Mayank Shekhar's review: Ra.one

By Hindustan Times

Director: Anubhav Sinha
Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor
Rating: **

Before adequately warning children against trying any such stunts, the super-hero leapfrogs over and at right angles of a running train.
Background score is ‘70s RD Burman imitation. Brown walls of the majestic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus eventually start to crack, statue of Queen Victoria alongside falls as the suburban train, running at top speed, its brakes not working, collides on to the CST railhead, juts out of the station, on to the main streets.

Round your lips; curl your tongue; whistle out; loud. Finally, the heroine drops from the sky as the super-hero holds her in her arms. This is the highlight scene of the film. It’s novel, because of the touch of Mumbai local. Disaster movies are usually Hollywood, and set abroad. You must applaud. Except, you’re not sure about the point of this moment, while you do know its purpose. They just haven’t weaved this stunning sequence into a coherent plot for you to truly care.

This super-hero G.One, until now, or thereafter, didn’t exist to save the world. Neither was the super-villain, RA.One, out there to destroy it. Motives of both remain plainly fuzzy, or too tepid, trivial to match their scale.

Strangely, for a film that’s titled after the villain, he has a specific form, but no particular face or body. More on the lines of Terminator 2, he adopts a wandering human being’s body. This completely dilutes RA.One. The fellow's been a Chinese man, for a bit even Kareena Kapoor, and for some crucial, climactic portions, Arjun Rampal. G.One is singularly Shah Rukh Khan. SRK. Make no mistake. Light bulbs at the heart of armoured suits suggest these are all descendants of Iron Man. But all this happens later, after perhaps, half the film is over.

For most parts, this doesn’t seem a super-hero movie at all. It’s more of a weirdly boiled, Bollywood please all: vaguely soppy romance, Salman-type sasta comedy, narcissistic SRK set piece. Die-hard fans of all three genres are likely to be disappointed.

Neither here nor there, everything appears so visibly constructed and all over the place that you can look through the wires, rather than blend in with the experience. The latter may be necessary if you’re not playing this film’s version, available on Playstation 2. Connect with video game’s characters are easily instant; the illusion is under your control. Films demand more. They’re worth your penny, only if that penny drops.

Old-timer Rakesh Roshan has that knack for simplicity. With Krrish (2006), he had a sincere actor, and a one-line plot line – “Baap Ka Badla”, as I suppose is the complicated attempt here. He could see it through successfully. Shankar’s Robot similarly played it straight – cloning sci-fi machines taking over the human world – as Rajnikanth in the film by that name (oh, it was the other way around).

This is a movie from the director of Dus, Tathastu, Cash. Its genre's traditions are western. So is the film's primary location: London, I guess. It’s been converted into 3D as well. I saw it in its two-dimensional glory. Poster of Michael Jackson’s Bad on the wall suggests we’re in circa 1985. Graininess of the big screen sort of confirms the suspicion. A bumbling gaming programmer, south Indian Shekhar Subramaniam (Shah Rukh, expectedly unconvincing) designs a deadly game for his son, where the villain’s stronger than the super-hero. The villain instead develops a life of its own to take on the developer’s son, who was playing against him last.

Flying hero enters earth to save boy. No one in the planet is surprised, or is even aware. The boy’s father’s dead, his colleague’s no more, cars collide. Head of gaming company is busy selling that same software like nothing happened. The only thing the writers are worried about is how G.One will get through security on a frikin’ flight.

Which gets you to think about who G.One really is. This supposedly emotionless, part-time gaming super-hero, in designer suits, regular clothes, human skin does everything, short of actually crying: smiles, hugs, quotes the Gita, shakes his pelvis to ‘You Be My Chamak Chalo’. His nonchalant hostess (Kareena Kapoor), a grieving widow, takes it quite well; it’s like any other day for her.

She understands people have flocked to movie theatres for this! They must have, basically for two reasons: SRK, and the special effects. No surprises, they’re both there, in good measure. Full marks for the effort. But that you already knew. A year of relentless hustling, hype and expectations inevitably numb achievements, whatever they are, into the obvious. You wish to figure if this was worth this much fuss.

Look at the film. The fuss was necessary! Producers make plans of a franchise obvious with the final scene. That, I fear may have G.One with the wind. But then you never know, right? Seriously.

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