Raees and Rajinikanth: Shah Rukh Khan's film will remind you of Tamil, Telugu entertainers
Part of a crowd that took in Shah Rukh Khan's latest release Raees FDFS at a suburban theatre (on Wednesday, 25 January), there was one thing that really struck me. No, not Shah Rukh's looks, which belie his 51 years, or even his performance (widely considered among his best) or the complete 'package' he's presented as.
No. What struck me was how much some elements of Raees seem like they've been directly influenced by the South Indian film industry. Here's a quick lowdown on two aspects of Raees that would feel right at home in a Tamil or Telugu film:
The punch lines
Sure, Raees Alam (Shah Rukh) can decimate rivals with his punches, but as part of the audience, you're felled by his punch lines. I haven't heard dialogues written with such specific crowd-pleasing intent in Hindi films of late. While some felt the dialogues harked back to the times when Salim-Javed ruled the roost in Bollywood, for me, a more direct reference point were the punch lines delivered by Rajinikanth, a trademark of his acting style. SRK doesn't get just one solid punch line in Raees, he gets several.
There's, "Koi dhanda chota nahi hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharam nahi hota" cleverly changed to "Dhanda mera dharam hai, par main dharam ka dhanda nahi karta" at a crucial moment in the story.
And it's not just SRK, Nawazuddin Siddiqui — whose measured Inspector Jaideep Majumdar is the perfect nemesis to Raees Alam — gets some good lines as well. Here's how he describes his character's equation with Raees Alam: "Raees aur mera rista bada ajib hai. Pas reh nahi sakta, aur sala dur jane nahi deta".
If I'd to think of the last time I came across such impactful punch-lines in a movie, I'd say it was during Kabali, Rajinikanth's 2016 blockbuster.
The phenomenon of the 'punch line' is not restricted to the films of Rajinikanth alone. Even Vijay, Jr. NTR, Mahesh Babu (in Pokiri) — for that matter, most commercial entertainers in the South featuring any of the major heroes — has these punch lines built into the plot. These punch lines then go on to be the highlight connected with a particular film.
Hindi superstars — be it an Amitabh bachchan or Salman Khan (or even Shah Rukh himself) have had these punch lines in their film (we're thinking Shahenshah, Don and Dabangg, among others) but there's something about the way they're written in Raees that has the South stamped all over.
"Gujarat ki hawa mein vyapar hai saheb. Meri saans toh rok loge — lekin is hawa ko kaise rokoge?"
The action sequences
Meanwhile, there are a bunch of guys getting tossed in the air, shot — and having their throats slit. Yes, there's plenty of gore and that's another thing that'll remind you of South films.
In recent times, the action in Bollywood has taken more inspiration from the West — so sequences are a lot slicker, urbane,almost sanitised.
Raees, on the other hand, keeps it brutal, real and bloody. There's a scene in a butchers' market that has SRK fighting off the competition with a cut of meat! When was the last time you saw that happen in a big-budget Bollywood movie?
Tamil and Telugu commercial entertainers, however, still continue to feature sequences in which the larger-than-life hero vanquishes the villains on the strength of little more than brute force. In this respect, Raees will remind you of recent hits like Janatha Garage, Velayudham and Baahubali.
Recent action thrillers like Force 2, Baaghi and Dishoom (among others) have gone the stylised stunts-way, while Raees keeps it visceral.
Raees is very much Bollywood — but it has bits and pieces of both Kollywood and Tollywood, making it the package that it is.
And if you're still not convinced, let's take a look at this video in which fans celebrate with a life-size poster of Shah Rukh Khan outside a theatre — a Rajinikanth-style palabhishekam, anyone?
— SRK Universe (@SRKUniverse) January 25, 2017
Updated Date: Jan 31, 2017 15:59 PM