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Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl
Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl


Raees review: 'Battery' full

  • Shah Rukh Khan in a still from the film
  • Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from the film
  • Shah Rukh Khan and Mahira Khan in a still from the film

What comes to your mind when you think of Gujarat? NaMo, obviously. What else? Business and businessmen? Post-Godhra riots? Flourishing illicit liquor trade? Kite-flying competitions? Rahul Dholakia's Raees, set in Fatehpura, Gujarat, has all these in varying proportions and one thing in dollops—Shah Rukh Khan.

For all the talk about Gujarat being a 'dry' state, it has been a haven for illicit liquor trade for years now. It is among these illegal breweries that a young Raees Alam aka 'Battery'—local slang to mock people wearing spectacles—and his friend Sadiq grow up in the 1970s. They learn an important lesson early in life—koi dhanda chota nahi hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharam nahi hota (no business is small, and no religion is greater than business). Inevitably, they become part of the hooch network and a grown-up Raees (Shah Rukh Khan) earns his stripes under the wings of bootlegger Jayraj Seth (Atul Kulkarni).

Problems start when he expresses his desire to start his own business. Jayraj is reluctant to let the street-smart and ruthless Raees leave but the latter is insistent. Jayraj, then, tries to make life difficult for him, but Raees battles all odds and establishes himself as a leader of the masses, with his “baniye ka dimaag, aur miyaan bhai ki daring”. A bootlegger with a heart of gold, which beats for his people as much as it beats for the beautiful Mohsina (Mahira Khan). So, when he is not mulling ways to transport liquor or bashing up his opponents, he transforms into the all-too-familiar lover boy grooving to Udi Udi Jaye (Music composer Ram Sampath has scored a winner with this one) and Zaalima (one song that seemed out of place).

From his first scene when the camera focuses on his rippling muscles, bathed in sweat and blood as he flagellates himself during Muharram, and his kohl-lined eyes, to the final frame when... (no spoilers!), Khan rules the screen with his characteristic swagger and andaaz. Raees Alam does not like being called 'battery', but Khan is nothing short of a fully-charged battery in Raees. At 51, he defies age with some slick action sequences (like the one in the meat market) and dance moves.

Raees, however, meets his match in Jaideep A. Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an honest-to-the-core cop, who is on a mission to destroy him and his illegal business. The game of one-upmanship between the witty-yet-uncompromising (he always insists on written orders from his seniors) Majmudar and Raees is a delight to watch. There are no physical fights between the two; hardly a raised voice, but every time they come face to face, the audience can sense the tension building up. Be it Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Badlapur, Siddiqui has always managed to carve out a space for himself no matter how big the actor he is sharing the screen space with, is. And Raees is no different; Raees Alam would not have been half as entertaining without Majmudar in hot pursuit. While Khan gets the punch dialogues, the witty one-liners are reserved for Siddiqui. The supporting cast isn't one to boast about but Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub creates quite an impression as the loyal Sadiq. Mahira, for no fault of hers, has little to contribute but she, too, has her moments. Will we get to see her in a substantial role in Bollywood? Seems highly unlikely, and it has nothing to do with her talent.

While the first half of the 150-minute film is fast-paced (ending with Sunny Leone swaying sensuously to Laila O Laila), the second half struggles a bit to keep pace, and is almost always predictable. The moral compass goes for a toss, with Dholakia, who directed the critically acclaimed Parzania, trying to convince the audience that all the wrongs done by Raees (including murder and inciting riots) are for the right reasons. But the heartening part, and probably the coup de grâce, is that the moral compass finds the right direction in the end.

Film: Raees

Director: Rahul Dholakia

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub

Rating: 3.5/5

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