Ra.One: India’s hero is super

Published: November 2, 2011
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Sharrukh Khan, who plays both G.One and Shekhar, is quite terrible in his role as the programmer and a father. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Kareena Kapoor, who plays his mother, is lacking in some of her more demanding scenes. PHOTO: PUBLICITY Sharrukh Khan, who plays both G.One and Shekhar, is quite terrible in his role as the programmer and a father. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Ra.One is extremely illogical, unevenly paced, clumsily acted at times and misses a lot of opportunities – yet like that annoying stray cat, which rubs against your leg outside of your house every day, the film is somewhat charming, even if its flaws do scratch you on the face along the way.

This charm, in large part, is due to Armaan Verma (Prateek Subramanium), the charismatic child actor in Ra.One who easily steals every scene he takes part in. This is his first Bollywood shindig, and obviously uncorrupted by the exaggerated acting culture of the Indian film industry, he does something unheard of in the history of Indian cinema: he doesn’t overact; when he is required to show grief, rather than beat his chest and scream expletives, he displays restrained sorrow; when he flirts with his next door neighbour, instead of making creepy facial expressions, he uses an engaging smile; when he is taking part in action sequences, rather than display an intense look which could easily be mistaken for constipation, he simply shows steel in his eyes, and uses just the right pitch in his voice.

In fact, the rest of the film’s Indian cast could learn a lot from Armaan Verma. Kareena Kapoor, who plays his mother, is lacking in some of her more demanding scenes. And Shahrukh Khan, who while adequate when playing the role of the superhero G.One, is embarrassingly bad as a father.

However, the worst of the film is the ridiculous plot, which takes a lot of failed inspiration from sci-fi Hollywood films. In it, Shekhar Subramanium (Sharrukh Khan), a programmer, at the insistence of his son Prateek, develops a video game where the villain, Ra.One, is more powerful than its superhero, G.One. At some point, thanks to what the film tells us is some ground-breaking technology, the villain Ra.One, transfers himself to the real world, into the body of a display dummy of the video game’s villain. But unfortunately, the silliness doesn’t end there. In the real world, not only does Ra.One inexplicably retain his virtual world superpowers, including the ability to shift forms to look like another person, but is also superhumanly strong and fast. How is this possible if Ra.One inhabits the body of a display dummy? Doesn’t any of this violate some fundamental law of physics? The film does try to make some attempt to explain it, talking about experimental technology, but it just comes off as lazy plot writing.

And after Ra.One kills Shekhar, Prateek, using the same technology, brings the video game’s superhero G.One, who was modeled after his father, to life as well. And yes, as you may have guessed, G.One also comes to life in a display dummy’s body.

As I said, Sharrukh Khan, who plays both G.One and Shekhar, is quite terrible in his role as the programmer. Here, he is clearly inspired by the bumbling behaviour of Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent in the Superman films, but overacts to an uncomfortable level. He attempts to portray Shekhar as a harmless, inept, and blundering buffoon, but tries so hard, that instead of feeling sorry for Shekhar, we feel sorry for Sharrukh Khan, and his miserable acting chops instead.

To the film’s credit, the narrative achieves some poignancy when G.One comes to life. When G.One meets the widow of Shekhar, she struggles with the memories of her dead husband in scenes that are both touching and adequately performed by Kareena Kapoor. And in what are interesting moments clearly inspired by films like Terminator 2, G.One slowly befriends Prateek, who is constantly reminded of the memories of his dead father by the superhero’s presence.

The film has some decent 3D effects, while it also has a lot of snazzy and intense action sequences, some of which are quite effective, including an entertaining train crash sequence. Unfortunately, the film’s climatic action set piece is also its most lacklustre, letting the movie end with a whimper, rather than the important bang an action film needs.

But on the whole, while the action scenes are worth watching, the film does suffer from poor characterization. For a film about a superhero, both its superhero and its super villain are as uninteresting and one dimensional, as video game characters are stereotyped to be. In the end, while the film does achieve its goal of having special effects on par with Hollywood cinema, regrettably, it doesn’t feel like it had its sights set too high otherwise.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Harsh Kalra

    Yeaaaa…i dnt think the movie was illogical. It was a simplification of a technology that can very well exist(though not in the near future, but that is si-fi for you). This done so that the children can enjoy the movie. Most of the people dont understand si-fi. The part where the write here is complaining about that how do they retain their superpowers in the real world. Well it is simple to understand, if you know more about electromagnetic waves. It is using the codes that is actually roaming around in the air,so to say, and using the the law of physics of electricity to produce a blast of energy directed towards something. Maybe the writer here should look in to the future techs that are in development. An example of that is a person can use a stick to form an alphabet in the air(air as in an area in the air around you that is charged with electromagnetic waves) and it will correspondingly write that letter in the electronic device that you want it(baring the fact that the device is capable of receiving this information, which should be the case). Now dont confuse this with hand gesture recognition. This is different. And please before commenting on technologies do read more about them.Recommend

  • shaker

    wat type of movies does this media wants its a good movie and the acting of every actor in the movie is the best the people who wrote this blog are very crazy people they dont like superhero movie neither the like romance movies or some other type i want to ask a question from all of u wat kind of movies do u like and the movies one which u want go try making it your self these heros are trying to entertain us with their best and u all just give bad comments to it. Recommend

  • Rsingh

    Kareena looks fabulous, action sequences are quite good but rest of movie is pain to watch.Recommend

  • jabir

    Nice Movie

    burai acchhi nahi hoti ………………Recommend

  • Neha Bakshi

    “This is his first Bollywood shindig, and obviously uncorrupted by the exaggerated acting culture of the Indian film industry, he does something unheard of in the history of Indian cinema: he doesn’t overact; “
    Is the author saying that all actors overact in all films ? Have u seen Taare Zameen par, dil chahta hai, 3 idiots, DDLJ, Pinjar, lagaan, wake up sid, jab we met, tere bin laden, art movies ( heard of deepa mehta and shyam benegal ? ), the cinema of the 1960’s and 1970’s ? Movies like anand ???? Have u seen these movies ? Would you say the actors ” overacted ” in these outstanding movies ? there are hundreds of wonderful movies i could list but can’t coz i really do not have the time but i want to say this —- I am aware pakistani’s hate india and vice versa and strangely enough it is this hate of each other that defines our notions of patriotism, but it is ok for us to make such obnoxious comments and try to undermine the good coming out of each others’ countries ? Some food for thought noman ansari. Instead of dishing out such Exaggerated criticism, why not take pride in the fact that there is atleast one awesome film industry in south asia that is producing some good art ? Recommend

  • Shahan Fraz

    At least respect the guy for what he has given to his industry…! Only actor in Bollywood who had the guts to play a gamble this big, putting his money, reputation and position on the line…! Still the illiterate public wants masala in the movies but not looking to the big picture or don’t want to look….Recommend

  • ashok sai

    he does something unheard of in the history of Indian cinema: he doesn’t overact

    Can I say something similar, “Author does something unheard of in the history of Pakistan media: he doesn’t write lies” .

    Sir, you cannot generalise things, be specific in your allegation or else avoid those obnoxious wordings.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    hahahaha most awesome comments ever. :) Recommend

  • watcha….

    @Noman Ansari:
    Hahaha … most awesome reply ever. Do you have an intelligent comeback to the tough questions asked by the indian lady ?Recommend

  • sidraa khan

    That’s all you gotta say noman ? ” most awesome comments ever ”
    Is that your defence mechanism — laugh it off ? Expected an intelligent reply.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @watcha….:

    hahahaha in terms of intelligence, no my response was directionally proportional to her explanation.

    Yes, particle physics manipulation to the point where video game AI is making fantasy reality by taking the form of plastic on a display dummy, and increasing its strength, endurance. and break simple physics laws makes TOTAL sense. :)

    I want to see how I can punch a hole in a mannequin today, and how it can suddenly brush of bullets a second after Ra.One.

    The origins of all superheroes are exaggerations of science. This isn’t an exaggeration. This is just retarded.

    Trying to be so open minded that you can feel the breeze passing through your brain isn’t intelligent… it is fanboyism. :) Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @sidraa khan:

    I can only counter intelligent comments with an intelligent reply. Anything less, and I can’t stop laughing. :) Recommend

  • Azmat

    Seriously whats wrong with you guys? (commentators). Why cant you people take some criticism? or take something lightheartedly? Recommend

  • Modazul

    Shahrukh khan seems to be going trough a mid life crisis. The movie is just a crap version of The Matrix and a desperate and failed attempt of Hollywood to create a superhero. I would say it more confidently that Aamir Khan is the best of the Khans so far and amitabh bacchan is the best. Shahrukh khan needs to stop thinking that he’s young. He’s old now.Recommend

  • sidraa khan

    @noman ansari – so you find nothing wrong with the generalisation you just made – he does something unheard of in the history of Indian cinema: he doesn’t overact; “ do you think such comments are intelligent … i thought we hate it when people generalise and call all islamic countries barbaric, terrorists etc but we ourselves have no qualms about making stupid generalisations about others ? Recommend

  • ashok sai

    @Noman Ansari:

    Ha ha ha……

    “The superiority complex is one of the ways which a person with an inferiority [feeling] complex may use as a method of escape from his difficulties”. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @sidraa khan:

    hahaha I see my sarcasm and sense of humor was lost on you. :) Recommend

  • vickram

    I wonder if the Pakistanis would have so wholeheartedly embraced this trashy movie if the hero is someone other than a ‘khan’…..someone like Hrithik, or Akshay or some hindooo..

    I doubt it. Recommend

  • Adil

    Its a RAW CIA MOSSAD conspiracy to humiliate Pakistan. Ya Allah KhairRecommend

  • Hassan

    @ Sidraa Khan
    Stand up and take some criticism lady. We are talking abt movies here. Fantasy stuff, nothing more.
    Generalizing about a whole 2 billion human race called Muslims is a totally different thing. The author’s comment was sarcastic at best. (Not like we havent ever seen overacting in Indian Cinema)

    @ Neha Bakshi
    We love Indian films. Accepted that your soaps are DEFINITELY much more than just exageration, but the overall quality of your films that we tend to see here is good enough. \
    Saying all this, I would also say that you do not have to necessarily bring in the India-Pakistan hate factor. Take some criticism as it is without bringing in unnecessary political distrust for each other into it.

    @Noman Ansari
    Dude please stop exagerating unnecesarily when writing reviews. There have been numerous high quality Indian films which do not have the “beat his chest and scream expletives” type of things in them. Recommend

  • Neha Bakshi

    @vickram:
    buzz off / butt out okay ? Take your religious wars and biases elsewhere.
    and no body is embracing this movie. All people are saying is that there should be no stupid generalisations.

    P.S. —- amitabh and madhuri have had a great following in PAK. by the way … for your information and knowledge.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    @ashok sai:

    Let’s not talk about superiority complex when you are seeking validation of your own opinion of the film from what you read in a review. Just because I think it is subpar, doesn’t mean you can’t like it. :)Recommend

  • http://www.zorpion.wordpress.com Zain Iqbal

    Why does everything have to be Pak vs India? :SRecommend

  • ashok sai

    @Noman Ansari:

    Thanks for the reply, for your information I haven’t seen the film and I am not going to. You are deviating away from the point of discussion, again I ask you, how can you generally criticize the entire Indian film industry ??? Don’t say its meant humour or sarcasm. I hope you follow certain discipline when writing on a public domain.

    RegardsRecommend

  • Bigboy

    One review and it becomes Indo-Pak, hindu-muslim war. Take it with a pinch of salt. After all it’s only an opinion and subjective. To some extent it displays the reviewer’s knowledge/ignorance. Possibly the reviewer has only seen movies where actors overact. No need to hang him for that, as there are a good number of Indian movies with overacting.
    Anyway he has been very kind to the child actor in Ra-One. Most of the Indian reviewers haven’t been too impressed by Armaan Verma.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    Real constructive criticism done by the author. Honestly I didn’t find the movie as bad as most Indian critics and bloggers are making it out to be. But then i am true blue SRK fan and hence unabashedly biased. The movie has great music, comedy, awesome special effects and action with emotional quotient. Basically a complete package to watch with family. Anyways its so better than movies like Bodyguard and Dabangg which make hundreds of crores without bothering to write a screenplay or decent dialogues.

    @Neha Bakshi – I honestly believe you are overreacting to the statement ” he does something unheard of in the history of Indian cinema: he doesn’t overact” .The topic here is cinema & not Indo-Pak border dispute. One should not react sensitively to each and every statement. Infact I enjoy the so called ‘overacting’ of Indian actors which are a characteristic of Hindi movies. Don’t you love the emotional drama of a Karan Johar film? A masala bollywood entertainer can make you laugh , cry , dance with joy , thump to the music and LIVE the emotions of the stars on screen . They take you faraway from the rigamorale of daily life. So what if they at times over the top, the ever increasing number of bollywood fans across the world prove that people enjoy such high drama entertainers, Recommend

  • Omar

    haha I had this running joke with a friend as kid about how Indians tend to get a tad bit obsessive about the most trivial things. When I got older I realized how politically incorrect my opinion was. It’s too bad ashok sai just justified the thoughts a 12 year old had once upon a time. Recommend

  • Farzana Dawakhana ki Farzana

    Noman, how dare you criticize an Indian movie. Indian movies are the best thing in the world after a slice of bread, NOT. I can’t understand why your review has been blown out of proportion into a full scale Indo-Pak war. I guess some people are way too jazbati or watch too many Indian movies. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @ashok sai:

    I think you should follow certain disciplines when reading a review. :) Recommend

  • shabbir

    This author has a habit of saying something anit-India in all his blogs in a very subtle manner. Normally his blogs do not attract responses , but once he inserts his anti-India statements, it generates a lot of traffic. good tactic.Recommend

  • http://Mumbai Blunt!

    @Noman – Man, u’re so full of urselves. Btw, I saw BHAI LOG, it was better than Ra.One!Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @shabbir:

    hahahahaha magnificent. You have stumbled upon my master plan to get hits.

    Yes, the comments are hilarious, but they make me feel sorry for the state of humanity. :) Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Blunt!:

    Yourself… not selves. My multiple personality disorder was cured ages ago! Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Ganesh:

    Salam Bombay, and Monsoon Wedding are some of my favorite movies. :)

    As for the stars… they are the rating of this article by readers and not my rating of the film. :)

    I would give it a 2.5 out for 4 if I had to. Recommend

  • maz3tt

    Well Sharukh khan is the badshah because of his roles in romantic movies which is still loved and liked all over . he should stick to that .ra one got good effects (i would really like to mention the train crash )indeed will act as a revolution in bolywood but story line as the writer pointed out was really very uneven. sharukh khan’s acting was also not up to the mark.Recommend

  • Ali

    1.5 out of 5. And that’s for the special effects. The less said about the plot and acting, the better.Recommend

  • Elly

    complete wastage of timeRecommend

  • S

    @ all the Indian comment leavers, especially the lady:
    That she put DDLJ in the same stream of movies as the genius Shyam Bengal says something.
    I don’t think anyone will deny that (commercial) Indian movies (generally) thrive on over acting and melodrama. No one is saying that’s a horrid thing to do, and no one is saying they shouldn’t, if the public wants it. But YES, even the most enjoyable and fun Indian movies are often unrealistic and melodramatic. Case in point: KKHH, where the heroine doesn’t marry for 8 years until the hero’s daughter is old enough to patch them up. wtf. you would’ve thought Rani would leave the letters to her father to expedite the case :)
    As an aside, i think Noman wrote the statement “all of them overact” as a satirical comment. There was no need to blow it out of proportion. Peace :)Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Actually, I should written ‘overact’ as regards to the fans. MUHAHAHAH! Recommend

  • Neha Bakshi

    @ s —
    That you have such a low opinion of indian movies ( commercial ) BUT still watch them ( generally, as you’ve quoted the rani and srk starrer ) says something, actually it says a LOT. Shyam benegal and DDLJ are completely different genres but they are all INDIAN CINEMA. i was just asking the author not to generalise and wanted to quote some good work.
    @noman — Every action has a equal and opposite reaction !! :)) Peace !! Recommend

  • shabbir

    @Author: You write pretty well compared to the other bloggers and have a very cosmopolitan view and modern outlook.
    Why do you waste time writing about ‘loser’ topics like reviewing totally dumb movies?
    And like I said before, why bait the Indians with your ever so subtle inserts which you know are going to generate a bevy of responses. lol
    Makes me wanna think, you are more interested in bantering with the readers rather than sticking to the topic of your blog itself.Recommend

  • unknown

    best movie ever…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Patrick

    Dear Author

    Correct me if I am wrong but where does logic and laws of physics (or Biology) come into a any Super Hero movie ? …

    Are Superman, Spiderman logical and scientifically accurate ? of course not.

    This is meant to be escapist, popcorn entertainment, it is not an intellectual excercise or a scientific treatise !Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    It is an exaggeration of the truth. Superman is an alien being. The X-Men have mutations. Iron Man is a super rich dude with an advanced suit.

    Ra.One? Oh Ra.One is a display dummy.

    I wasn’t looking at it as an intellectual exercise, but perhaps my basic tolerance levels are just a bit higher than yours. :) Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Whoops. lower. :P Recommend

  • optimist

    It seems our Indian friends find some bias in the review.
    .
    If they look for reviews of Pakistani media/films/novels,
    they would realise that Pakistanis thrive in criticising everything. Even ET thrashed Bol first
    but
    changed its tone when it was received positively in Indian press!Recommend

  • ramesh

    @ author

    I fully agree with your view that Bollywood films are mediocre and pathetic. Especially the ones starring the stars such SRK, Salman Khan, Akshay etc. But, don’t equate Bollywood nonsensical movies with Indian cinema.

    In case you don’t know, here are a few facts:
    — Most of the hindi blockbusters are re-makes of Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam movies.
    — Malayalam film industry is known for making quality, thought provoking movies. Adoor Gopalakrishnan is famous abroad than in Hindi belt.
    — Malayalam film industry is known for making wonderful movies out of novels. In Bollywood, this is unheard of. D-company finances most of the films produced in Mumbai, they don’t have literary taste.
    –You people have heard only about the Khans. But the finest film technicians come from South.
    –In Tamil film industry, the young directors are constantly pushing the boundaries. Innovative scripts, and scintillating music you will find in many movies. Can’t say the same about Bollywood movies.
    — Bengali movies have an indescribable charm of their own. Of course, they are not meant for people looking for escapist fare.
    –Marathi film industry have produced excellent movies like Dombivili Fast, Shwaas etc.
    — Then, there is a bunch of movie makers of cross-over cinema, who make films in Hindi and English.

    The pity is that you guys have no chance of getting exposed to such wonderful movies from India except the crap produced by the ‘Khandaan’ in BollywoodRecommend

  • Girl

    @Noman ansari enjoyed reading your replies more then the actual blog =DRecommend

  • Raj

    @Noman Ansari

    Bollywood is just a part of Indian cinema and not ‘Indian cinema’. As a wannabe film critic, you should do away with the Pakistani attitude of stereotyping everything Indian. Stereotyping just exposes ignorance and prejudices without adding substance to criticism. You have not seen recent releases like ‘Udaan’, ‘Sahib Biwi aur Gangster’, ‘Delhi Belly’, ‘Love Sex aur Dhoka’, ‘Peepli Live’, ‘Dhobi Ghat’ etc. You have not come across thiese movie because there is no cinema infrastructure in your country to exhibit offbeat movies. Offbeat movies require a chain of multiplexes to segment the movie going public. Otherwise, only movies for a mass audience make business sense. And people in India like others around the world love escapist fares. Arthur Clarke once commented that everybody except for jailers like escapism. In the subcontinent, escapist cinema is melodramatic, exaggerated and colorful. At the same time there are people like Sathyajit Ray,Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Rithwik Gattak, Govind Nihalani, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Padmarajan, Aravindan etc who have made excellent realistic movies in the Indian context. Even Manirathnam and Ram Gopal Varma have made films accepted by critics in the West- if Western cinema is your idea of intellectual excellence. Youngsters in the Tamil film industry are reinventing the whole style of commercial movie making in the south by writing realistic scripts and using unknown actors. The best technicians in Indian cinema are from Tamil Nadu- ranging from V. Manikandan to A.R Rehman, from Shankar to Maniratnam. A state with a population of 70 million has had 7 films ( and still counting) that collected more than $ 12 million( INR 600 million and PKR 1.1 billion) each in 2011. A recent movie in Malayalam, ‘Salt n Pepper’ weaves a plot around the five human senses and another movie, ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’ tells the spiritual story of a man who wants to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but with an ecological twist. All these movies are representatives of Indian cinema. Please read some reviews by Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli before taking a shot at this genre of writing.Recommend

  • bangash

    bollywood songs are great, movies are junk.Recommend

  • Kamran Shahin

    I think you nailed it when you compared the movie to a stray cat. I shouldn’t like it, I really shouldn’t, but I just do, despite all the silliness!

    The special effects were very good. I saw it in cinema in 3D and the experience was superior to several Hollywood 3D movies that have come out over the last year. Also, the cinema was equipped with an awesome sound system which really made Ra-One’s voice sound quite impressive.

    As for Shahrukh Khan, I actually sort of liked him as the programmer / dad. Yes, he did overact, but I have seen many of those mannerisms (watered down, of course) in real life.

    As G-One … well, from that point he seemed to think he was acting in a sequel to My Name is Khan.Recommend

  • malik

    The only reason we don’t want to bash up this particular movie is because the producer and the lead actor of the movie belongs to our lovely Ummah. We don’t want to hurt him financially, do we?

    I don’t see any reason other than this for the kid-gloved treatment of Pakistani fans towards this rotten Ra.One.Recommend

  • Stenson

    Another cheezy Indian movie that some illiterates in Pakistan and the developing world want to watch. Sorry not for me and not for most educated Pakistanis who prefer Western movies from the US or Europe. Leave the Indian movies for the Third World types who can’t understand that we live in a global world beyond South Asia.Recommend

  • http://www.watchindia.tv/ India TV

    The good life indeed!Recommend

  • Mohammad Abbas

    Please dissing one movie is not dissing the entire cinema…Ra-One is a pathetic attempt at making a fantasy flick ( i dont remember any good indian fantasy flicks). “ATOMIC THUMKA-MAN” would have made more sense.Recommend

  • Moderate

    I really don’t like the blog… it does not make any sense.

    @Noman Ansari, i liked your replies.. you should write a blog of your own!!!
    Keep up!Recommend

  • sachin

    superhero ya superzeroRecommend

  • Sid

    I am a proud Indian and disgusted Bollywood ex fan. Recipe to watch Indian movie, put your brain aside or get high to the point that your rational or logical processor is dead. Have a loaded gun by your side in case the movie becomes so intolerant you can either shoot the TV, cinema projector or yourself for taking the risk of watching the movie at first place. If watching in theater sit to the nearest exit so you can rush out in case if you feel like throwing up. Too much melodrama does have it’s nausea-tic side effects. And if you think Bollywood movies sucks you should definitely try the saas bahu serials by ekta kapoor, would make you want to gouge your eyes out. Nd I would not even enter the south Indian movie domain…..aaarghhhhhh……Phew!!…I will stop my ranting. Have fun Bollywood fans :)Recommend

  • Malikk

    No one talks about the movie Rockstar here, you know why? The hero does not belong to Ummah !Recommend