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RA.ONE: The Next VFX Generation - Review

© Hindi Cinema Blog

Shah Rukh Khan's dream film is finally out after much expectation this Diwali 2011.

The story of Prateek, a young boy who loves to play video games and how one of these games is brought to life is a concept that, according to director Anubhav Sinha, was born six years back when he watched a commercial that featured two children using a remote control on a human being. The original idea and Shah Rukh's dream of making a film that would cross all boundaries through the bold use of VFX resulted in developing a script about a superhero that, as Khan has explained, "saves mankind from Ra.One's (a new era Raavan) torment".

Ra.One has mainly created buzz prior to its release not only thanks to its all star cast and star cameos (Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and none other than the legendary Rajnikanth) but also because it features visual effects and stunts that are absolutely new to Indian cinema and is an ambitious project that has seen huge collaboration between Indian and international teams. A visible example to the audience is that of the Ra.One soundtrack, which was composed by Vishal-Shekhar and includes the participation of internationally acclaimed singer Akon for two of its songs, "Chammak Chalo" and "Criminal", in accordance with a sporadic crossover musical trend in Hindi films.

The marketing of Ra.One  has set a record as the "longest promotion in Bollywood history", having started as early as December 2010! One of the key elements in promoting the film has been keeping Arjun Rampal's avatar under tight wraps. The villain's skeletal look was only to be discovered late in promotions and this did create quite some expectation...

Part of the promotional strategies also included launching a Playstation 'G.One'  game based on the film and featuring original dubbing by the movie's actors. Apart from the Playstation game, a social game application named Ra.One Genesis was also launched and has encountered unprecedented success. All sorts of  collectibles have also been developed in accordance with the image of the film: G.One coffee mugs, T-shirts, watches, laptop skins, comics, video cameras and a collectible doll (similar to the Ghajini statuette, launched in 2009 by Aamir Khan).

Ra.One is the story of a father, Shekhar Subramaniam (Shah Rukh Khan), an un-herolike and Mr.Beany character who works as a graphics specialist in a video-game firm. Shekhar and his young wife, Sonia (Kareena Kapoor), have a son: Prateek (Armaan Verma). Prateek  admires villains and therefore his father creates a highly futuristic video game in which the villain, named Ra.One, is more powerful than the game's good guy and also has a mind of its own. Prateek bites the bait and excitedly begins to play with Ra.One, oblivious to what is to come next: Ra.One comes to life in this dimension and threatens to kill Prateek and destroy everything in its path. Shekhar consequently brings to life his game's good guy: G-One (also played by a blue-eyed Shah Rukh Khan) to destroy evil. The film stunts and special-effects its way through the story that antagonizes both forces.

The effects will have you exclaiming "Wow!", heck, even the trailer had me exclaiming the same. Supernatural stunts, special effects and fellow action-movie inspired scenes set an electrifying tone. Technologically and novelty-wise it is undoubtful that Ra.One has what it takes to have viewers flock to the cinema. It bedazzles the audience with visuals and more visuals that are complex, modern and fiery, served at a very decent rhythm, particularly in the film's first half. The story is however no classic nor does it drive down a point of wisdom or a larger than life plot. Once the video effects are surpassed in the next decade or so, Ra.One risks not having the power of endearment generated by a graphically simpler Robot or Krrish. As an action film, Ra.One remains however a highly commendable incursion into a modern-day visual and promotional department, bringing expectations several notches up in India for films to come.

An action hero story this certainly is. However, as much as I want to believe the "hero with a heart" quote from the promotions, I have to stop and wonder... I sincerely remember feeling more emotional while watching Superman in the 80s (with sensibly less VFX) feel a quiet love for Lois Lane. Indian cinema had all the keys to bring in the necessary amount of emotion into the film but for some reason has not. As entertaining as Shah Rukh's presence can be and as pleasant as Kareena Kapoor is to watch on screen, I personally find the lack of emotions in the film a serious error, particularly coming from a trademark Indian film.

The story and game theme should be able to successfully make a mark among the gaming generation of youngsters. There is however an element that personally failed to engage me and was at odds (in my opinion) with what was promised in the promotional campaign: the film does have its good dose of below the belt, regionalist or even sexist humour, some of it even served by Armaan Verma (the little boy character!).  Prateek is also a boy who is more worried by appearing cool than by being kind to others. All of the above to my judgement would not be suitable for a full-fledged "family film"...

Be aware that the second half of the film may seem as if a plot that was nicely being built up started unabashedly fizzling out. Having handsome Arjun Rampal successfully incarnate the evil forces was a good choice, but letting Prateek's mom also become Ra.One at a given point did seem way too far fetched even for a fantasy film and sadly made this viewer absolutely lose interest in whatever Kareena Kapoor had to do in the entire subsequent story.

Watch for huge entertainment of the eyes, not that much for plot or letting go off your emotions while you observe the lethal war between the pure and dark forces of the gaming universe. Do not expect to understand the reason underlying Ra.One's profound wrath either. The point is: Give your eyes a Diwali feast with handsome people on screen and state of the art VFX without asking for much more. Enjoy Ra.One for the phenomenal technological work that went into it and you will be able to say that your ticket was paisa vasool.

Visit the Ra.One official website
Visit the official Ra.One YouTube channel
Follow Ra.One news in Blogger
Purchase Ra.One IPhone/IPad app
Purchase Ra.One soundtrack

Director: Anubhav Sinha
Writers: David Benullo, Kanika Dhillon, Niranjan Iyengar, Shah Rukh Khan, Mushtaq Sheikh, Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal
Special appearances: Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Rajnikanth, Amitabh Bachchan (voiceover)
Soundtrack: Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani


JAY said...

Wow.. that was a very comprehensive review :)
Liked it.

Aline HindiCinemaBlog said...

Hi Jay! Thanks for stopping by :-) I also enjoyed reading your unbiased take on the film.

Latest Bollywood News said...

What I observed regarding this movie that different people have different opinion for this film. If two people watched this film together , then one liked it and one disliked it. I saw this film twice and equally enjoyed both time.

Aline HindiCinemaBlog said...

I am glad to read you enjoyed it, LBN. All tastes exist under the sun indeed and there is space for all types of films in the heart of different audiences.

Tamil cinema said...

Iam from Tamilnadu - I enjoyed Ra-one - esp shahrukh - But for me Endhiran (Robot) is a better film than Ra-one - just my views

Aline HindiCinemaBlog said...

Hello Tamil cinema,
Welcome to our blog :-) and lovely to read your views. In all honesty I think I also felt more entertained while watching Robot. Ra-One has the merit of going full on the special effects, etc, so that was to me the most spectacular thing about it. Would be interesting to know in more detail what you most enjoyed about SRK.

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