As the first audience in the world to watch Bollywood’s most anticipated, marketed and costly film, the responsibility seems enormous to write one of the first reviews of 'Ra.One'.
But when you cut through the A-list star cast, the special effects frilling and the foot tapping music, all that’s left to dissect is a story, which forms the backbone of any good film.
While 'Ra.One’s' tale is weak at best, the transformation from ennui to entertainment in this sci-fi epic lies largely in the novelty value of watching India’s first 3D superhero action film. Children who have grown up on a diet of PlayStation and Xbox will connect with its premise, while Indian parents who spent many a night under the covers reading stories of Shaktiman – India’s first ever superhero – will certainly not miss an opportunity to experience that bout of nostalgia.
It has to be said though, for a first-time effort, Shah Rukh Khan’s conviction should be lauded. The actor, who has largely carved out a career playing the romantic fool in many a Bollywood film, takes a risk that flies high, much like his onscreen avatar of G.One, and proves his mettle as one of India’s top rated stars.
The guts and gumption credited in real life almost excuses the flaws in acting and direction that are glaringly obvious on the reel outcome; almost, we say, but not quite.
The film starts on a credible note, with Shekhar Subramanium (Khan) playing the goofy Tamilian gaming creator by day, and by night, slipping into the role of the doting husband and father to Sonia (Kareena Kapoor) and Prateek (Armaan Verma), respectively.
While Shekhar’s on again off again Tamilian accent may not impress the natives, as a character, his big goal in life is to impress his too cool for school young son, who thinks his father an embarrassment to mankind.
So what does Shekhar do to win over his son’s affections? Like most fathers do, he devises a new game where evil outshines good for a change, because his son prefers life’s equation in that favour.
Disregarding the fact that most parents might consider ringing up the neighbourhood psychiatrist if their child’s warped thinking continued down that track, Shekhar’s little ploy only works too well when the game’s evil character, Ra.One, manages to develop a mind of its own thanks to some virtual reality mumbo jumbo, and decides to break out into the real world to target little Prateek (who goes by the gaming name of Lucifer, no less) because the child had the audacity to beat him on two gaming levels.
In the virtual insanity that follows, (spoiler alert) Shekhar loses his life and it doesn’t take long for our computer savvy Prateek to realise that his father has in fact been murdered by the evil Ra.One who has suddenly come out of the game to hunt him down. Naturally, if Ra.One can do it, then G.One shouldn't be far behind. So out pops Khan in a virtual avatar, sporting blue lenses and photoshopped within an inch of his life.
Everyone’s acceptance of such a far-fetched reality may seem a little too quick for some, but with a limited runtime for the film, the makers probably needed to usher the proceedings along to allow the first of several face-offs between G.One and Ra.One. Hence, Kapoor’s Sonia doesn’t get more than 15 minutes to grieve for her husband and digest the fact that her son’s life is in danger from a bloodthirsty game villain.
If you are wondering where does Arjun Rampal fit into all this? Well, fans will be a little disappointed to see him only wander onto the screen post interval. But his bare torso and rippling muscles will certainly keep the ladies happy; in fact, Rampal’s Ra.One certainly demands a lot more screen presence than Khan’s G.One. Maybe there is something in that logic of rooting for evil.
All said and done, Bollywood’s advancement in FX and special effects is a boon for 'Ra.One', which heavily relies on the technical expertise to carry the story forward in the second half. While the pace might drag a little in the second half, what with several forced song and dance sequences sandwiched in between, the climax battle between the two protagonists is reminiscent of many Hollywood superhero films.
In fact, several scenes appear uncannily similar to the “Spider-Man” trilogy. But we guess there only so many ways to save the world.
The rest of the characters perform their role like clockwork, with Dalip Tahil as the gaming baron, hamming his way through his sequences, while Satish Shah having clearly been roped in for his version of Johnny Lever comic relief.
Perhaps the most wasted actor in the film is Shahana Goswami who plays Shekhar’s colleague, Jenny Nayar. After being his co-creator in resurrecting Ra.One, one would think that her expertise would be sought to kill the evil. But she is all but forgotten 20 minutes into the film and reappears in the post climax sequence to spout a one-liner.
Khan has been introducing her to the media as one of India’s most talented actors. If you really want to see her talent, rent “Firaaq” and watch Goswami shine. As a Diwali release, the shrewd Khan has correctly banked on families to fork over their savings for a fun day at the movies. And if breaking records is what he has in mind, then Khan certainly won’t be disappointed; his year-long marketing blitzkrieg has ensured that wherever you turn this festival of lights, you will not be able to escape “Ra.One”.