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RA. One takes stars beyond Bollywood

With polish, superb special effects and a collection of capable actors, RA. One may well deserve all the marketing it's getting.
Shah Ruhk Khan demonstrates his acting versatility in the superhero action film RA. One.
Shah Ruhk Khan demonstrates his acting versatility in the superhero action film RA. One.

RA. One

Director: Anubhav Sinha

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal


For lovers of Bollywood cinema, RA. One is already cause for a great deal of excitement: a bona fide star in the form of the lead actor Shah Rukh Khan, an estimated US$39 million (Dh143.4m) spent on the film, including state-of-the- art special effects, and a 3D conversion.

But what makes RA. One even more noteworthy is its promotion outside of "Bollywood-specific" markets, competing on the same playing field as Hollywood's giant blockbusters. Spending a further $11m on marketing for the film - including an unheard-of $3m for online promotion - the film plans a simultaneous worldwide release.

It premiered in Dubai this week, with Khan walking the red carpet at the Grand Cineplex cinema, which was lined with hundreds of screaming fans. He has since jetted off, with the film's cast and crew, to attend the blockbuster's premieres in London and Toronto.

Throw in corporate tie-ins (including computer games, toys and fast-food meals), and you have a film that is mixing several cultures both in terms of creativity and marketing.

But is the film worth the hype?

Khan stars as Shekhar, a good-natured but incredibly geeky father trying desperately to appear "cool" to his young son, who is fast losing faith in him. However, his job as a games developer offers him a solution when he creates an incredible new game called "Random Access-Version 1" (shortened to RA. One), inventing his own character, the superhero G. One (also Khan), who is everything Shekhar wishes he could be. The family looks finally to be happy, until a glitch in the game traps them, and the evil super villain Ra. One (Arjun Rampal) begins to change the game into a fight for survival.

By any standard, the effects, action and music in RA. One are masterful. Giving the superhero genre a new twist, the fight scenes, computer effects and the 3D work are all very impressive. Fights are choreographed brilliantly, while the essence of the traditional superhero genre movie is retained and adhered to, with elements of sci-fi films such as Tron and The Matrix evoked in the film's aesthetic. The events of the film can be a little sensational at times, which perhaps is the reason why this is a good film and not a great one, yet as entertaining and thrilling a blockbuster as any made in Europe or America.

Khan also 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.

After the worldwide success of the drama My Name Is Khan, RA. One will offer newcomers to the world of Hindi films an introduction that will not be too jarring, as it takes many cues from the sci-fi conventions of Hollywood. Those who are familiar, however, will simply see "the king of Bollywood" on perhaps his biggest-ever stage.

Not the best work of the director nor the star, but certainly their most spectacular.

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Updated: October 27, 2011 04:00 AM