Reviewing the Reviews: RA.One

31 Oct,2011


Key Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal

Written and Directed By: Anubhav Sinha

Produced By: Gauri Khan, Shahrukh Khan


Of course, with a hefty budget and relentless marketing, RA.One was expected to be something of a breakthrough movie. That it turned out to be akin to an idol with feet of clay, caused disappointment across serious reviewing platforms — not the box-office counting ones, who are still arguing about just how much money the film made on opening day.

Interestingly the film, which was released with thousands of prints worldwide and god knows how many red carpet premieres, was reviewed by several foreign critics—most of them ignorant of, or insufficiently exposed to, Bollywood cinema. So the tone was either cruel or condescending.

Simon Abrams of Slant Magazine was brutal. “The film champions an incoherently hackneyed kind of morality where filial piety matters more than treating your fellow man well. Virtually every character in the film, save for Shekhar and his character’s nuclear family, are made fun of, and even they aren’t safe from ludicrously loaded assumptions of how both children and adults should behave. RA.One is consequently a flashy, gratingly broad action-comedy hybrid whose family values are meaningless.”

In contrast James Luxford of The National fawned, “Khan demonstrates what a versatile actor he is, with his performances as both Shekhar and G. One feeling like completely different people. Elsewhere, the critically acclaimed actress Kareena Kapoor provides excellent support and has great chemistry with Khan, while the model-turned-actor Rampal oozes menace as the titular villain, in a role akin to the Terminator movies.” That he is a bit clueless is revealed in his line, “Not the best work of the director nor the star, but certainly their most spectacular.” Err, what was he counting as Anubhav Sinha’s best work?

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollwood Reporter seemed mildly amused by the hoopla. “The film, directed by Anubhav Sinha, is gloriously silly, with stunts, CG animation and music numbers bursting out all over yet its beating heart lies in a commonplace story of a family and most especially a father and son who don’t understand one another. Oscar Hammerstein II once said something to the effect that you have to believe in whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens to get away with writing about such corny banalities in a lyric and so Shah — SRK as he is known to billions of fans — really does believe in family values and the power of cinema.” Indeed.

The rival trade magazine Variety, has John Anderson write, “Featuring superstar Shah Rukh Khan and festooned with enough CGI ornamentation to qualify as a subcontinental Christmas tree, RA.One is a frenetic, tuneful, full-throttle action-comedy that has reportedly crushed Indian presales records. Still, this videogame-themed outing seems unlikely to become a crossover hit: While South Asian auds will likely flock to a film that does what Bollywood does with a major techno bump, the aesthetics of overkill will make the result inaccessible to Westernized Americans, the campiness, as usual, muddying the translation.”

Tamara Baluja of The Globe and Mail gives it one star and rants, “The film is as cheesy as it sounds. It falls into the very traps that Khan himself complained about: weak plotline, random song-and-dance routines and a plethora of tacky crotch-related jokes, which left me grimacing. And for audiences who don’t understand Hindi, the subtitles were frustratingly lagging – on occasion, almost a whole dialogue behind. RA.One is Khan’s baby and boy, are you not allowed to forget that. The actor almost never leaves the screen. It’s a pity, because he’s not really the one who shines in the film…”

Rachel Saltz of The New York Times tries to be balanced. “You can see the money on screen, if not in the screenwriting. The exposition is longwinded and confusing, as are the rules of the game, in the virtual and the real worlds. The bumbling Shekhar is too clownish; RA.One is a dud demon (Raavan is invoked to little effect) who disappears for chunks of time; and you probably won’t hold your breath as good fights evil. But if the storytelling disappoints (shocking!), the film mostly doesn’t. It relies on action and effects and Bollywood’s trump card, star power, to carry the day. This is Mr Khan’s movie, and once he sheds Shekhar’s droopy locks, he shines as the deadpan, action-hero robot with digital snot and smooth moves on the dance floor.”

Andrew O’Hehir of nails it with, “I make no claims for RA. One as great cinema, and director Anubhav Sinha displays no particular vision, beyond that of a general who’s kept his enormous army moving in roughly the right direction. (Sinha and five co-writers, Shahrukh Khan among them, get credit for the story and screenplay.) What makes this movie worth seeing is its blend of aesthetic and technical approaches — some of the crew and special-effects team was Western — its immense scale and abundant confidence, and its utter shamelessness in trying to entertain nearly all imaginable viewers, from Abu Dhabi to New Jersey to Zanzibar. If you’re bored by the action scenes or the love story or the dopey domestic comedy, just wait three minutes for something else to come along — and whoever you are, you won’t be bored by the musical numbers!”

Back home, most critics are underwhelmed. Mayank Shekhar in the Hindustan Times writes, “For most parts, this doesn’t seem a super-hero movie at all. It’s more of a weirdly boiled, Bollywood please-all: vaguely soppy romance, Salman-type sasta comedy, narcissistic SRK set piece. Die-hard fans of all three genres are likely to be disappointed,”

Aniruddha Guha, writing in Daily News & Analysis: “But blame it on Anubhav Sinha, the director with slick-but-hollow films Dus and Cash on his CV (one worked at the box office, the other bombed). RaOne is no different; it is beautiful in appearance, but empty within. Which is a pity. Anubhav could have really made a mark with this one.”

Going Going G.One is the title of Shubhra Gupta’s review in the Indian Express. “It’s not just Shekhar-the-appa, who is lame. The whole film seems to be dipped in the stop-start-go stutter of an overlong video game. As the bumbling Tamilian techie, Shekhar is single-tone; G.One seems to be a confused creature, ‘made-of-metal but-with-emotions’. And curiosity. He demonstrates this by asking Kapoor: what is Karvachauth? Got it, this is a Bollywood robot. The sfx is wonderful in parts but mostly derivative, with Shah Rukh mouthing such iconic lines like ‘I will be back’ (oh Arnie, my Arnie), and clutching a pole on top of a high building, like..? Spidey. That’s right. Go to the top of the class.”

Sanjukta Sharma of Livemint writes, “Why ape Hollywood’s extravagance and technical virtuosity with limited resources? Despite the largely thrilling ride, Khan’s ambition for RA.One is misplaced. It is without real commitment to the art of storytelling or genre. The producer-actor is its only relentless, narcissistic showpiece. Anubhav Sinha’s RA.One is a spectacular disappointment.”

Kunal Guha’s review in Yahoo Movies was one of the first to slam the film. “Shahrukh’s robotic expressions will remind you of his ‘My Name is Khan’ role, as he confuses machines with differently-abled humans. Kareena’s character covers the entire gamut of expressions but isn’t memorable or mentionable enough to be regarded. Arjun Rampal has bagged his dream role: an android with mechanical expressions who allows his body to do the talking. Good job, Arjun Rampal’s body!”

Post a Comment 

2 responses to “Reviewing the Reviews: RA.One”

  1. Sejal says:

    o common the movie is superb. me, my husband and my son enjoyed it throughly

  2. Kavita Shah says:

    I feel the movie is cool….its worth watching the hard work and efforts put by SRK…So in LOve with SRK!

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