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Jun 21, 2017

Raees

Raees is Shah Rukh Khan time traveling to the eighties with aviator style frames (his character has a vision problem), shirts with shoulder epaulettes and several colorful rotary phones at his disposal. Director Rahul Dholakia’s DeLorean-esque powers place Shah Rukh in a coastal town in Gujarat, which is looking for a savior, although the town does not know that yet.

Before we jump into the movie, some trivia action first. Skip on to the next paragraph, if you are not into such 'trivial' stuff. Gujarat, the home state of the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is a realm of contradictions. It has the longest coastline (990 miles) of any Indian state but not many people are into seafood. They prefer thin flat-breads of varying thinness ending with 'la' or 'li' to dead fish any day. It is a state known for its tough Hindu identity politics but also has a sizeable Muslim population; both communities are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. It is also a ‘dry’ state, the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned 24/365, but it remains one of the biggest markets for illicit liquor in India, with special features including home delivery.

Raees Aslam, the main character played by Shah Rukh is a Muslim bootlegger/ multi-talented entrepreneur(all Gujaratis are entrepreneurs of some sort, but not all entrepreneurs are Gujaratis) who insists that he would not mix religion with business and holds true to his word for most of the story. The film is all about Raees-the man aka Shah Rukh Khan. So if you are not into Shah Rukh, beat it. Or better still, hang around, Shah Rukh does give many opportunities in this film for you to trash him with his signature mannerisms  peek-booing into his performance not very infrequently.

Then there is the inimitable Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the honest cop Majmudar who has a weakness for all things in writing. The beautiful Pakistani actress Mahira Khan stars as Shah Rukh's lady love.  Maybe it's make up, maybe it's Mahira (I suspect it is make-up on both sides), while Shah Rukh manages to look younger, Mahira succeeds in looking older thereby bridging their couple of decades worth of age gap in real life rather skillfully. 

The ubiquitous Indian drink - chai (tea), in shot-glass sized cups makes numerous appearances not only as a drink, but as strategic props and pointers to help the chai-drinking bootleggers and co. keep one step ahead in the game of whoever is chasing them at the moment - be it the cops or other really wicked bootleggers. When liquor flows like water it is chai you crave for - is the moral of the story.

Raees is pure Bollywood masala in a realistic setting. The streets of Bhuj where the movie is shot adds an indisputable made in Gujarat seal. Music and songs which can make or  break a Bollywood blockbuster is just the right mix tape, with different music directors or bands composing each song, that DJ ordered for making Raees a success. All in all I'd consider Raees a well-aged Bollywood moonshine.

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