From bringing the Gujarat Prohibition to screen and working with Shah Rukh Khan, Rahul Dholakia talks about his upcoming flick
Filmmakers never seem to tire of the gangster genre, and actors enjoy playing the bad guy that audiences love. Following suit, writer-director Rahul Dholakia set his film against the backdrop of Prohibition in the state of Gujarat and cast Shah Rukh Khan as the title character of Raees in his latest flick. The film, which has Khan playing a bootlegger caught in a nexus between politicians and the law, also stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pakistani actor Mahira Khan. Describing his film as “an intelligent commercial film and an interesting drama”, Dholakia speaks about the making of the film and his versatile cast.
What was the process of putting Raees together like?
The initial idea was to make a film on Prohibition. I contacted some journalist and writer friends in Ahmedabad and we got researching. In our earlier drafts, there was no gangster. But bootlegging automatically entails gangsters, politics and the police. As part of the research, we travelled to Bhuj, Kutch and the coastal areas of Gujarat.
We shot the film in Gujarat (Bhuj, Ahmedabad) and Mumbai. We visited a lot of mohallas and the old cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Siddhpur. We realised, however, that it would be tough to shoot in many of these actual locations, so we had to build sets in Mumbai.
Did you always envisage Shah Rukh Khan in the part of the don?
I didn’t know Shah Rukh before, but I felt that this character is so strong and has such a range — from one shade to another shade and the millions in between —which he can pull off. He has the most expressive eyes – he can be intense, charming and shrewd. I felt that somewhere his personality matched the character he needed to convey. When my producer asked me who do you see in the part of Raees, I immediately said Shah Rukh Khan.
Did anything change in the script once he came on board?
Not really, just a few minor things. The only thing he said to me was, think of it as a more commercial film. He imbibed the character well and brought a lot to the table. He brought an idea to every scene. We collaborated and got the best after rehearsals and readings.
How has Nawazuddin’s character in the film shaped up?
Earlier, when I was thinking of the film in a more indie space, Nawaz had read the script and said, “I want to play the cop”. I asked him why not the gangster, but he said no, the cop. The inspector is a very interesting character and when you see the film, you will like Nawaz’s character a lot. He’s a good counterfoil to Shah Rukh Khan. Whenever a film is balanced, it works. They have incredible chemistry and worked very well together.
The movie releases on January 25.
— Udita Jhunjhunwala