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Film Review: RA.One

Film Review: RA.One

October 31, 2011

A technical accomplishment but also proves that Hindi cinema is still lacking in good storytelling and scripts.

At one point in Anubhav Sinha's ambitious RA.One, the grimacing robotic villain wanders through a Dussehra celebration, curious about its rituals. On getting an explanation from a group of boys, he tells them (creepy villain voice included), "You burn Raavan on this day every year because you know that he never dies. He who is killed once need not be killed again and again." Shah Rukh Khan's pet project is designed and mounted as a grand superhero-vs.-supervillain saga that rattles along on the premise that evil never quite goes away. Although good may keep winning battles, the war is ongoing.

Unfortunately, the film tries to show that and everything else under the sun. It is definitely a technical accomplishment for Hindi cinema but ludicrously silly, and at times regressive, in its attempt to connect with the audience.

The simple plot involves a London-based geeky and heavily stereotyped South Indian video game designer Shekhar Subramanium (Khan in a cringeworthy curly wig) desperate to earn the respect and admiration of his indifferent son, Prateek (Armaan Verma), while listening to his wife Sonia (Kareena Kapoor) go on about her PhD on sexism in cuss words. Upon repeated lecturing from his son on how villains are cooler than heroes, Shekhar designs a new video game in which the villain, Ra.One (based on the demon Raavan), is indestructible. Prateek is won over, just as the villain develops artificial intelligence and crosses over from the game world into the real world, killing the man that created him, Shekhar.

Lots of destruction and chase sequences later, Prateek, with the help of Shekhar's colleague Jenny (an underused Shahana Goswami) bring to life Ra.One's only challenger, G.One (named to sound like jeevan, or life), who incidentally looks like Shekhar. More chases and destruction happen until the climactic battle between good and evil. The special effects sequences - in the video game, chases and fights - are actually the highlight of the film. The rampage through the streets of London, the first clash between Ra.One and G.One at a car junkyard, and the thrilling (but lengthy) speeding train sequence in Mumbai are choreographed and shot innovatively, giving fans of superhero fare something to enjoy. The effects are believable and usually thrilling, although not necessarily designed for 3D viewing.

The biggest downer in the film, however, is that the writers (and there are a total of six credited) do their level best to make the scenes and dialogues as pedestrian and unfunny as possible. When so much effort has gone into making the film look sleek and high-tech, desperate gags involving kicks to the crotch, peeks at cleavage, jokes about condoms, effeminate gay airport security officers, and lots more, fall completely flat and detract heavily from what could have been a solid superhero film with international appeal. The jokes are almost as crude as the ones used in Robot - another superhero droid film that was initially offered to Khan and whose eventual star, Rajnikanth, actually makes a brief yet inexplicable appearance in RA.One as the same character, Chitti.

While Sinha and Khan were probably aiming for a film with mass appeal - a la Salman Khan's recent thunderous box office successes - a bit more focus on logic would have helped RA.One by leaps and bounds in becoming a superhero film of international standards. The video game itself, for example, seems grossly undercooked. The game - which is supposed to have cost millions and developed on such a grand scale - only has three levels, and only one way for either Ra.One or G.One to die. It lacks the complexity needed to give the fight between good and evil a constant hook and emotional investment.

The film also hurtles through a variety of animation and mediums, which make for an unclear visual style. There's the other-worldly fantasy sequence in the beginning which involves Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt, the traditional 2D cartoon segments thrown in to explain parts of the video game, the world of the video game itself, and then the real world. In this equation, the fantasy and cartoon segments could have easily been done away with to maintain a coherent and crisp visual theme.

RA.One is an extremely pricey exercise in narcissism by Khan, who shows up in practically every single scene. He overacts as Shekhar and underacts as G.One, relying constantly on his star persona to sail through the film. Kapoor, otherwise without much to do in the film, is really only given character substance in an interesting twist towards the end. Arjun Rampal is brought in as the face (and shirtless body) of Ra.One too late in the film, having minimal impact. The only character that really evolves and connects with the viewer is Prateek, played by Verma. He is really the only one who seems to know what's going on throughout the film.

A labor of apparently five years - as both Khan and Sinha have stated - RA.One is not a bad film. The team gets the special effects parts right and proves that Hindi cinema can confidently move in that direction too. However, the film also proves that mainstream Hindi cinema is still lacking in good storytelling and scripts. Buried somewhere in the hodgepodge of genres, styles, offensive jokes and half-baked acting is an important message about the threat of artificial intelligence and our constant thirst to see how much creation and destruction we can enable.

The point that robotic Rampal makes about evil never dying is a strong one, yet one that is conveniently done away with for the sake of providing a wholesome mass entertainer. That hint of sinister darkness that so many Western superhero films have ventured into was noticeably missing in RA.One. It's a decent step in the right direction for sci-fi action-adventure films in Hindi cinema, but not pathbreaking by any means. 


  • bissan
    07.05.12 03:38 PM
    it was a great movie ,, srk u r the best
    Ra.One <3
  • The ITKID X
    The ITKID X
    29.01.12 02:16 PM
    I think that the film could have been made better and the first thought I had after watching it was how you could've made into a international acclaim winning proper sci-fi/superhero movie. That dialogue by Rampaal that "You burn him on this day every year because you know he never dies" is super cool as well as super wasted. There was no need for all the rubbish vulgar jokes and random comedy reliefs. How is Kareena laughing at G.One's antics just after her husband has died? Makes no Sense to me. I'm not saying it's rubbish. It's one hell of a movie for effects and completely (or almost completely) new to Indian Cinema but a little more logical though process would have helped a lot.

    The marketing was also done the wrong way. It was marketed as a super-slick only action and sci-fi movie, and it turns out being a comedy/drama which has parts of sci fi and action.

    All of the features described of Ra.One and G.One were never even mentioned in the movie, except for the Heart. The Game they've shown is also very random and not well thought out. 3 levels? Really? Even 10 levels is criticised now a days let alone 3. Mini-Games like Portal have 19 levels, and are asked to be longer.

    They should have also focused on Ra.One's character, because he really can act as the super-cool super-villain, except they gave him one awesome line, in front of 4 running away kids. SRK should have been less of a star and acted more instead. The best actor was that of Prateek.

    Ra.One was a good film, but I would like to see a remake/spin-off making it a lot better, or probably a better thought out sequel. Nice effects and good basic storyline but taken the wrong way.
    09.11.11 09:31 PM
    Dear NRI

    Come on dude some body needs to watch the pile of crap, PULKIT , PALLAVI AND THE WHOLE FAMILY OF THE ABOVE.
  • The NRI
    The NRI
    09.11.11 09:15 PM
    @Yohan – another relative?

    @Sanjay, sorry for missing you out earlier. You appear to be part of the same group.

    Guys, I think you are embarrassing yourself. The author has composed quite a balanced review of the movie – not great but not awful. I am concerned that your desperate attempts to hype the movie here will lead our intelligent readers to conclude that actually the movie is a pile of crap.
  • Yohan Rodriguez
    Yohan Rodriguez
    09.11.11 09:08 PM
    Ra.One grosses Rs 170 cr in first five days, breaks all previous records. Critics come critics go but the actual critics is us. I loved the movie. It's visually dynamic & a must watch!
    The director is able to pull it off with visual dazzlery and fast-paced storytelling that the genre demands.
  • The NRI
    The NRI
    09.11.11 09:06 PM
    Chandini / Kajal / Urvi - thank you for your comments. Although you all have different family names, you share the same IP address. I was interested if you are related or just paid representatives of the distributors, desperate to counter any review that might suggest the movie is anything other than a work of cinematic perfection?
  • urvi waghmare
    urvi waghmare
    09.11.11 08:46 PM
    What actually takes you by complete surprise is not just the money spent on visual effects or the stunning chase and action scenes, but the twists and turns in the screenplay. Ra.One is one such Cult Film which has changed the perspective of Bollywood.
  • kajal doshi
    kajal doshi
    09.11.11 08:24 PM
    Ra.One is a film which appeals to kids and kids at heart. In short, attempt a film that appeals to the universal audience. Do not miss this if you’ve ever loved the idea of mainstream commercial cinema.
  • chandini narang
    chandini narang
    09.11.11 07:41 PM
    Ra.One has touched the highest individual collection in circuits such as Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan. It should be a matter of pride for us to get to watch such an action packed & science fiction movie with great excellence. Go and watch Ra.One do not go on the review.
  • Sanjay
    07.11.11 04:24 PM
    Ra one really Rocks……Ra One has gotta be a blockbuster....Thanks to SRK for trying something new..
  • namikshaa
    06.11.11 01:09 PM
    it ws an awesome emotional movie......loved it lyk hell <3<3
  • Kruti
    04.11.11 12:09 PM
    I dont think Ra.One sucked...It had effects and some great moments- Gotta watch again! Its one of fun movie. True SRK style.
  • Pulkit
    01.11.11 06:47 AM
    @Writerzblock: I agree, the South Indian stereotypes were offensive, as were some of the other jokes. It's sad state of scriptwriting when they have to resort to such stabs to evoke laughter out of the audience. And it's not even funny.

    @Nihar: Good points - logic was missing. And the tag of "brainless entertainers" needs to be retired from Hindi cinema. Too many films are churned out with that disclaimer, which has become an excuse for shoddy writing.
  • Nihar Ranjan Ray
    Nihar Ranjan Ray
    01.11.11 03:59 AM
    Ra One could not full fill the expectation that we carried to see the movie. A hi tech film in Hindi but some more brainstorming on the flow of the story, logical linking of the concepts were highly missing. I hope the film could sail through SRK factor but definitely not a worth one.
  • Writerzblock
    31.10.11 03:27 PM
    Just watched Ra.One yesterday and am still regretting throwing all that money down the drain! What a ridiculous waste of money and effort! It was a stupid movie, I think an animated version would have been better.

    SRK's South Indian accent was disgustingly racist, and the 'noodles and curd' scene was downright insulting to Tamilians.

    I think Arjun Rampal and little Armaan acted so much better that ShahRukh himself.

    Like you very rightly said, it is a step towards sci-fi but not path-breaking, and certainly not worth remembering!

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