Bollywood's most expensive film ever opened Wednesday, as actor/producer/superstar Shah Rukh Khan -- known ubiquitously here as SRK -- sought to tap the lucrative Diwali holiday weekend to recoup an investment of some $30 million.
For those of you who won't see it FirstDayFirstShow along with the horde of superfans, though, it looks like a best-avoided mishmash of Hindu mythology, American comic book lore and Hollywood-style special effects. (Even the trailer has some cringe-worthy moments).
While India's Economic Times claimed the superhero-meets-song-and-dance epic "raises the bar for Hindi films," as "the first Hindi film that blends the elegance of Hollywood with Indian sensibilities," most other reviewers were less impressed.
The always hilarious Raja Sen, for instance, writes:
Once in a while, movies compel you to write odd things. You end up with sentences you stare at in disbelief, wondering if your fingers misled you or you slipped up dyslexically, missing a crucial word or a thought. This film, the biggest budget Indian feature of all time, provides one such daft line: Arjun Rampal (a notoriously wooden model-turned-actor) is the best thing in this movie.
Somewhere in the script was a simple idea -- that of a video game villain wreaking havoc in the real world -- with potential for an enjoyable romp, but as the unambitious plot was scaled up to dizzying heights, much masala was injected thoughtlessly into it, as if each scene in isolation needed to be packed with every colour of cool.
The film's narrative, as a result, is disjointed and sluggish, with a mere handful of good scenes. The rest is not just filler, but lengthy, exhausting, filmi filler -- the kind of kitsch a film like this should really have left behind.
Another reviewer, Abhishek Mande, calls it SRK's "most expensive mid-life crisis" -- a nod to SRK's claim that he wanted to make a movie like Spiderman to please his son (the same reason he sought and attained washboard abs for Om Shanti Om, incidentally).
Even as Shah Rukh Khan flies over buildings, jumps over cars and even stops an out-of-control train with his bare hands, his valiant efforts to wow his audiences somewhat fail thanks to a weak storyline, some rather juvenile acting and a poor screenplay.
To make matters more unbearable, the dialogues go from bad to worse and Vishal-Shekhar's music -- barring a couple of numbers -- has little to offer in a film that could have possibly ushered in an era of science fiction cinema in mainstream Bollywood.
That last bit is an overstatement. Let me be clear: No film is going to usher in an era of science fiction in Bollywood. Sci-Fi depends on resolutely taking yourself seriously, even as you're doing something absurd (think Harrison Ford telling George Lucas: "You may be able to type this shit, George, but I sure as hell can't say it). Meanwhile, Bollywood can't resist injecting the absurd -- or the out-of-character hamming for the audience -- into even its most serious moments. RIP Bollywood Sci-Fi.
The thing is, SRK is a bona fide phenomenon in India, where they like their stars larger than life, and worship them like the incarnations of new and improved gods. Ra.One will open simultaneously on about 5,000 screens worldwide -- only 3,500 of them in India, according to the BBC. And like legions of terrible movies, it will probably recoup SRK's investment before people realize how bad it is.