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Raees rides shamelessly on the tough and broad shoulders of Shahrukh Khan. Khan, being the dynamic performer he is, takes on the responsibility like a gallant hero but manages to save only as much as sheer presence and charisma can save, of an essentially lazily written film.

That is the main problem with the film. That it takes Shahrukh Khan and fails to make a mega event out of the proceedings. It is happy to keep everything and everyone except SRK ordinary, even the amazing Nawazuddin Siddiqui and lovely Mahira Khan. All eyes are on him, all spotlights on him and although he shines through, all guns blazing, thoroughly enjoying himself in a film best described as tepid, it’s not enough.

Despite being the hard-core mainstream, big-budget entertainer it is, Raees, the film somehow manages to forget that larger the star not only must larger be the mounting, but also the padding, and stronger must be the world he emerges from and merges into. If the world falls there is little the star and his star-power can do to save the ship except extract wolf whistles at isolated moments.

And this world that SRK as Raees inhabits is fortunately full of good actors but in generic roles, rendered almost useless in a generic world. From Mahira Khan who manages to hold her own opposite SRK, to the inimitable Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays the tough, upright cop exquisitely, to Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who infuses life into the staunchly loyal friend prototype – all these essential characters remain at the periphery and worse, generic.

SRK looms large, as he rightly should, but among a mayhem that is little more than a half-baked story about a bespectacled, bootlegging Robinhood who hates to be called ‘battery’ (coz of his specs) and launches into the usual Rohit Shetty style acrobatics to prove a point, which is his raw machismo. On that scale SRK gets full marks but stop to ask him what is this golden-hearted Raees all about and he’d probably look back at you with his kohl-rimmed eyes and simply mesmerise as you his comeback. That’s how the film works.

And it is really unfortunate because the mix does get interesting when he is pitted against Nawaz’ honest cop (even as Deewar plays in the background in the film). Nawaaz, with his foot firmly in his character and SRK in his own presence, spark off a rich potential of moments that fructify few and far between. Similarly, he strikes a refreshing chemistry with the much-younger Mahira Khan who is every bit as vibrant as him but without a character or arc that would raise any level of interest in her presence in the film.

It’s been a while since our films have changed and a while since Shahrukh has changed too. But the more Shahrukh changes the more he remains the same. That’s the joy of it and the pain of it too, and it shows up both ways in Raees.

Producers – Farhan Akhtar, Gauri Khan, Ritesh Sidhwani

Director – Rahul Dholakia

Writers – Rahul Dholakia, Harit Mehta, Niraj Shukla, Ashish Vashi

Cast – Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mahira Khan

Music – Ram Sampath

This review first appeared in Indian Entertainment Online

Nirupama V.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a writer, dancer and choreographer. She was the former editor of India Currents magazine.