According to Wikipedia, "Raees" (also spelled "Rais") is translated as "president" in Arabic, and as "wealthy" in Persian. In Urdu, it refers to a person who has accumulated considerable wealth within his or her generation.
All three can apply to Shah Rukh Khan in and as RAEES, a fictional character in a film exploring bootlegging activities in Gujarat during the 1970s and 1980s. According to Wikitravel, Gujarat is known for the Stepped Wells, Jain Temples, Asiatic Lion and it's business-oriented people.
For those new to Bollywood, here's some background.
Why Gujarat is considered a "dry" state
To better understand the story of RAEES, you have to understand the history of prohibition in India and Gujarat.
Most sources point to Gandhi.
Born on October 2, 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in the coastal city of Porbandar in the state of Bombay which is now the state of Gujarat, India. His father was an influential local leader but died when Gandhi was only 16-years-old.
When Gandhi finished high school, he sought an educational challenge that he was not able to get at Samaldas College at Bhavnagar. His elder brother and a family friend suggested he go to England to study law. Gandhi's mother did not like the idea. It would be expensive. He would be so far away. And there was the age-old taboo against overseas travel among high caste Hindus: Gandhi would lose his caste if he crossed the oceans. According to Gandhi, his mother's fears were increased as she spoke to others about her son's plans:
Someone had told her that young men got lost in England. Someone else had said that they took to meat; and yet another that they could not live there without liquor. 'How about all this?' she asked me. I said: 'Will you not trust me? I shall not lie to you. I swear that I shall not touch any of those things. If there were any such danger, would Joshiji let me go?' 'I can trust you,' she said. 'But how can I trust you in a distant land? I am dazed and know not what to do. I will ask Becharji Swami.' Becharji Swami was originally a Modh Bania, but had now become a Jain monk. He too was a family adviser like Joshiji. He came to my help, and said: 'I shall get the boy solemnly to take the three vows, and then he can be allowed to go.' He administered the oath and I vowed not to touch wine, woman and meat. This done, my mother gave her permission.
While in England, Gandhi stuck to his vows with an intense willpower. His vows connected him to his mother. When he returned to India years later to discover his mother had died, he permanently clung to his vows as a reminder of his family, culture, and religion.
Because Hindus were encouraged to avoid intoxicating substances, Gandhi's embrace of prohibition was also a statement against imperialism. He also witnessed how alcohol was impacting the Indian community. An August 5, 1937, article in The Central Queensland Herald announced "Prohibition for India Advocated by Mahatma Gandhi":
The Bombay correspondent of 'The Times' states that total prohibition through India within three years, from July 14, the date of the establishment of Congress Party Ministries, is advocated by Mahatma Gandhi in an article in his paper, ' Harijan,' on the Congress Party's tasks in the Provinces. Gandhi declares that the failure of Prohibition in America should not prove a deterrent, as only a minority in India are addicted to drinking. Employers must be forced to provide cheap healthy refreshment, reading, and entertaining facilities. Prohibition, whatever it costs, will ultimately give the peasant greater earning and spending capacity, he adds.
According to Rod Phillips, Gandhi also spoke against the use of revenues from alcohol sales to fund education:
"The cruelest irony .... lies in the fact that we are left with nothing but the liquor revenue to fall back upon to give our children education. ... The solution to the problem should not involve a compromise of the ideal of prohibition, cost whatever else it might."
But perhaps the strongest statement against liquor can be found in Gandhi's India’s Case for Swaraj:
Liquor, as we say, is an invention of the devil. In Islam it is said that when Satan began to beguile men and women he dangled before them the “red water”. I have seen in so many cases that liquor has not only robbed men of their money but of their reason, they have for the time being forgotten the distinction between wife and mother, lawful and unlawful. I have seen drunken barristers wallowing in gutters carried home by the police. I have found on two occasions captains of steamers so dead drunk as to be incapable of keeping charge of their boats till they came to their senses. For both flesh-meats and liquor the sovereign rule is “We must not live in order to eat and drink and be merry, but eat and drink in order to make our bodies temples of God and use them for service of man.” Liquor may be a medical necessity on occasions; and when life seems to be extinct it may be possible to prolong it with a dose of liquor, but that is about all that can be said for it.
Prohibition was part of India's constitution when the country achieved independence on August 15, 1947. Gandhi was assassinated less than a year later on January 30, 1948. In 1949, the Bombay Prohibition Act was established to prohibit production, sale, purchase and/or consumption of "toddy, spirits of wine, methylated spirits, wine, beer and all liquid consisting of alcohol." According to Quora member Keyur Patel,
The Bombay Prohibition Act was the law that enforced this ban in the year 1949, shortly after the demise of the “Father of the Nation”, Mahatma Gandhi. The fact that it came into force during this period of national sorrow, and is so intricately associated with the Mahatma is the reason why it continues to be such a sensitive issue. The legislation has been in force since 1 May 1960 when Bombay State dissolved into Maharashtra and Gujarat. Gujarat is the only Indian state with a death penalty for makers and sellers of home-made liquor where fatalities are caused, but the truth is prohibition has done nothing more than drive liquor underground.
As a bootlegger, Raees is definitely breaking the law. Yet he considers himself more of a businessman than a criminal. We certainly see that he initially gets special treatment from the police. Ornit Shani explains:
... although alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat, the Miyanbhai Commission Report on prohibition in the state suggested that the police played a central role in violating this policy. The police were hand in glove with the illicit liquor traders. By enabling the bootlegging of liquor, corrupt police officers secured a sizable illegal income. By 2002 the law was so blatantly breached that a placard with the slogan 'Don't Drive While Being Drunk' was displayed on one of the Ahmedabad's main intersections.
Now you know the background, you are ready to see the film. The following playlist features the teaser and trailer for the film RAEES.
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