Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ra.One (2011)

The superhero genre in India is still very much in a nascent phase, struggling to find firm ground. In ways, it is similar to the phase Hollywood went through from the mid-1980s to 90s as it concerned itself more with visual spectacle than telling engaging stories. In films like Tron (1982), the story and screenplay took a backseat to pushing the boundaries of computer generated visuals. In that sense, Ra.One is visually impressive. It is bigger and better than than the films that preceded it (Krrish, Robot). However, in terms of storytelling, it demonstrates how far we have yet to go.

Shekhar Subramaniam (SRK) is a nerdy computer gaming programmer married to the beautiful Sonia (Kareena Kapoor). They have a preteen son Prateek (Armaan Verma) who is embarrassed by his bumbling, boring father. To impress his son, he creatss a video game where the villain is more powerful than the hero. The game: Ra.One. However, his company, Barron Industries, is developing technology to give physical, tangible manifestation to data transferred electronically. With the powerful artifical intelligence created for Ra.One, a cataclysmic system crash occurs when Prateek leaves the test version mid way through the game bringing the fearsome villain from the virtual world to the physical world to destroy Prateek. The family's only hope is Ra.One's virtual nemesis, the good but weaker G.One (SRK).

First, the positives. Visually, the film is good. While it is visibly constrained by a budget, the visual effects are excellent in several places. The action sequences make up for what they lack in novelty & originality with intensity & brisk pacing. Of these, the pre-climactic train sequence stands out the most. Despite its clumsy finish, the effects are convincing and the action is thrilling. Another great asset here is Vishal-Shekhar's music which is a deft mix of dark, melancholic overtures and chic retro re-imaginations. Their work is truly world class and brings tremendous energy to the proceedings. Arjun Rampal makes for a truly fearsome Ra.One. Although he gets barely 30 minutes of screen time, he makes a strong impression with his gaunt, menacing look and the ferocious physicality of his performance. Armaan Verma is endearing as Prateek and emotes very well throughout. SRK is SRK, which is a positive in my books. 

Unfortunately, the film isn't without its flaws, and they are several. The initial 45 minutes range from bland to annoying. The film takes too long to set up its premise. SRK has gone overboard in hedging his bets. The cameo by Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt is just unnecessary and silly. PC's deliberate blonde act borders on the agonising. The product placement is thankfully though almost as subtle as it is numerous.

In terms of writing, Shekhar Subramanian as a character makes little sense. One minute he is spewing deep, philosophical life lessons and the next he is impersonating Michael Jackson to look cool and bad ass for his son. The father son relationship, as crucial to the story as Peter Parker's relationship with Uncle Ben was to Spiderman, is sacrificed on the mantle of the syrupy and artificial. While the picturisation of the song 'Dildaara' does salvage it considerably in the second half, its too late by then. Kareena Kapoor looks fantastic and emotes well. But her character makes even lesser sense than Shekhar. She's a mother who is also writing a thesis on Hindi expletives from a feminist perspective. I mean, seriously. It sounds ridiculous even to say it out loud. Would it have killed the writers to make her character just a little more credible?

The origins story (of Ra.One moving from the virtual world to the real world) is not entirely convincing although one may overlook that. After all, it is a fantasy film. But there is a distinct lack of originality that pervades the film throughout. While one cannot dismiss the film as a rip off, it borrows elements from other movies like Iron Man, Terminator, Spiderman etc. It's almost as if SRK and group walked onto the sets of American studios and picked up various designs at random and decided to put them together. The non-appearance of Arjun Rampal until midway through the second half also is a letdown.

Ultimately, Ra.One is like a passable chocolate pie. The cocoa is rich enough; the pastry old, but edible. However, instead of sugar, you have saccharine artificially sweetening things almost to the point of making it unpalatable. Despite having the trappings of greatness, the film is bogged down by artificial sentimentality, painful cliches and unnecessary gimmickry. Nevertheless, it must be lauded for the effort put in. There will be a great Bollywood superhero movie someday. Of that, I am sure. Unfortunately, this ain't it. However, with the recent severe drought of entertainment, it certainly is something of a relief, howsoever limited. Technically also, it raises the bar considerably. For that, despite its flaws I am inclined to recommend it with caution. 

Rating: 2.5/5

8 comments:

  1. u have written review n given rating according to hollywood point of view, then u r mad n need treatment. U said it is better than krish n robot n they both have got 3.5 to 4 stars then ra.one should be more than 4stars. U don't know how to write a review. Go n learn first.

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  2. Ra.one definitely deserves 3.5-4 stars ..............2.5 makes it look as if it is a big waste of time ...........Ra.one for me was a typical SRK entertainer ..... I loved it

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  3. u suck ..............i know u personally nd i wld lyk to tell wat a homo u r ............ra.one rox nd its not for gays like u .....mayb u wld like a fuckin girlie movie like a cinderella story ......ra.one should get 5 stars ........its a lot better than salmans fuck all movies

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  4. ^ fuck off troll (1 and 3 that is, 2 seems sane).

    And next time maybe you could try learning to spell and string a sentence together, too.

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  5. Unfortunately, this blog isn't without its flaws, and they are several. The posts range from bland to annoying. The writing takes too long to set up its premise. The author has gone overboard in hyping his analysis. The adjectives and phony style is just unnecessary and silly. Your deliberate attempt at sophistication borders on the agonising. I think stupid comments from the anonymous pricks above are the only things worth reading on this waste of webspace.

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  6. what the fuck is passable chocolate pie you fucking lude! go put your head inside a rhinos ass, it'll help your thought process

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  7. Everyone has a right to an opinion. If you don't agree with the writer, why not put forth cogent reasons for it instead of resorting to cheap personal attacks.

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  8. a very very made up nd phony review .......Ra.one doesnt pretend to be a thought provoking movie ......SRK is SRK and he tries to deliver an entertaining movie and he bloody delivers

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