Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's wrong with Ra.One?

Contrary to what the title of this post implies, there are many things right with Ra.One. It is an ambitious film, in terms of scale and budget. It is India's most expensive film to date. It introduces the superhero genre to the Indian audiences. For some, it even has moments of breathtaking special effects. And no matter what the naysayers say, the film has already recouped its cost (over Rs 125 crores, according to actor and producer Shahrukh Khan) from the trade.

Lead actor Shahrukh Khan and director Anubhav Sinha wanted to make a superhero film for (their) kids. Both wanted to pay a tribute to the dads of the world that they are cool too. The boxoffice says they have succeeded in their effort. Good. I am happy for these two brave dads.

A dad's reaction

I took my daughter to the theatre to watch Ra.One last week. She liked it. She had already got hooked on to the Chamak Challo song. For a six year old, the story and the effects would have been overwhelming.

Personally, I wanted to like the film. I had loved Shahrukh's My Name is Khan, though many of my friends didn't like it--I have a weakness for films or literature with ideas and social messages: a sure sign of mediocrity, and I know Nabokov would not approve of it: A work of art has no importance whatever to society; it is important only to the individual, he has said. But I know what you are thinking already. Are Bollywood films even works of art? Can Nabokov's standards be applied to Bollywood or even Hollywood films? It is not even debatable, I know, I know (with some exceptions again).

Apart from its timeliness and social relevance, I had liked My Name is Khan because it was smoothly written and Shahrukh's acting was consistent in the film (excepting one or two scenes, if I remember correctly). The credit also must go to the film's director Karan Johar and writer, Shibani Bhatija. That film, and many of Shahrukh's earlier films, had led me to believe that Shahrukh had a great script sense and no matter who he worked with, he would bring up the film to a level that would make it appear grounded and polished. His Don with Farhan Akhtar is another recent example.

With Ra.One unfortunately I did not feel so. Despite the special effects (and many would say "I have seen better" effects), the film has many blurs and blotches. The characters are not grounded enough and everything has a plastic feel to it. The film is too episodic in nature and the seams in the story are visible. The trick is to hide them.

My problem, in regard to Ra.One, is clearly with the story and the writing. I will not discuss Shahrukh's acting here: the performance has been more or less consistent except for the scene towards the end of the film where G.One tells Prateek (Armaan Verma) that he has to 'go'. There, he slips into the My Name is Khan mode of acting.

Now, look at the writing credits of Ra.One (source: IMDB):

David Benullo
Kanika Dhillon dialogue
Kanika Dhillon screenplay
Niranjan Iyengar dialogue
Shah Rukh Khan screenplay
Mushtaq Sheikh screenplay
Anubhav Sinha story

When many writers work on a project, the resulting product could go in any direction. Example: Scorsese's Gangs of New York. Even though the film was based on a book and four writers worked on it, the film failed to appeal to many Scorsese fans. I am afraid the same has happened in Ra.One's case.

Superhero films needn't be for children alone (Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight is an example). And even for a children's film, I found some dialogues in Ra.One distasteful. At the film's beginning, in the fantasy sequence, the Bruce Lee and his three sisters-- Iski Lee, Uski Lee and Sabki Lee-- joke was not only trite but subpar (It belongs to, maybe, an Anurag Kashyap film dealing with characters who are Mumbai's scum). That too from a kid like Prateek (he is dreaming out this sequence) who is studying in England? Will his jokes be like this? I doubt that. Also, the kid is perhaps a genius geek, even though all he does is play video games, argue with his father and listen to loud music by Michael Jackson. In the first half of the film, he is writing an essay on his father in his classroom (makes him a primary school kid?); in the second half of the film, he successfully assembles G.One at his home. What a leap for kid like him!

The other distasteful jokes were the kondom, kondom joke and the power yoga joke. These could have been weeded out at the script level.

Shahrukh's V.Shantaram-loving Shekhar Subramaniam character is also a hodgepodge, just like his plate of noodles and curd. Back in India, all we see about Shekhar is an empty house and two neighbours. What is his backstory, guys?

I know all these points do not matter, now that the film is a success. Like Hollywood's, Bollywood's biggies too know the box office game too well. As has been noted in a book on summer blockbusters (read Diwali or Eid here), these big budget films will work no matter what kind of writing they employ. My only request to the Shahrukh Khans of Bollywood is that, please, encourage good writing. It is sad that it does not matter but it should.

I am sure Shahrukh will make a sequel of Ra.One (called G.One?) and it too will become a huge hit at the boxoffice. When it comes to the cinemas, I know that I will bring my daughter to the theatre to see it. I know that she will like it too--she is just a child. But can Shahrukh make his writers work harder this time, so that a dad like me can enjoy the film with his daughter, without having to squirm in his seat. That is my only request to Shahrukh Khan and his team.


Anonymous said...


As far as I remember most children in India tend to pick up wrong habits at an early age? How about the character Perpendicular in Gangs of Wasseypur?He doesn't smoke? In india atleast, students start masturbating since 6th grade. I think they have all the knowledge and generally forward non veg sms's to each other and also laugh at them? Don't children use that name "main part" at an early age? Don't children read Deadpool comics? Most children must have watched that movie which also has a crotch holding scene and similar sense of humour. Though it is rated R, children still watch by torrent hiding from their parents, right? I rally don't understand what is the criticism here? Acting? Really? The only other virtual character played in thehistory of wolrd cinema is in Virtuosity by Russel Crowe apart from SRK and Arjun Rampal. Isn't G.One like Neo from The Matrix only instead retaiins powers in the real world? I don't think there is even the slightest flaw with VFX except a car being blown up in mid air? It doesn't even feel like VFX, it actually feels real it feels like this is happening for real unlike the cartoon in Krrish3, Baahubali2, Enthiraan. Ra.One's special effects have clearly inspired the character of Electro who wears a hood unlike his comic costume which is green and yellow? And the concept is ripped off in Adam Sandler's Pixels?
I think it has fantastic characters, and original idea and VFX though it is reverse TRON, a little spy kids. The loud music VEERAAA is also used similarly in Baahubali 2 for gossebumps effect. Also kids are more attracted towards evil because it is powerful and seductive. So the movie has a wonderful message. I have never seen some of the unique shots during the action sequence in Azad Maidaan at the end of the movie. The concept is quite interesting owing to the real world research in fields of Internet of things, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligene. So I think it is logical to say such a technology is possible. I think the same masala is used in Ghajini, Bahubali2, and most blockbuster Indian movies. So tell me dude why it is so underrated in India and has 4.8 rating on IMDB? Why are Indians hypocritic assholes? Was the progressiveness of the characters too much to handle? Do Indians hate caricatures of South Indians and Mr. Bean himself? Do they not have a sense of humour to laugh at themselves? So what if it is a personal choice to eat noodles with curd? My friend once poured missle into his ice cream. Why are all the cusswords centred towards females and vagina and cunt? Please google and find out that such thesis papers actually exist. So I really don't understand what is Indians' problem whenever SRK does something interesting and Aamir again comes up a cynical 5 star script with patriotism and social message that is bound to be successful owing to the same hypocritical Indians who would rather watch a man torture his daughters physcially and turn them into sons and make them slaves to fulfil his goals?? I am really very clueless right now. I think Ra.One is still underrated and ahead of it's time for the Indian industry. It has original, wonderful characters with different powers which should be motivated and encouraged instead of overrated stuff that is making so much money. Krrish and all other Indian superheroes including Chitti look like cartoons in terms of special effects and how wonderfully Ra.One manages to make it seem all too real.It is a technical wonder. It would have been an international hit giving rise to India's own pop culture superheroes and comic books. But no, hypocritical Indians wouldn't allow it. But mediocre stuff like Bahubali2 gets such motivation. Why?

Did you know the only other virtual character played in the history of world cinema is Russell Crowe in Virtuosity?

Anonymous said...

You don't like Ra.One. Big deal. I love it. It is one of the few movies including Darr, Baazigar, Don, MNIK, Asoka where you will see an amalgamation of two cultures of film making -the east and the west. If Spy kids and Tron are ignored, Virtuosity is the only movie which has a virtual character played by Russell Crowe. And since the characters in the game in Ra.One were self-aware and adaptive owing to the artificial intelligence, the robot plus humanoid acting was to the point. Thesis on cuss words which are actually based on women and their body parts is actually progressive. The sense of humour like crotch jokes is similar to Deadpool. Also a video game character being a superhero is an original origin story which none of DC and Marvel has. The fight scenes are also quite original, and uses mutliple bullet time shots as in Matrix which is justified here and also the end with ten RaOne's is a nod to the mythology where the demon Raavan had 10 heads. The technology is actually possible because of research in Internet of things, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual and Augmented Reality concepts. For example Google VR and Pokémon Go respectively. Also it has original special effects of cube formation and blasts which are different from IronMan but closer to Dragon Ball. Infact similar special effects are used in The Amazing Spiderman 2 where the character Electro is nothing like in the comics. Adam Sandler's Pixels basically ripped off the concept of Ra.One although it may have been an idea formed out of Wreck it Ralph. The message is quite wonderful because considering the attraction and indifference of kids towards violence in games, movies, tv shows and badass characters is alarming. Cheers!