The film was marketed and hyped as India’s first
superhero film. According to Shahrukh himself, it
was a film that he made because he wanted Indian kids
to have an Indian superhero to idolise. Yes, the film
was primarily aimed at kids! And yet, it had an insanely
sick and perverse sense of humour, something that
would have put a B grade flick to shame. How could
a straight thinking person insert so much sexual innuendo
and plain foul mouthing into a film that he made for
children? The film shows a woman (the heroine) who
wants to do a PhD in novel terms of abuse to reverse
the current trend of women being the ‘butt’
of all jokes; God, save Hindi cinema!
The point here is not to sling mud on Ra One; the
film has done a fair job of it. The point is that
Madan noticed all the points said above, mentioned
them in his comments, and said that the movie was
only good enough for you to come out of the theatre
without feeling that you have lost your money. That’s
it; it’s just a middling affair. Yet, he gave
it 3 stars, which, looking at the film’s standards
is a princely gift. Many other experienced reviewers
all over India have done the same thing; brought out
all the shortfalls of the movie and then gave it a
star rating which just did not concur.
What happened? Were they all too fond of SRK or did
they just find it too heavy on their conscience to
deride the most expensive Indian movie ever? Well,
the latter seems to be the more probable. Yes, Madan
and many other critics like him were equivocal in
stating that the film had unparalleled special effects
and CGI; almost on par with Hollywood cinema. And,
stands to reason that all the stars they awarded the
film were because of its technical supremacy.
Apparently, the makers of Ra One got so obsessed with
the technical side of the film that they forgot the
most important aspect of cinema; telling a good story.
Looking at the promos and other publicity activities
of Ra One, one always got the feeling that the only
thing they wanted to show and tell was that they had
made the most expensive movie in Indian cinema. All
the efforts were strained towards making new opening
day records, setting the maximum prints, setting new
CGI benchmarks, tying up with the Champions league,
Youtube and every other product you see in a supermarket,
that they just lost sight of the fact that at the
end of the day a film is remembered for how good it
is; not how expensive!
Yes, Ra One made the money that it spent, mostly on
effects and publicity! One wonders whether a little
could not have been spent on a better script, decent
dialogues and digestible comedy. Anubhav Sinha’s
track record shows that he can go wrong with scripting,
sometimes leaning too heavily on technique and flair;
like in Dus or Cash. It would not have hurt to get
an experienced hand to help with the script.
After seeing Ra One, there is absolutely
no doubt that Anubhav Sinha and Shankar are the top
technical directors in our country at the moment,
with Sinha probably slightly ahead. But, where Shankar
scored over Sinha is that he sought the help of the
right people to work up a script that propped up the
technique; people like Sujatha. One can only imagine
how better Ra One would have been if a deft hand had
taken care of the script.
Now, coming back to the stand that critics took. They
said that the movie did not boast of great content,
they said that the comedy stooped low, but they were
forced by the technical accomplishment of the movie
to give it a thumbs up, or at least half a thumb.
Interestingly, a Tamil movie that released on the
same day as Ra One placed a similar predicament. 7
Aum Arivu took a wonderful subject and brought it
down with a wandering script. Yet, the technique,
especially in the first half an hour, made it a hard
job for an average critic to give it a thumbs down.
The fact is technique is threatening to usurp the
position of content in mainstream cinema, at least
at the top level. While content has to be given the
top position always, it is also not possible to ignore
the larger role that technique has begun to play.
So, while content has to be given the top position
always, it is also not possible to ignore the larger
role that technique has begun to play. So, perhaps
the way forward for a film critic, when faced with
such situations, would be to evaluate the two aspects
independently, perhaps even giving separate star ratings,
so that the situation of giving an overall high rating
for a film that bores the audience never arises. Just
like many exams have portions on reading, writing,
comprehension and listening, film criticism might
also consider taking up that route.
Else, we will have more Ra Ones where you get distasteful
comedy, caricature characters and a half baked script,
all pasted ungainly on a background of world class
technique. We don’t need that kind of cinema!