in the movie out of which only two (‘Laila’ and ‘Enu Naam Che Raees’) seem justified. The impact of the movie would have been compounded if the director refrained from using songs that do not add value to the story.

What keep the audience hooked despite the above mentioned weak points, are the performances of the actors, the background score, and the story. The director keeps the setting of Gujarat as real as possible and craftily manages to keep a balance between art and commercial cinema. I personally felt the story had the potential to becoming an intense documentary or an art film but such movies make no money for its makers or get enough eyes for appreciation. Raees is like the well cooked three-course meal that most Indians like to eat, It tastes good and doesn’t harm your health (mind in this case) much.

It manages to partially please both the serious cinema lovers and the crowd whistlers and that is what will help its makers catapult towards commercial success. Though with some minor edits the commercial cinema could have been much more intense and impactful, the end result is worth your time and money.

Now, Let us look at the Engagement Trend from the perspective of an audience. To start with, I assumed a score of 50 which was the result of – Good Trailer + Teaser + Competent Director + SRK + Theme of the movie. Post that, I re-watched the movie to observe how I felt at any particular moment in the movie. A good plot twist or powerful scene added 5 more units to the engagement, conversely a useless song or a bad dialogue reduced 5 units. The overall trend represents my engagement as an audience and may also represent engagement for a wider audience.

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