In Ra.One, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) the performer is faced with a different kind of challenge – that of going from being an over-actor to a wooden video-warrior. Now we all know that Mr. Khan can be quite a hamster, but wooden, he definitely ain’t. After watching Ra.One, one (no, this is us, the movie-watching folks; not another ‘one’ in the ones of this game-movie) does get the feeling that there are many other challenges that SRK’s product faces – one of the main ‘ones’ also being of sustaining the viewers’ interest for its running-time of 2.3 hours.

To talk about the story (game?), a stereo-typed Tamil programmer in London (yes yes, away from India of course to facilitate picturesque car crashes and chases amidst picturesque foreign locales) develops a video-game that houses a villain (Ra.One/trillion red pixels/Arjun Rampal) stronger than the hero (G.One/trillion blue pixels/SRK) to please his son who actually deserves a slap on his brat-face rather than appeasement. Unfortunately, for SRK’s video-games’ company employees and extras dancing away at the launch-party (nice to know that there are companies where you can be on a picnic and develop video games in these times of recession and austerities!) and SRK the geek, the villain jumps out of the game and into real-life to eliminate the son. Then follows the crash/chase/kaboom sequences and many other disjointed scenes that showcase G.One protecting the son and mom from Ra.One.

SRK deserves full merit for his dream – that of bringing sci-fi to the Hindi screen with aplomb. Unfortunately, it remains just that and when it comes to execution of that dream-plan, he falters in a big way. Awry would be a euphemism to describe that plan. I nursed huge apprehensions when SRK announced the name of Mr. Anubhav Sinha – a man known for his technical details rather than writing skills– as the helmer of this (mis) adventure. However, being a firm believer of the adage ‘innocent until proven guilty’, I went ahead with a positive outlook. Alas, the opposite of the aforementioned adage proved true in this case. Mr. Sinha, the director, as well as the writers of this film, are the main culprits in turning this film into a hotchpotch; a messy product like the mix of noodles and curd SRK the geek prefers as his main course for dinner! The guilt, if not more, should be equally shared by SRK for letting the movie go haywire. For some unfathomable reason, SRK is privy to rather crude, pointless, racist, homophobic, and sexist scenes in the movie. Some of the jokes are so vulgar and squirm-inducing that the viewer is confused as to whether s/he is watching a Dada Kondke movie or a SRK movie! SRK is known off-screen for his sharp wit and sense of humor. Now, thanks to Ra.One, we know that he also has a potty sense of humor. This disgusting mélange of vulgarity serves no one: neither the adults nor the children and the teens that are supposed to be the target audience.

Actually, this type of subservience to the least common denominator is the primary undoing of Ra.One. It gives the impression that SRK started off with lofty visions and ideas and mid-way, developed cold feet owing to the commerce of this project and decided to dump in as many factors of safety as possible. Hence the crotch-oriented shots, vulgar dialogues, the karva-chauth scenes (in a sci-fi movie!!), white muggers in downtown London mugging/threatening in Hindi (uh!!!), the songs that jump in from nowhere, the mis-guided reference to Raavan (the ten-headed king should now be turning in his grave after being unceremoniously referenced and used twice within a gap of 16 months, doing more harm to his ‘image’ than his actual wrong-doings!), the unnecessary and ill-thought-out reference to mythology (trying to discern the input of Lord Ganapati after an Hancockian attempt to stop a Mumbai local). Succumbing to such ‘Indian’ sentiments, the team succeeds in failing this project. Because of such indulgences and compromises, the breathtaking moments in the film can be virtually counted on the finger-tips. Two instances; one of G.One climbing on top of a water-tank building in London and finding Ra.One very much at the top of the edifice, signifying metaphorically and literally Ra.One’s superiority (it’s a terrific combination of the background score and the camera-work in this particular scene, the camera lingering on the faceless Ra.One and the wooden G.One); and a kinetically choreographed chase sequence atop/aside/beneath a Mumbai local, provide high-voltage thrills mandatory to this genre of movie-making. The rest of the screen time is a laborious attempt at stitching up the film. The climactic clashes between Ra.One and G.One would go down as one of the most turgid ones in recent history.

The performances range from good to passable. A photo-shopped SRK is okay as G.One, horrible as the Tamil (weird that he quotes V. Shantaram instead of M.G.R. or Gemini Ganesan – another instance of pandering to the audience) geek; Kareena looks like a billion bucks and maybe that was all that was expected of her; Aman Verma playing the brat is competent; Arjun Rampal ‘looks’ the villain. The technical aspects of the film are, as expected, above par. The direction is messy. It is sad to see Mr. Sinha plagiarize Tron, Terminator 2, Mr. Bean (the bumbling idiot that doesn’t know to park a car), Batman Begins, Iron-Man, Hancock, and what have you after claiming that he spent 5 years of his life on Ra.One.

I never thought I would endorse a Rajnikanth film, but ROBOT, by comparison, is Ben-hur to this Caligula.

– An Jo