Film Review: Ra.One

Director:  Anubhav Sinha

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Shahana Goswani, Armaan Verma, Tom Wu

All images courtesy of:

WARNING: Contains spoilers – if you don’t wish to know what happens, please revisit after viewing the film. Thanks.

I don’t know why I was so reluctant to go and see Ra.One. After all, Ra.One is one of the biggest releases of 2011, carried a great deal of expectations and had been hyped since it went into production. And therein lay the problem – before the film was even released, I was fatigued watching the trailer or listening to Chammak Challo for the umpteenth time but even I couldn’t predict that it would take me over a week from release to catch a screening, which according to my logic, is far too long to see a film that had garnered so much attention and dare I say it, had been on my want to see list for Autumn 2011.

Still, the delay did give me time to see if Ra.One could survive on its own merits once all the hoopla had died down. Sadly, as I adjusted my 3D glasses to ward off the headache I was getting from wearing them, I realised it wouldn’t. First off, let me say Ra.One is not the absolute disaster it is being made out to be. Technically, the film was superb – I thought the 3D conversion was very good, the stunts, actions and graphics were certainly of a high standard and there was clearly a great effort to make Ra.One a visual feast. Also, as a one-time watch, with brain disengaged, a rowdy audience and a cynical companion or two, Ra.One is fun.

But the biggest problem with the film is the screenplay and script which can’t accommodate the expectations of the genre nor use the proficient grip on special effects to good use. Although Shekhar is a lovable character, we don’t really get the chance to emotionally connect with him or  anybody else and furthermore, a lot of the characters don’t really have a purpose – Ra.One (the villain) seems hell bent on avenging a minor humiliation, Sonia and Prateek seem to get over Shekhar’s death incredibly quickly and the Prateek-Shekhar relationship also doesn’t get enough scope to really make an impact. I also didn’t understand the bizarre cameos from Sanjay Dutt and Priyanka Chopra nor did I understand the unnecessary anti-Chinese sentiment in the film. Ra.One seems to struggle with what it wants to be, falling into the familiar trap of trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no-one.

Performance wise, SRK throws everything into the role and gives us highlights from his previous films (for me Shekhar had shades of Surinder from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi whilst G.One felt like Rizwan Khan from My Name Is Khan) – unfortunately, neither the script nor the direction give him anything to work with and I think this is a real shame as clearly, SRK has far more to offer than what is demanded from him. Similarly, Kareena has precious little to do, only coming alive when she turns evil but that is hardly enough. Like SRK, her character graph is dramatic but does not translate through to the actual film. Shahana Goswami is wasted which is “criminal” (pun intended) whilst Arjun Rampal gets given a direction and sticks to it, which works well for him but does not add to the film. Surprisingly, it is Armaan Verma and Tom Wu who turn in the best performances– not only are they believable but also capture the spirits of their respective characters and  manage to make the most of what they have.

I really wanted to like Ra.One and had hoped the reason for some of the negativity was down to the film trying something different. What is even more frustrating is that Ra.One could easily have looked at films like Endhiran/Robot or even Krrish (which all tread on similar territory but with far more success) and used that as a starting point from which to move on from. There has been talk of a sequel and even a franchise and though this would normally fill me with horror, if the makers can learn from the mistakes of this film and put some quality time in with a strong script and story arc, Ra.One may just go on to achieve what it wants to in the long term (bench mark cinema, international plaudits etc). But for now, it’s a spirited effort but not quite a G.One…

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