At the North American premiere of his latest film Ra.One in Toronto, Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan promised the eagerly awaiting audiences a movie that transcends all limits. Bollywood, he said, has a tendency to be kitsch, with flimsy plotlines and so-so special effects. Although its $20-million budget is small compared to Hollywood superhero movies, he vowed Ra.One would be Bollywood's answer to Hollywood superhero films like Thor.
And yes, the super effects are fantastic. But overall, Ra.One fails to impress.
At the core of the film is a geeky dad's attempt to bond with his son, Prateek, by creating a game with the ultimate badass villain. When the villain Ra.One comes to life to destroy his son's screen handle Lucifer, Shekhar (Khan) dies in his attempt to save his son's life. But then the game's hero, G.One (also played by Khan), steps out into the real world to join forces with Prateek to save the world – the ultimate weapon being G.One's H.A.R.T. (Hertz Advanced Resonance Transmitter) – ahem, heart.
The film is as cheesy as it sounds. It falls into the very traps that Khan himself complained about: weak plotline, random song-and-dance routines and a plethora of tacky crotch-related jokes, which left me grimacing. And for audiences who don't understand Hindi, the subtitles were frustratingly lagging – on occasion, almost a whole dialogue behind.
Ra.One is Khan's baby and boy, are you not allowed to forget that. The actor almost never leaves the screen. It's a pity, because he's not really the one who shines in the film. As an actor, Khan does best when he doesn't play the 'Bollywood hero' and takes on more realistic roles such as a scientist in Swades, or a field hockey coach in Chak de India. Arjun Rampal, who plays Ra.One in the film's latter half, is styled well and plays his role convincingly.
The best part of the film is the twist toward the end when Kareena Kapoor, who plays Shekhar's wife, turns wicked. Without revealing too much, she is absolutely chilling for about 10 minutes. For the rest of the movie, you wonder why a talented actress like her is in the film, aside from the skin show and gratuitous focus of the camera on her breasts.
Most of the film's songs are passable, with Akon's song Chammak Challo as the highlight. It's a foot-tapping dance beat, which already has South Asian audiences delighted. Sometimes, the success of Bollywood films rests solely on the songs. Unfortunately, while Chammak Challo has the potential to turn into this year's Bollywood anthem, none of the other songs reach that standard.
Despite its many flaws, Ra.One will likely do well because of Khan's charisma. Rarely does a film of his fall flat at the box office, but it will probably divide audiences into two distinct factions: those who are willing to leave their brains behind and watch a mindless Bollywood film, and those who are disappointed that Khan did not deliver on the spectacular cinematic experience he had promised.
- Written by David Benullo, Kanika Dhillon, Niranjan Iyengar, Shah Rukh Khan, Mushtaq Sheikh and Anubhav Sinha
- Directed by Anubhav Sinha
- Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal
- Classification: NA