Bollywood battle

The romance between Shah Rukh Khan and Mahirah Khan in Raees is forgettable. Hrithik Roshan is a blind man seeking revenge for his blind wife, played by Yami Gautam.
Hrithik Roshan is a blind man seeking revenge for his blind wife, played by Yami Gautam.PHOTO: FILMKRAFT PRODUCTIONS

Blind artist played with sincerity

REVIEW / ROMANCE-THRILLER

KAABIL (PG13)

140 minutes/Now showing/ 3/5 stars

The story: A blind voiceover artist, Rohan (Hrithik Roshan), plots and exacts revenge on those who brutally violated his blind wife, Supriya (Yami Gautam).

Making his comeback in this movie after a rough few years with no hit films and a divorce, Roshan demonstrates a renewed energy that is immediately noticeable in his performance as the winsome Rohan Bhatnagar.

He evinces with sincerity nuances of romance as well as he does revengeful malice, only to be let down by a problematic plot.

The blind Rohan wants to make himself so capable that he can make all his wife Supriya's dreams come true.

But when he cannot protect her from a villainous politician, his world falls apart.

A blind man seeking revenge is the premise of the entire film. How he does it becomes an exercise in defying logic, despite some cleverly crafted sequences to show how he gets around his inability to see.

Plot developments are also so predictable - corrupt policemen on the payroll of the villains? A blind man can sense that coming from a mile away - that the suspense of the thriller is lost.

That said, there is a vulnerability about Rohan, perhaps mirroring the actor's state of mind.

It is hard not to root for someone so earnest despite having to go up against borderline tacky villains straight out of a 1990s movie, played by real-life brothers Ronit and Rohit Roy.

There is also an easy and natural chemistry beween Roshan and Gautam captured beautifully in the first half of the film, especially in a scene in a shopping mall where the blind couple lose each other in the crowd; and in a deftly choreographed salsa dance number between the two.

Ultimately, Roshan's sincerity carries the film, which would otherwise flounder in its own plot holes.



The romance between Shah Rukh Khan and Mahirah Khan in Raees is forgettable. PHOTO: RED CHILLIES ENTERTAINMENT

Gangster boss charming as always

REVIEW / ACTION-CRIME THRILLER

RAEES (PG13)

150 minutes/Now showing/ 3/5 stars

The story: A young man, Raees Alam (Shah Rukh Khan), in the "dry state" of Gujarat, India, rises from peon to kingpin of an alcohol bootlegging empire, while a tough cop challenges his every move.

Khan channels his inner Pablo Escobar as Raees, outmanoeuvring the cops to bring in copious shipments of illegal booze and heading a multi-million-dollar vice empire.

Along the way, he throws in the improbable antics of South Indian action hero Rajinikanth, doing everything from parkouring through the streets of Fatehpura to single-handedly seeing off a room full of goons.

Despite his questionable moral compass, the gangster has a generous heart, giving local schoolchildren new books and making sure the people in his district are fed during a curfew.

As fun as it is to watch, the entire movie - an over-the-top 1980s rip-off - feels like a missed opportunity to explore the self-made man and the politics and power struggles that come with the territory of being a mob boss.

Raees is more Michael Bay (Bad Boys, 1995) than Martin Scorsese (The Departed, 2006), although Khan himself had said he wanted to explore a character with "shades of grey" instead of the usual heroes he portrays. There are flashes of grey, found especially in the scenes of casually violent murders, where Raees still manages to shed a tear or two.

But this remains a film to please the masses, what with unnecessary song sequences that constantly trip up the pacing of the film.

Raees' love interest, played by Mahirah Khan, is completely forgettable, ill-served by a screenplay in which she does little other than romance him and give birth to his child. The film-makers clearly would permit no man or woman to steal Shah Rukh Khan's thunder here. In his kohl-rimmed eyes and shalwar kameez suits, he has never looked better.

Still, there is a scene-stealer under King Khan's nose - the hilariously caustic Nawazuddin Siddiqui as police superintendent Jaideep Ambalal Majmudar, who attempts again and again to thwart the protagonist.

For all of Khan's swagger, Raees is, but a shell of what could have been a compelling, Narcos-style drama.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Bollywood battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe