Arthur J Pais, who watched Ra.One in a New York theatre, writes that the audience was as disappointed in the film as he was.
Ayyayyo, what a glorious mess of a film Ra.One is.
Over bloated,lacking in human magic and exciting for just about one fourth of its more than two hours run, it crawls for the first 45 minutes, delivers over a dozen lame body jokes, and abounds in miserable stereotypes including Shah Rukh Khan's ungainly mannerisms as a Tamilian (in the first half).
The action picks up just as you start counting how many times Shekhar, the nerdy inventor of a game, has said 'ayyayyo.' Then Ra.One then moves into high action gear for the next hour.
The best person to gain from the film directed by Anubhav Sinha with more inane and crude sexual jokes than in any recent Hindi film, is Arjun Rampal. His body language and brooding face creates a quietly menacing villain.
The kid, who argues with his father Shekhar that villains are more enduring and appealing than the virtuous hero, gets one. But in the process the villain Ra.One, who steps into the real world from the game Shekhar had created, kills the inventor. He is searching for Lucifer who had defied him in the game world. It does not take him much time to find out the identity of the defiant game player and Ra. One sets out to destroy the challenger..
The boy's persistent belief that his father did not die in a car accident but was killed by Ra.One leads him to defy his mother (Kareena Kapoor) and bring into their life G.One (Shah Rukh) from the game, who becomes the protector of the family and faces Ra.One in a do or die kind of a climax.
Highly uneven in its script and tone, intermittently exciting and with ill written characters (like one Shahana Goswami, a friend and colleague of Shekhar portrays) Ra.One is one hell of a bumpy ride.
But do the onion of the critics matter at all? Given its star cast, fabulous musical score, one stand-out musical staging (Chammak Challo looks fabulous on a big screen), a handful of thrilling chase scenes, and Arjun Rampal's villainy, the movie could do smashing business particularly in India. The younger audiences may particularly cheer the final sequence in which a young kid boosts the morale of G.One (Shah Rukh in a new avatar, dramatically different from the nerdy Shekhar in the first half) against the villain.
The 3-D version, which was not screened in New York, could add additional appeal to the film in India.
Shah Rukh's previous mega hit My Name Is Khan grossed over $15 million outside of South Asia and a substantial part of it came from South Korea and Taiwan, the emerging territories for Hindi films. It would be interesting to see if Ra.One plays beyond the traditional South Asian base in foreign territories.
It would also be interesting to watch how many people die hard Shah Rukh fans abroad will see the film the second time given that its emotional pull is slight. And how many teenagers, even those who are fans of Bollywood, would see the new film or reject it in favor of Real Steel or some other Hollywood film with more muscle power and better CG.
The film was received with polite applause at the New York screening. Some viewers said though Shah Rukh has eschewed the high melodrama of My Name Is Khan, many of his mannerisms especially his laughter, have remained.
A Gujarati, who has lived in Tamil Nadu for many years, said Tamils who would be watching the Hindi version of the film and Shah Rukh's Tamil pronunciation will have a ball. But they would be laughing at the actor and not with him, he said.
Akon, the American singer doles out Hindi words fairly well in the song Chammak Challo, said a young Tamil student. But Shah Rukh Khan just cannot get his Tamil right.