It seemed like a good idea to see Shah Rukh Khan’s latest film to celebrate his birthday. Now, I knew going in that I wasn’t the right target audience. This movie was made for boys (whatever their age) who love video games, explosions, comic book violence, and computer special effects. I was hoping that loving Shah Rukh would be enough to enjoy this film. It wasn’t.
The movie is about a geeky computer game designer who wants to impress his son, so he creates a super-villain named Ra.One for his new game. Ra.One is a play on the name Raavan/Ravana from Indian mythology, if you can say it with the right accent. This bad dude breaks out of the game to become a real menace to London and later Mumbai. Fortunately, the game designer also creates a super-hero named G.One (a play on the Hindi word for life) to come to the rescue. There are lots of keyboards, wires, glowing red and blue components, rubber suits, tattoos, speeding trains, flying cars, crashes, and morphing along the way, which is all fine if you like that sort of thing.
Shah Rukh Khan spends the first part of the film in a really bad curly wig that makes him look like an Indian Harpo Marx. He’s so dorky that it’s hard to watch him in these scenes. Later, he plays G.One with glowing blue eyes, bulging biceps, and skin that looks plastic. Somewhere in between these personas is the actor that I love and miss. I wouldn’t mind so much this time around, but Shah Rukh Khan was autistic in his last film (My Name is Khan), and before that he played another awkward type in Rab Ne Bana di Jodi. It seems Khan has given up playing traditional romantic heroes. At least he’s also given up playing college students, unlike poor Aamir Khan. (Sorry, that’s another post.)
Arjun Rampal is billed as the actor playing Ra.One, but he doesn’t look like the actor himself for most of the movie. Once he does, he looks leaner and meaner than the last time I saw him in a film, and I like him as a super-villain. I also like young Armaan Verma, who plays the son. The kid has a lot of hair, but he’s cute and he’s got good chemistry with Shah Rukh Khan. I do have to criticize the script for having the son play practical jokes on the fat kid in his class. It would have been nice to see a film aimed at a young audience move beyond the usual stereotypes.
There are a couple of times when Ra.One is unnecessarily violent in a non-comic book way. A motorcyclist in a chase sequence doesn’t need to go splat against the front of a bus, and Ra.One doesn’t need to dispatch the old Chinese woman in a brutal way. It would have been much more interesting and funny to see her get the best of Ra.One instead.
Ra.One has a couple of song and dance numbers. They are catchy and upbeat, but I’m just not a fan of the current blend of hindi and hip-hop. During the closing credits, there is a dance number with Shah Rukh Khan that includes interesting behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the movie. I can see that the DVD will have a lot of cool extras.
Since Ra.One opened five days ago, it has apparently broken some international box office records for Indian films. I say apparently because nobody really agrees on these figures until much later. Ra.One is one of the most expensive films made in India, so further debates will go on about the film breaking even and making a profit. So, Ra.One may be a box office hit, but it was a miss with me. At least Don 2 is coming out at Christmas. It will probably be ridiculously violent, but I can assume that Shah Rukh Khan won’t be wearing bad wigs or blue contacts. Right?
Update: Oh, dear. I just found out that this is Shah Rukh Khan’s look for Don 2:
At least this look isn’t for the whole film! Here’s a trailer with English subtitles.