Raees is a victim of SRK’s star persona. Director Rahul Dholakia indulges SRK with exaggerated action sequences, self-referential dialogue, and songs designed to reinforce SRK’s prowess as India’s best-known romantic actor.

It’s all good, if this is the film Dholakia and co set out to make.

Only, thanks to the film’s incessant promotions, we already know that the film is not about SRK playing SRK, but SRK playing a Gujarati bootlegger.

And therein lies Raees‘ most glaring flaw. As Raees, SRK has to portray the sort of angry young man Bachchan built his career on. Tough task indeed for a man who wears his movie star persona like a cloak he doesn’t want to let go of. As Raees, SRK is a bizarre combination of charming and ruthless. A hard-bodied avenging angel chasing goons unworthy of the chase. Until Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Majumdar enters his life.

Then..then, well the chase begins.

***

Despite its obvious homage to SRK, the real star of Raees is Nawazuddin. With his ruthless eyes and witty one-liners, Siddiqui breathes life into an otherwise one-note character. As the IPS officer on Raees’ trail, the actor is at his finest and makes the otherwise staid film a thrilling watch. In the story, Raees manages to outwit Majumdar on several occasions. As an actor though, Siddiqui easily outshines SRK, leaving one to ruminate on the several interesting ways Raees would have been better if Dholakia had chosen the less popular but worthier Siddiqui for the lead role.

The same can be said for Mahira Khan, who has little to do as Haasiya, Raees’ confidant, wife, and child-bearing stooge. Apart from a couple of songs and several coy scenes, Haasiya is non-existent. Which gives credence to all those rumours about Raees’ producers trying to axe her from the film. There’s not much to axe and nothing another actress could not have done just as easily.

Meanwhile, apart from being miscast, SRK looks worn-out. There are enough masala moments in the movie and SRK has done it all many times before. And here he’s not having fun. That much is apparent.

***

A lot of thought went into making this film SRK-fan worthy, while still allowing for Dholakia’s special brand of writing and direction to come through. Raees, his trusted friend and aide Sadiq, and Majumdar are all brilliantly written characters. They speak, move, and live in the sort of world that feels real. At one point, Raees says, “Commerce is in the very air of Gujarat.” It’s the sort of wry comment that one rarely finds in a masala film. And yet, Raees has many such moments.

Only, they’re usually Majumdar’s. If this film had been called Majumdar, it’d have probably been a better watch. As it stands, despite Dholakia’s efforts, it’s a film that lost itself in the allure of its male lead and his kohl-lined eyes. Even Mahira Khan can’t beat that.

*****

The Raees review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.