Ra.One (2011): SRK's seem-less transition from super-stardom to superherodom

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews 

ra. one, directed by anubhav sinha, starring srk, kareena kapoor
Ra. One (2011) - By Anubhav Sinha

Our Rating: 7.0
IMDb Ratings: 4.8
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
CastShah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal
Country: USA India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 156 min
Color: Color
Ra.One is a 2011 Hindi science fiction movie directed and by Anubhav Sinha. Ra. One stars Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, and Arjun Rampal in the lead roles. RA.One is a technical marvel that has set a new bar for Indian Cinema. The movie's CGI and special-effects are absolutely top-notch and are undoubtedly its USP. It projects the concept of gaming and virtual world for the first time in Indian Cinema. The one movie that it would often be compared with is TRON: Legacy. However, apart from some similarities in the plot, RA.One is quite different, primarily because of its emotional perspective and relative simplicity in concept. 

srk as superhero, shahrukh khan as g. one in ra. one, anubhav sinha
Shahrukh Khan as G. One in Ra. One (2011)
RA.One re-stylizes the epic battle of 'Good' versus 'Evil' by adding to it certain dimensions that are still new to Indian Cinema. RA.One is pure entertainment from beginning till end. Despite being a Science Fiction, RA.One manages to portray with precision the pain associated with the Father-Son relationship. RA.One, despite taking obvious inspiration from avant-garde Sci-Fi movies like The Matrix, manages to maintain a certain level of originality, the credit for which goes to director Anubhav Sinha. The movie has subtle undercurrents of risqué humor—like in the names of three female antagonists, 'Iski Lee', 'Uski Lee' and 'Sabki Lee'—that add great flavor to the movie. 

SRK in his Debut Television Series: Fauji (1988), shahrukh khan on Doordarshan
SRK in his Debut Television Series: Fauji (1988)
Who says dreams cannot be realized? All it takes is a strong will to turn a dream into reality! For some, it may take an entire lifetime to actualize a dream while others live a life which is a dream in itself. SRK's Tinseltown dream refuses to die down, and on the contrary becomes more grandiloquent with time. He had come to the city of dreams a couple of decades back as a pauper with only one thing in his kitty, the only thing that mattered: self-belief. It is said that life, unlike death, is a trickster and only those who have the heart of a lion and the mind of a fox can survive its onslaught. And those who do manage to come out victorious become its true masters and make it dance to their tunes, perpetually. Today, 'SRK' is not merely a name, but a brand, a marketing phenomenon in itself. SRK's perennial charm is a testament to his grit and gumption. 

kareena kapoor as mrs. subramanium performs chammak challo in ra.one
Kareena Kapoor performs 'chammak challo' in Ra. One
RA.One is a live example of SRK's sway in Show Business. Who else could think of making such a bizarre manifestation work in his favor, but the Baazigar of Bollywood himself? Now, please don't get me wrong, I am not saying that RA.One is bizarre in cinematic parlance, but given the general trend in Indian cinema the concept of the movie does seem futuristic. When it comes to entertainment, we Indians are still not very comfortable with experimentation. The romance of Raj-Simran, the razzmatazz of Munni-Shiela, and the Desi villainy of Gabbar-Shakaal is still dearer to us than the clairvoyance or daredevilry of some larger than life super hero. Despite all the odds, SRK endorsed the idea of manifesting a virtual world superhero on the celluloid, putting everything at stake, including his hard-earned reputation of an entertainer par-excellence. And the gamble did pay off! The movie's Diwali release played a crucial part in it's early success. Ra. One opened to packed theaters on the Diwali Day—as everything seems so conducive: an interesting plot, great cast, festive season, and blessings of Amitabh Bachchan and Superstar Rajinikanth.

shahrukh khan in his south indian avatar, shekhar-subramanium, in Ra. One, Kareena Kapoor as Mrs. subramanium
Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor in Ra. One
In Ra. One, SRK shines in his new South Indian avatar, Shekhar Subramanium, who is similar to the real life SRK in many ways: he shares SRK's sense of light-heartedness and childlike demeanor—albeit without the characteristic cheekiness. The plot of RA.One is based on the premise that children tend to have a stronger liking for villains than heroes, for villains are kick-ass and can afford to flout rules and defy limits. Shekhar works as a video game developer for Barron Industries. He is disconcerted by his son's lack of respect for him. In order to impress his son, he devises a game in which the villain is stronger than the hero. He names the game as RA.One, or Random Access Version One—same as the name of the villain. The hero, who inherits Shekhar's looks, is named G.One. Due to some unforeseen effect of an artificial intelligence program developed at Barron Industries, RA.One immensely gains in power and develops a sense of self-control that defies the game's protocols. What ensues is a 'do or die' battle between the two 'Ones' in the Real World, the outcome of which would decide the fate of the humans involved. Kareena Kapoor fits well in the shoes of a 'chammak challo' (glamorous) housewife and complements SRK quite well. Arjun Rampal as 'RA.One' is terribly underused in the movie. Armaan Verma, the child actor who plays SRK's son, acts his part with great conviction. 

arjun rampal in and as ra.one, directed by anubhav sinha
Arjun Rampal in and as Ra. One 
Despite the elaborate efforts of the makers to explain the implausible Sci-Fi elements, an average viewer is ought to be perplexed by its intricacies. It is for such instances in Fiction that English poet S. T Coleridge had introduced 'Suspension of Disbelief', according to which, a viewer or a reader takes a semi-conscious decision to put aside his disbelief in order to accept the premise for the sake of his own amusement. The one aspect that I am quite critical of RA.One is that, like most contemporary movies, it too fails to make the viewer think. Cinema, with its enormous potential, can inspire even the greatest pessimist alive and help reshape an entire nation. Alas, it has been reduced to a revenue generating instrument by a bunch of self-centered, myopic individuals, whose sole aim is monetary profit! It is said that those who have the courage also have the responsibility to bring about a change; someone of SRK's influence is not expected to overlook this growing aberration in that has given rise to this escapist commercial cinema, but unfortunately he seems to be leading the pack.

Overall, RA.One, despite its visible shortcomings and flaws, is a great piece of entertainment and a worthy addition to the commercial Indian cinema mix. Going by Coleridge's theory of Suspension of Disbelief, one has to overlook them for the sake of entertainment. RA.One is an instant hit among children of all age-groups that also serves to be an interesting experience for the adults.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

For more information on the title, please click on the following links:

Ra. One Trailer  

Previous Review: Europa (1991)

Previous Review: The Turin Horse (2011)

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  1. Very interesting to see this review soon after I watched the Telugu film, Eega. Ra.One was a film that I looked forward to with the first-day-first-show fervor, since I like SRK and sci-fi both a lot, and the hype around the tech used had me hooked. However, I was disappointed. I wrote about it and I will leave the link for your readers - I was not half as kind as you have been.

    The reason behind my comment is more the comparison between Ra.One and Eega. Both are superhero films, both are CGI and VFX driven, and both are essentially Indian in flavor. Eega outclasses Ra.One in almost every aspect in spite of it being in a language that I do not understand entirely. Murtaza, if you have not seen it, you must. Will be interesting to see what you think of it.

    Thanks for following my blog, Murtaza.

    The links:
    My impression of Eega - http://subhorup.blogspot.com/2012/07/eega-movie-review.html
    My impression of Ra.One - http://subhorup.blogspot.com/2011/10/raone-movie-review-shah-rukh-khan.html

  2. Thanks Subhro for sharing your valuable opinion! I think that it would be better if I first read your reviews before commenting any further :-)

    1. 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 G.one 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?

  3. I think this review has come almost a year too late. I think Ra One was a cheap copy of Shankar's Robot and hence was a disaster. The movie had to be re-shot many tmes and the transitions are not that smooth as well

  4. Thanks Vikram for sharing your valuable opinion. I also think Ra. One suffered on the editing front primarily because of the endless re-shots. IMO, Robot is a much superior movie in comparison to Ra. One and Superstar Rajinikanth is undoubtedly is in a league of his own. Hopefully, I will be reviewing it in the days to come :-)


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