Kaabil vs Raees: An honest Shah Rukh Khan fan will admit Hrithik's film is better

Pradeep Menon

Jan,28 2017 13:24:39 IST

The great thing about the Kaabil – Raees clash is that it has been a while since two big films catering primarily to the single-screen audience arrived simultaneously.

Multiplexes have become the focus of producers because of the higher ticket prices and hence higher revenue; which is why Hindi cinema seems to have forgotten the art of the single screen film. (Yes, it is an art, because there’s no place for snobbery in cinema.)

And it is here, in engaging with its core target audience, that Kaabil trumps Raees.

Shah Rukh Khan with Mahira Khan in 'Raees'; (R) Yami Gautam and Hrithik Roshan in 'Kaabil'

Shah Rukh Khan with Mahira Khan in 'Raees'; (R) Yami Gautam and Hrithik Roshan in 'Kaabil'

The problem in Raees lies in the fact that it just cannot fully commit to being a single-screen entertainer, nor does it have the chops to completely win over the multiplex audience. It is loaded with style, has Shah Rukh Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in top form and is significantly superior in the technical department. Raees, the character, is the problem.

He is both a criminal as well as a messiah. Yet, the film is not quite successful in establishing him as a character worth rooting for in either scenario. Raees’s meteoric rise to become the most important player in the bootlegged alcohol business in Gujarat, his firm belief in his own principles of morality which lets him follow a life of crime but also be a Robin Hood figure, his dreams of changing the world in his own way for the benefit of those less privileged; none of these are dealt with in enough detail, because the film tries to cram in too much into its already long runtime.

Instead, we’re subjected to a needless, overdone romantic track, SRK in various action sequences that seem to exist only to make the writer’s job easier, and dialoguebaazi that doesn’t know if it’s trying to be ‘massy’ or ‘classy’. The tragedy is that we end up losing out on an important aspect of Raees’s character – his love for his home state of Gujarat and his belief in looking at the world without the prism of religion.

Stuck somewhere between Rahul Dholakia’s Parzania and Excel-SRK’s Don, Raees is, at best, a lost opportunity.

Kaabil, on the other hand, manages to nail the single screen appeal quite easily. When was the last time we had an action entertainer that almost never loses focus, is unpretentious about who it is targeting, and still doesn’t take its audience for granted?

The film builds itself from a tale of innocent love to a saga of loss and violent revenge in a precise manner, playing on the right chords and engaging emotionally with the audience in a measured way. Credit for this must go to Hrithik Roshan and director Sanjay Gupta, who seem to know exactly which buttons to press and when.

The result is that despite not trying to make the dialogue sound too memorable, various lines in the film just inherently make the audience cheer and applaud. You’re invested in the grieving protagonist Rohan, and his quest for violent justice in the face of an impotent law and order machinery. How he overcomes his handicap is made believable, and his cause seems worth rooting for.

Yes, there is a problem with Kaabil’s message about rape, because it is still - to an extent - rooted in the age-old idea of rape being an attack on ‘honour’.

Yet, look closely and you’ll see that (spoiler alert) it is the threat of being raped repeatedly in the future and its possible effect on her husband that makes Yami Gautam’s character Supriya take her life, not the fact that she or her husband felt the rape took away her honour in any way.

The difference between the two films can thus be summed up perfectly simply with their respective titles.

With far more publicity, incessant promotions and a bigger brand at hand, Raees will probably end up making more money; but Kaabil is easily the more deserving, worthy film.

Published Date: Jan 28, 2017 13:24 PM | Updated Date: Jan 28, 2017 13:37 PM