Raees – A Great Character for SRK and a Crowd pleaser of a Film

I mostly loved Raees.  If you’ve read my last post, you know I have had a difficult month with my father having been in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  He’s better but things are still rough.  I’ve been so looking forward to this date — finally a new Shahrukh Khan film.

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Raees is a great character for Shahrukh.  He’s playing a gangster — but a bootlegger with a heart, who makes dinner for his wife.  He’s got a lot of swagger and panache to him, and we are totally on his side as he seems to only kill bad people.

I love how the film starts, with the child Raees who works as a lookout and a mule for the local bootlegger.  Even as a kid, he has lots of moxie, and you never, ever call him four-eyes.

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Raees has a great foil in the police inspector played by Nawazuddin Saddiqui.  What a dream to see these two actors going head to head.  Nawaz’s introduction scene left me in stitches.  He’s so by the book about illegal liquor in Gujarat, that his superiors don’t know what to do with him.  He won’t play the game, and keeps getting transferred around.  He’s like Wile E. Coyote against Raees the Road Runner, outsmarted at nearly every turn.

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What I absolutely loved about the film was SRK’s relationship with Mahira Khan in the film.  Their romance is already existing at the beginning of the film, and the scene we discover that is amusing.  Mahira as Raees’ wife is steadfast, and the only one who can put him back on his heels.  They have a teasing relationship that feels real and adult — not a kid romance.

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Besides the setting in the 80’s and all of Raees’ cool glasses, there is a wonderful homage scene to Amitabh and the classic gangster films of the past.  I haven’t seen Deewar (I know, I know, it’s on the list!), but I have seen another great Indian gangster film, Nayakan.  This has some of the same elements.  The gangster who becomes the champion of the people.

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In Raees, he becomes a politician at one point to get past people who are standing in his way.

Is Raees a perfect film?  No.  I think Shahrukh had to stretch more as an actor in Fan.  But Raees is a crowd pleaser.  It has the music numbers, some romance, and the cool slow-mo shooting with a shot gun while falling type scenes.

I was tired going in to the film, even though it was a 2 p.m. matinee (I had to get up at four a.m. today)  And I was in a theater that had those reclining Laz-E-Boy type seats which didn’t help – but to be honest, it felt like the film lagged a bit in the middle at points.  I don’t think it was just that I was so tired.  I don’t think the film kept the tension going consistently.

Still, Shahrukh Khan had a great character to play, and it’s just a joy seeing him play a serious role like this, especially opposite Nawaz.  This is sort of like a Godfather type film, which Nayakan is an homage to, but somehow it didn’t quite have the pathos.  The Godfather and Nayakan deal with the tragedies in multiple generations, and Raees’ child is still a toddler at the end of the film.  While Shahrukh acted well in the parts where he was supposed to be a brash young man, he is getting a bit long in the tooth to pull it off.

It’s a very enjoyable film, just not a great one for the ages.  It’s nice to be arguing that kind of point about a Shahrukh Khan film.  It’s one I’ll be seeing again in theaters, and will be fun to rewatch.

Plus, Shahrukh dancing garba is always a good thing.  😉

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Te3n – Amitabh Bachchan as an obsessed grandfather searching for clues to a family tragedy

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Te3n is a Hindi thriller starring Amitabh Bachchan as the grandfather of a young girl who was kidnapped and killed 8 years ago.  He can’t let the unsolved case go, and visits the police station every day for an update.  Vidya Balan is the police detective who tries to gently get him to move on.

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Nawazuddin Siddiqui was the police officer investigating the case 8 years ago, and botched it.  He has since become a priest, and Amitabh (John) also torments him regularly about the cold case.

Amitabh neglects his disabled wife, the bills and regular life in his obsession to find justice for his granddaughter.  He uncovers what he believes is new evidence in the case, and gets Martin (Nawaz) to accompany him to track down more clues.

Then another young child is kidnapped, and the details of the case seem to be an exact copy of the case of John (Amitabh)’s granddaughter.  Vidya calls on Martin (Nawaz) to help her find the kidnapped boy.

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What this movie got right was the obsession that family members can fall into, especially the elderly, with an unsolved case.  Our family happens to have a missing person/probable murder cold case.  Having a tragedy like that hanging over a family can take a heavy toll.  Amitabh lets all the despair and pain show in this movie.  His wife, and every one urges him to just let it go, but he can’t.  He just can’t.

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Te3n is written and directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and produced by Sujoy Ghosh of Kahaani fame.  It’s an authorized remake of the Korean film Montage, which I have not seen.  Te3n is set in Calcutta, but just never manages to reach the level of suspense and tension of Kahaani, or true surprises.  Here you have three of my favorite Indian actors in Hindi cinema, and while the film is good, it’s not as great as I was hoping it would be.  The ending was a satisfying conclusion to the thriller, but I had some unanswered questions.

Amitabh’s John is fleshed out, but I was left wondering if it was just this one case that led Martin, Nawaz’s former cop character to become a priest.

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Three and a half stars out of five.

Manjhi: Mountain Man – Nawazuddin Siddiqui is amazing as always

I was at my local library looking for another film (Dookudu!), when I happened to see that Manjhi:  The Mountain Man was in the new release DVD section.  Our local movie theater had shown trailers for Manjhi for months, but it never came to the big screen in our town.

I absolutely love the acting of Nawazuddin Siddiqui.  He is consistently amazing in every movie I’ve seen him in.  Like Irrfan Khan, I’d bet he could make reading the phonebook a dramatic triumph.  Since half the movie has Nawaz acting only with himself and railing at his mountain, you need someone of Nawaz’s talents to pull it off.

Manjhi is based on the real life story of Dashrath Manjhi, who really did carve a road through a mountain with just a hammer and a chisel.  Dashrath’s wife had died from a fall, and died because it took so long to get her to medical care.  After her death Dashrath Manjki vowed to make a road through the mountain to allow for faster medical access for his remote village.  He worked at it for twenty-two years.  It sounds like a story that is so fantastical that it couldn’t even be real, but it is.

My favorite part of the movie was the first half which has the romantic story of Dashrath and his wife Phalguni (Radhika Apte).  Dashrath was born in a caste so low that they were the rat-eaters of the village.  There is a tyranical zamindar and his evil son who rule the village with an iron fist.  Dashrath runs away from home to escape being forced into lifelong bondage to the zamindar.  He returns to the village after some years working in the coal mines.

He falls in love with a village girl, and realizes that she was actually his child bride.  I just loved Nawaz and Radhika Apte and their scenes together.  Life is hard.  The Zamindar and his son are barbaric to the low caste villagers.  But Dhashrath and his wife carve out happiness together.

Tragedy strikes when a pregnant Phalguni falls from the mountain while pregnant with their second child.  Dhashrath carries her miles and miles to the closest hospital, but it isn’t soon enough to save her.  He is left with two children to raise alone, and at this point he goes a bit mad.  He vows to the mountain that he will break it.

The second half of the the film shows his struggles chipping away at the mountain all those years.  The filmmaker tries to insert some drama here, and it gets a bit metaphysical with visions of his wife talking to him, and soliloquy’s with the mountain.  Nawaz tries his best, but the script is not as good here.

Nawaz does not make Dhashrath a saint.  This is a man so obsessed that he leaves his children in the care of his drunk father to work on his mountain path.

The film is definitely worth seeing just for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s performance.  Seeing him romance Radhika Apte in the first half of the film makes me anticipate the romantic comedy he’s filming right now even more.

Manjhi:  The Mountain Man was not quite as great as I’d hoped it would be, but I give it four stars out of five.

 

Nawaz Siddiqui in a Rom Com!

I just heard from the BollyFools guys that Nawaz Siddiqui is currently filming a romantic comedy with Amy Jackson called Ali.  Really excited to hear that he’s getting to be a romantic lead.  He is obviously a fantastic dramatic actor, but he really showed his comedic skills in last year’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  Ali is directed by Sohail Khan.