Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ra.One Review

One day aliens will land on Earth to give us answers to the secrets of the universe. But, because of films like RA.ONE they will deem us unworthy and return to their planet. And we will still live in a world where uninspired cinema burns wallets.   

RA.ONE is the marriage of Bollywood’s least attractive couple – star power and unoriginality. This is a shameless rip-off of every single iconic science fiction film - all it's missing are the likable characters, good performances, and the action. The film plays like a slapdash assemblage of the greatest hits of sci fi action cinema. A majority of it flails around with cheesy videogame-babble, a lame attempt at romance between stars Shahrukh and Kareena, and a bizarre climax that reeks of desperation. After two hours forty minutes of this, even atheists would want to storm Buddhist monasteries to find an oasis of serenity.  

Despite its huge budget, RA.ONE neither excites nor even entertains. It exists to move merchandise - specifically, SRK’s oversized star power and marketing machine. It also succeeds in satisfying a dozen different pubescent fantasies, while simultaneously violating every aspect of logic and good taste – which allows director Anubhav Sinha to officially kill more brain cells than drugs and alcohol. To add to the frustration, the film even commits the cardinal sin for an SRK movie – it's very, very dull. No matter how hard director Sinha shakes it and prods it with a sharp stick, RA.ONE just doesn't spring to life. Mr Khan is no stranger to cornball excess, but RA.ONE is his chef-d'oeuvre. It is alarming to be underwhelmed by a movie where Shahrukh Khan deploys two guises and elaborate futuristic sets to no particularly memorable effect. Rarely has so much money delivered so little entertainment.

So what’s wrong? For one, the big CGI action sequences pack the entertainment oomph of ditchwater. The noise is so headache-inducing that we welcome even the silly dialogue that forms most of the movie. The comedic attempts have the capacity to put viewers into a catatonic state - the jokes range from crass to shrill to vulgar. In one scene Shahrukh tries to pull his car keys out of a woman’s cleavage mouthing double entendre lines; he then grabs Kareena’s bosom; a male security guard makes SRK take his shirt off, and licks his lips seductively at the sight of his pierced nipples; our hero fights with three scantily clad Chinese babes named Iski Lee, Uski Lee & Sabki Lee. Even by the degraded standards of dim-witted blockbusters, this is sorry stuff. 

The characters seem to be out of a cinematic thrift store - Kareena looks gorgeous, but her character is aggressively stupid and blissfully unaware of it. The talented Shahana Goswamy, woefully miscast, delivers her lines as if her mouth and her brain live in different states. Dalip Tahil’s hilariously fake wig seems to be the superhero's greatest arch nemesis. 

The plot veers from boring to idiotic and slapdash. SRK plays Shekhar Subramaniam, a video game developer who invents a game with a villain so powerful that he comes to life and murders his creator. Enter the other SRK, G.One, who is assigned to protect Shekhar’s wife (Kareena) and son (Armaan) and kill the villainous Ra.One (Arjun Rampal). There is not an ounce of originality here – Ra.One shifts shapes and regenerates like T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’; and he has a heart like Iron Man. G.One saves a train just the way SpiderMan does; and he fights with Ra.One in Mortal Kombat-esque levels. It's not new. It's not interesting. I wish it would go away.  

What really hurts is that none of the characters matter. So little of real consequence is at stake that you'll have plenty of time to notice not one but two dozen plot contrivances. Even in its best moments, RA.ONE is completely oblivious to its own inherent stupidity. In one instance Subramaniam uses his fingers to eat spaghetti with curd, just to highlight our hero’s South Indian heritage. Where are laugh tracks when you need them? 

Of course one cannot expect much logic in a film where a video game comes to life, it’s just that the thrills in RA.ONE are almost apocalyptic in their stupidity. Kids in particular will hate this movie, when they realize that the feeling is mutual. The big action scene on the Mumbai local train is a total and complete misfire of intention and execution. The climactic battle is an utterly uninteresting, tiresome sack of pain that doesn't deserve one’s time or attention. It seems director Sinha does not realize that cold, hard cash is not the least bit a substitute for talent.  

There is little to recommend here beyond the Rajinikanth cameo, unless you like your Shahrukh endorsing, flag-waving fanboy jingoism taken to extreme lengths. It's hard to completely hate this movie, hokey as it is, because you still want to root for the good guy in the end. But you can't help but wonder why Mr Khan didn't save himself a lot of time and money and just make a video game instead of a movie.  

Shahrukh as a South Indian exudes so much ham that RA.ONE works as a nightmare for carnophobics. He is a lot more likable as the hero G.One, but he is required to chew on the driest of dialogue, and to strike poses in a suit that makes him look callow rather than heroic.  While I cannot support his choice of wearing a wig or roping in an Akon lookalike, I will give him plenty of points for hoping to end Arjun Rampal’s reign of terror, as his work in ‘Raajneeti’ was an affront to humanity. Even here, Rampal in the Ra.One suit looks more like a contestant at a costume party instead of a frightening villain.  

RA.ONE is a scandalous waste of cinematic resources. It is a movie that is proud to be imbecilic, loud and inconsequential, and is ultimately memorable for being forgettable.  

First published in Mumbai Boss