Friday, October 28, 2011



There was a cartoon floating around cyberspace in which a woman leads a man looking like SRK home and tells her astonished husband, “I found him in the market. He said he’d do the household chores for a day if we promise to see his film.” Totally captured the mood.
Shah Rukh Khan’s RA.One  (Anubhav Sinha’s actually, but how many interviews of the director have appeared?) is supposedly the most expensive film ever made, and with this kind of hit ’em on the head and drag them to the moviehall marketing, it will probably recover its investment. But here was a true-blue sci-film film from Bollywood that had the opportunity to drag Hindi cinema up by its bootstraps into today… tomorrow, even.  Not only does it fail to impress beyond the usual low expectation, ‘timepass’ levels, it was pipped to the post by Endhiran/Robot.
The VFX, which money (Rs 150 crore?) can buy is excellent, but money can’t but imagination, originality, innovation, intelligence, heart or soul. And in each of these areas RA.One fails spectacularly.  For some unfathomable reason, Bollywood wants to outdo Hollywood, not realising that our strengths lie in our own stories, told in our own emotion-splattered way.  Which is not to say that nobody should attempt a whacky sci-fi thriller, but if that alone is the raison d’etre of a film, there’s something wrong right at the drawing board.
Trying to catch a kiddie audience (obviously well-off kiddies, poor ones don’t have Xboxes and gaming computers), Shah Rukh, oops, Anubhav Sinha, goes into a virtual reality world—that has to be explained by a character (Shahana Goswami) to Londoners (in Hindi).  Her colleague, a curly-haired Tamilian Shekhar Subramanian, gets grief from his bratty kid Prateek (Armaan Verma), because he is uncool (he eats noodles and curd with his fingers!) To please the boy (badly in need of a haircut), who believes that villains should be invincible, he creates a game in which the villain RA.One, a shape-shifting demon is almost indestructible, while the hero is a spiky haired, blue-eyed G.One, who could, if the player reached Level 3, find a way of beating the villain.
RA.One (Arjun Rampal) escapes from the game, kills his creator and goes after Lucifer, which is Prateek’s gaming avatar. The kid and his mother Sonia (Kareena Kapoor—looks good, acts dumb) come back to India, with G.One in tow.  G.One looks like a sleeker version of Shekhar, and some laborious comedy is attempted as the android tries to be human. All this is just padding till the climactic face off between Ra.One and G.One… and guess who wins!
For a film targeted at children, the vulgarity and profanity is inexcusable. The only truly heart-stopping sequence involves a runaway local train, which brings down CST (nobody bats an eyelid.) The science is not wow-making, practically every action sequence has been seen before in a Hollywood film; the romance is tepid, the relationship between father and son is not bitter-sweet enough.  The film is let down by its script, its over-the-top silliness and fanboy-ish tribute to other Hindi films.
As an actor, Shah Rukh Khan is not afraid of poking fun of himself, can do comedy really well if he gets a good gag, and had this film had managed to insert a real heart into its steel-and-cable body, he would have wrung out a few tears too. His star power is undiminished... he should have just let YRF and Dharma do their number with him. He isn’t made to play an oily-haired nerd, who says “dyood;” nor is he meant to play a poker-faced android. He is the eternal, ageless loverboy.


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