Variety

Badshah puts up a bad show

Sashi Baliga | Updated on November 12, 2017

shahrukhkhan   -  PTI

Ra.One is definitely going to make its money at the b-o, but the film has not lived up to expectations.



So it's finally over, the digital dust has settled, and Bollywood fans, scribes, analysts and, yes, columnists can get back to life as we knew it.

Despite Shah Rukh Khan's relentless promotional campaign for Ra.One, the movie turned out to be a damp squib. The first five-day collections are in, with Eros International, co-producers of the movie with Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment, claiming gross revenues of Rs 170 crore. But keep in mind these are not net figures (which could be in the region of Rs 100 crore) and hence do not indicate a profit as yet on the approximately Rs 150 crore (or more) that the movie cost. Also, some analysts, predictably, are questioning the figures. But that's part of the Bollywood game when it comes to big ‘uns.

So quibbling aside, it does look like the movie will get through, if not romp home. With 25 brand tie-ups and pre-release deals such as a rumoured Rs 40 crore for TV distribution rights, the film's makers have hedged their bets well. Besides, there are the Eid holidays coming up and there is no big release till Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar on November 11. That's a good, clear stretch for Ra.One.

So Shah Rukh Khan should be safe. But not quite on top of the game either, especially since most critics haven't been too kind to the movie.

Count me in there; I was hugely disappointed with the movie myself. When an item number — a sizzling Kareena Kapoor going Chamak Challo — turns out to be the most enjoyable part of the film, there's something sorely wrong somewhere.

Let it be said: Ra.One has irrevocably raised the bar for action sequences in Indian cinema.

But there was little else to the movie. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be: patchy. There were some spectacular moments (Mumbai's Victoria Terminus crumbling), some tacky ones (too many to list, but SRK eating his noodles with dahi takes the cake, if you'll forgive the somewhat mixed metaphor). Some really cool lines ( Ra.One the villain remarking that we have to kill Raavan every year during Dussehra because evil never dies) and some execrable jokes ( all the ‘Tamilian' ones). Cutting-edge cinematography (by Indian standards) but scenes that seemed to be just plonked in (like the Rajnikant appearance). Too much attention paid to gimmicks and ‘hooks' (Rajni Sir again, the opening sequence, the item number, among others), too little to the clunky screenplay.

And SRK's golliwog wig! It will take a lot to erase that frightful memory.

On a larger level, Ra.One fell between two stools or genres, if you will. It was goofball meets superhero, slapstick meets uber-cool. SRK played it too close to spoof in the first half, then launched a Good vs. Evil in the second. It was a slick superhero film that was Indianised — but not with sincerity. It was simply not Indian enough in its soul.

Contrast that with Krissh, which was not a particularly good movie either, but which seems to have struck some chord with the audience. Its caped crusader may have gone swinging across Singapore, but his heart was Indian, you see.

It's always a tough act, this particular tightrope walk. But it's far from an impossible task; our film-makers do it all the time with commercial, if not critical successes of movies ‘inspired' by Hollywood hits. The old guard, like Rakesh Roshan or Abbas-Mustan, have it down pat. They seem to know just how much to Indianise them (or not). Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya, with its blue-skinned, wide-eyed Jadoo, is a great example. As for Abbasbhai and Mustanbhai, those two soft-spoken, genteel men in white, you'd never guess that they could come up with a movie as slick or radical as Race (by Bollywood standards, that is).

The newer guard goes all the way from virtual copies (Sanjay Gupta's Kaante) to authorised versions, like We Are Family. Not all of them work, though. We Are Family seemed to have it handed on a platter with a tear-jerker of a story that should have gone down swimmingly with the Indian audience. But it just didn't have the honesty of the original, Stepmom, and not least because the latter was a film born of, and set in the American social context. The Indian version did not find the emotional connect because the reference points were missing.

Transplantation is not easy; you can import genres and storylines but not soul. When Shah Rukh Khan and his director, Anubhav Sinha, took on the task of an Indianised, or Bollywood-ised superhero, they were not attempting the impossible; just the very difficult. They faltered on many counts, but none so fatal as the fact that it did not make you feel for this superhero. And what's a Hindi movie without emotions?

So, then, where does this leave the Badshah of Bollywood? Rattled, surely. Most likely, angry, too. Not so much on account of the financials — the film will make its money, just a little later than expected. But his ego must hurt.

One of the surest signs of success is the number of people waiting for you to slip. There are many in the industry and, it has to be said, in the audience too, who might like to see the Badshah humbled.

But that's not going to happen in a hurry. No, he's not too big to fail, just too smart to. And he has another trick up his sleeve: the first trailers of Don 2 are out. The stories will soon start popping up in the papers. The buzz will build up. The interviews will happen. So will the TV appearances. And SRK will be in action again. It won't be quite like old times. But at least he won't have to save the world or his son; just his reputation.

>shashibaliga@gmail.com

Published on November 03, 2011

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