Can anything be beyond the ken of a movie megastar and his much-awaited super-ambitious sci-fi action flick?
So life, real and imagined, comes neatly gift-wrapped this Diwali with all the sparkles and frills of dazzling computer-generated graphics, crowd-pleasing stunts and good ‘ol Bollywood set pieces in RA.One.
Huge box office fireworks are but inevitable when SRK is at the turnstiles on a festive weekend. But does RA.One offer anything more than the joy of instant thrills and the on-screen exploits of a supernova eager as hell to pull out all the stops?
The film goes where Krrish and Robot went before and doesn’t stop there. It strives desperately hard to venture beyond.
The breakneck ride certainly has its moments of fun. But, on the whole, RA.One is far too derivative to take anybody except the most gullible of moviegoers – fortunately for Mumbai’s sappy yarn-spinners, that breed of ticket buyers is alive and multiplying – by genuine surprise.
You do not mind going along for the spin because it is one of the nation’s most-loved megastars who is serving up this easy-to-digest concoction with a great deal of intent. Shah Rukh Khan may be visibly ageing, but there can be no denying that he can still turn on the magic.
But, sorry, this isn’t ‘the next level’ of Hindi cinema, let alone superhero flicks. At least, let us all hope it isn’t. Comic-strip terminators do have their uses. However, when the idea is to whip up a bubbling brew that, in the time-honoured tradition of a Mumbai mass entertainer, seeks to embrace a bit of everything, the wannabe desi Superman can only fall between two very, very tall stools. But not everybody will hear the thud, though.
RA.One packs in just about everything under the sun and the moon so that the paying public goes home feeling they haven’t been shortchanged. From the mythical to the Gothic, from the Biblical to the digital, from the wildly melodramatic to the mildly humorous, writer-director Anubhav Sinha summons every narrative influence that he knows of to the table to crank out a vehicle fit for the one and only SRK. It trundles along all right but never quite hits the high roads.
What would Sinha have fallen back on had Mary Shelley not conjured up her Frankenstein and his runaway monster nearly two centuries ago? Or Marvel and DC Comics hadn’t unleashed their universe of superheroes and arch-villains? Or a brigand-turned-sage hadn’t given us an epic so rich in plot and character that it can never be squeezed dry?
Not that it matters, but there is a story in RA.One. A geeky gaming expert, Shekhar Subramaniam (Shah Rukh Khan), rustles up a digital game to impress his son, Prateek (Armaan Verma).
The game begins playing games and unleashes a malevolent power, RA.One, an abbreviation for Random Access One as well as a phonetic approximation of the biggest symbol of evil in Indian mythology. It turns upon its creator and devours him.
The next chapter of the film is unalloyed Bollywood with the spirit of Hollywood blockbusters thrown in for good measure: enter a superhero, G.One (meaning jeevan, life force) who must protect Shekhar’s wife (Kareena Kapoor) and his son, besides restoring the reign of good over evil.
Shah Rukh is the invincible hero and Arjun Rampal is the unstoppable baddie. If the epic clash of the cyborgs isn’t enough to keep you glued to your seat, RA.One proffers cheap thrills in the form of Sanjay Dutt, Priyanka Chopra, Rajinikanth (appearing here as Robot’s Chitti) and, of course, the sprightly Chammak Challo number.
As a vendetta saga, RA.One might be right up your alleyway. It delivers more than your money’s worth in terms of pure entertainment. It is impressively shot, technically good enough to pass muster and the hi-jinks drama has the pace to keep tedium at bay.
What you see is passable, what you hear is enjoyable, but what you take away is insubstantial.
RA.One is like a colourful Popsicle that looks tantalising, tickles the palate while it lasts, but leaves no particular after-taste. Sound and fury? Loads of it. Significance? Not much.
Two and a half stars would have been in order – the extra half is for the sheer scale of the film’s ambition. So what if it falls short?