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Masand: 'RA.One' is flawed but ambitious


Rajeev Masand,CNN-IBN
Nov 05, 2011 at 12:05am IST

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Armaan Verma, Shahana Goswami, Dalip Tahil, Satish Shah

Director: Anubhav Sinha

Superhero film 'Ra.One' kicks off on an unusual note, as geeky tech-wiz dad Shekhar Subramaniam, played by Shah Rukh Khan, tries to become his young son's hero by creating the greatest video-game villain of all time. Named Ra.One in a not-so-subtle reference to The Ramayan's Lanka king, this super-villain almost immediately shows signs of breaking out of his virtual world to wreak havoc and destruction in the real one. Yet even as danger is lurking around the corner, Ra.One's creator Shekhar is distractedly working the dance floor with his wife.

To me, this moment sums up the entire experience of watching this ambitious but flawed superhero film - every time we're drawn into the simplistic but intriguing story of how Ra.One can only be vanquished by the game's superhero G.One (also played by Shah Rukh), director Anubhav Sinha feels the desperate need to inject a dance number or a comical sequence or a melodramatic interlude into the narrative. It's distracting from the superhero theme and more importantly, it makes the film clunky.

Once again, it's Shah Rukh Khan's sheer presence and energy, coupled with the narrative's don't-stop-to-think pace that makes 'Ra.One' watchable despite its flaws. This is an event movie, a spectacle, not really a film. It's 2 hours 35 minutes of special effects, action sequences and superficial romantic and emotional entanglements. You can see the ambition and imagination that the makers have poured into this movie, and while it thankfully doesn't succumb to the kind of lazy film-making we've seen recently in 'Rascals', 'Bodyguard', 'Ready' or the 'Golmaal' films. 'Ra.One' clearly suffers from a case of cramming in too much. Frankly, in all this, the superhero theme itself gets a bit lost - G.One's committment is towards protecting his family from Ra.One, not saving the world from evil. In the process, he's less of a superhero than Superman, Batman, Spiderman or even Krrish; G.One is more of a personal bodyguard with special powers.

Yet adhering to the unwritten superhero rule, G.One too is born out of tragedy, when his creator Shekhar is killed by Ra.One. Strangely, despite the heavy funeral song, we're barely convinced that wife and kid are grieving for Shekhar; so smoothly does G.One take his place in their lives. In their greed to make 'Ra.One' an entertainment extravaganza, the writers inject innuendoes that come off as crass - like the thesis the so-called feminist wife is doing on Indian swear words, or the scene in which a gay airport security guard is turned on by G.One's body piercings. The special appearances by Rajnikanth in a spoof of his own 'Robot', or a stylish early sequence featuring Sanjay Dutt and Priyanka Chopra only end up playing to the gallery. You're also left wondering why there's such an unhealthy obsession with the crotch, with so many scenes of grabbing, clutching, whacking or kicking it.

'Ra.One' heavily references films like 'Last Action Hero', 'The Matrix', 'Iron Man', 'X-Men' and 'Terminator-2', yet there is a certain thrill attached to the action sequences. A car chase through London's streets is rivaled by a local-train sequence in India where G.One leaps from one bogie to another. There's also the mind-boggling sight of the beautiful Gothic structure of Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus crumbling as the train ploughs right through it. These portions make up for the long-drawn climatic battle between Ra.One and G.One fought in a rather tacky virtual world.

The only real standout performance is by Shah Rukh Khan. His Aiyyo-speaking Shekhar Subramaniam is caricaturish but charming, while as G.One, he gives even his robotic video-game character a charismatic edge. Kareena Kapoor, as Shekhar's wife, provides the glamorous oomph factor as she shimmies to that fantastic number 'Chamak Challo', while Arjun Rampal makes a menacing Ra.One. However, too much screen time is wasted on the long-haired Armaan Verma who plays Shekhar's son, while Shahana Goswami playing a video game developer, inexplicably vanishes from the screen midway through the story.

What's missing from 'Ra.One' is a sure-footed director's touch. Anubhav Sinha fails to bring all the elements together, and while this superhero film has plenty sound and fury, it's sorely lacking slickness. I'm going with two and a half out of five for 'Ra.One'. Like the spaghetti and curds concoction that Shah Rukh digs into in an early scene, 'Ra.One' is clearly an acquired taste.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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