The Raees trailer was released with great fanfare across multiple Indian cities on Wednesday, 7 December.
Apart from the trailer itself — which has definitely quickened fans’ anticipation for Raees — what also grabbed a lot of attention was the release date mentioned at the end: 25 January 2017.
The Raees-Kaabil clash has been talked about for quite some time; both films were expected to release on Republic Day 2017.
However, just a few days before the Raees trailer was released, Rakesh Roshan and Hrithik Roshan unveiled a new plan for Kaabil, along with its new poster reveal.
To cash in on the Republic Day public holiday, they decided that Kaabil would be in theatres on 25 January, starting with a 6 pm show, to cash in on the public holiday the very next day.
Raees’ trailer has made evident that the SRK film too will come to theatres on exactly the same day. The move is being considered a direct salvo at the Roshans, whose home production Kaabil is.
Not a spur-of-the-moment decision
While it is tempting to think of Raees’ new release date as a counter-move to Kaabil’s theatrical release being moved ahead by a day, Shah Rukh Khan says otherwise.
Speaking at the Raees trailer launch, Shah Rukh said: “Actually we had decided a while ago that both our films would come out on the 26th and left it at that. We took that in our stride. Now we have decided, along with our distributors and exhibitors, that we want to come to theatres on the 25th. Kaabil will release during the evening shows, from 6 pm onwards, whereas we are starting from the regular shows (in the morning).”
Shah Rukh said there was no question of which film “decided first, or later”. Instead, he pointed out that it was simply the most logical decision to make: “26th is a public holiday and we could have some advantage by releasing a day prior to the public holiday. Media reports may say a lot of things, but we decided to announce our final release date along with the launch of the trailer, it was a marketing idea. We had made up our minds and have now gone ahead with the final announcement.”
Roshans aren’t pleased — but delaying Raees further wasn’t an option
For the Roshans, the Raees release date must have come as a blow — by moving their own theatrical release ahead by a day (or rather by an evening), they must have thought to get a headstart on collections and audience buzz. Raees’ 25 January shocker seems to have made Rakesh Roshan quite unhappy.
He was quoted as saying: "Whatever dates we are taking, they are following us. I would have never done the same. I belong to an old school of filmmaking and I have given 50 years of my life to the industry. I would never release my film on a day when another filmmaker has already announced their film. I decided to move Krrish 4 also from the Christmas 2018 slot because I saw Shah Rukh Khan's film [the Aanand L Rai directed project in which the superstar is playing a dwarf] is coming that day. I could have easily released my film with Befikre or even with Dangal if I had to clash. But when I announced the film in February (2016), I saw a clean window in January (2017) and hence I picked the date. I can't get into this new groove of things because I don't understand it."
However, Raees has had a long delay leading up to its release — this was a film that was meant to be in theatres by August 2016. The only reason it didn’t, was because Salman Khan’s Sultan had already claimed the Eid spot for itself. The months leading up to its new release date have also been fraught with obstacles.
In SRK’s own words from the trailer launch: “We had the teaser launch in 2015, the trailer launch in 2016, and now the film is releasing in 2017. This has never happened in any part of the world!”
So does anything ‘go’ in business?
In Raees, his character announces his business philosophy: "Jo dhande ke liye sahi, woh sahi; jo dhande ke liye galat, woh galat. Isse zyada kabhi socha nahin..."
Is that what Shah Rukh has followed in his own career as well?
The actor replied, “I had undergone surgery and the doctor told me to not to work, but I reached the sets within six days because dhande ke liye jo sahi, woh sahi. But in any other aspect of business, anything that is hurtful, wrong, underhanded or unethical, I will (never do) because I believe that we can’t just do anything in the name of business.”
He continues, “If I think that something is right for my work then… I will stick to my guns and do it. It is not about business but my belief. I have never done ‘business’ as an actor. An actor in fact, should not regard (his/her work) as a business; it is a very giving profession. Yes, we earn a lot of money and there is lot of cut-throat competition and even the dog-eat-dog kind of stuff. But we actors should try to retain the quality of innocence.”
How much of Raees Aslam is in Shah Rukh?
While the general understanding seems to be that Raees is inspired by Gujarat-based bootlegger Abdul Latif (an associate of Dawood Ibrahim), Shah Rukh claimed that the film is fictional. [Latif’s family has incidentally filed a defamation suit against Raees’ makers.]
As for how much of Raees Aslam he sees in himself, Shah Rukh said: “I also believe if I make a mistake I have to take responsibility for my action… (Other than that) I am not like Raees at all or else I would have been in jail! I haven’t done anything in real life that the character does. I am a teetotaler. I have not done anything illegal. I have nothing to do with the way he earns his living. Just for the last 15-20 minutes of the film, I have drawn on something that is close to my emotions, not the characterisation. There are some personal experiences which are close to my life that those last 15-20 minutes of the film (draw on).”
The Mahira Khan rumours
Amid rumours that the film’s leading lady Mahira Khan’s role was cut short after the call to boycott Pakistani artistes, the film’s director Rahul Dholakia denied that this was the case. While Shah Rukh was not very forthcoming on the issue, producer Ritesh Sidhwani — when asked whether Mahira would be involved in promoting the film — responded with: “When we start promoting the film, if we find it is necessary to bring her here for the film’s promotion, of course she will come. I don’t think there is any restriction from the government. It’s not that they will stop issuing her (a) visa. As and when we decide that we want her here, we will do so.”
The demonetisation dilemma
Most films released in the aftermath of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move have seen their box office prospects dimmed somewhat. However, the Raees team isn’t worried.
Shah Rukh opined that the situation had eased somewhat and therefore, it was a good time for the film to release. “Things are getting better with time,” he said. “Executing the move would have taken some time; it couldn’t have happened overnight. Initially, maybe people who were affected and the ones who visit single screen theatres, made a choice and felt that entertainment or certain luxuries could take a backseat. The situation has eased a little, and another few days from now is a good time to release. We saw that with the release of Dear Zindagi, recently… The distributors gave us to understand that now there is positive sentiment to spend money on entertainment."
Raees as a mass entertainer
While Raees — a period crime drama — was being made, the assumption was that it would be an off-beat/niche film. Shah Rukh himself had described the film at the time as “a fantastic offbeat film; I am a very urban actor but Rahul Dholakia could think of me in an earthy role...” However, the trailer makes evident that Raees is in fact a mass entertainer, and the makers certainly haven’t stinted on its commercial appeal. How was this balance achieved?
"Rahul (Dholakia, director) didn’t want to make an over-the-top, commercial film. He wanted an interesting mix. He spoke to the producers, Ritesh (Sidhwani) and Farhan (Akhtar), and we decided to have a mix of both the worlds," explained Shah Rukh at the trailer launch on Wednesday.
There have been rumours that the superstar asked for certain scenes to be toned down, as a nod to audience sentiment. "In my 25 years, I have never spoken to a director, writer or producer to change a line or a scene, or to cut or put in something,” Shah Rukh asserted. “I have never ever gone into an editing room with the intention of changing something. At the end of it all, I make my notes, write down what I felt was good or bad.”
And do they expect any problems with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for Raees?
“I have never had any problem with the censors so far,” Shah Rukh responded, adding with a laugh: “I am a family