We see a London-based South Indian gaming professional ("aiyyo, appa, ille") banging into cars as he's reversing, calling his son "deewd", and eating noodles and curd with his hand. Hardly superhero material in his son's eyes, Shekhar Subramanium (Shah Rukh) is desperate to impress the little brat.
So the next time his son Prateik (Armaan Varma) is prattling on about how cool villains are compared to the good guys, Shekhar designs a formidable villain for his next video game project. The trouble starts when the baddie becomes a virtual version of Frankenstein, with revenge on his mind.
The story is interesting, cleverly avoiding techno-babble and sticking to matters of the "heart". And indeed, the villain is the scene-stealer. Not the easily-defeated bad guy of kiddie films, Ra.One is sly and menacing.
Bang in the middle of this are Prateik and his spunky mom (Kareena Kapoor). The first half is a m?lange of getting to know the characters, setting the premise, and looking forward to what's next. As is usually the case, the second half turns out to be tad disappointing.
Unfortunately, the makers have failed to make Ra.One an entirely clean family film. In one of the film's attempts at humour, Bruce Lee's three sisters are introduced in a game - (you may know this one)?"Iski Lee, Uski Lee, Sabki Lee".
Then you have Shekhar talking to a woman's chest, asking her to "put it out" as his key has gone missing, and so on and so forth. Really bawdy jokes for a family film! And not to mention the bizarre homosexual portion. Sadly, as is the norm currently, we are served skimpily-dressed dancers in every sexploitative manner possible.
There are scenes that are too violent with a couple of them bordering on the scary. Ra.One is the kind of film that numbs children to violence and teaches them to start objectifying women. This kind of influence is not funny, and one wonders if the Censor Board is okay watching this risqu? material with their children.
The film likes to call characters by the actors' former onscreen names. So Priyanka Chopra is Desi Girl, Sanjay Dutt is Khalnayak, and so on. About the only enjoyable such inclusion is Rajnikanth's appearance as Chitti (a unanimous, enthusiastic applause welcoming the superstar's entry was the screening's highlight), and doing his sunglass-flipping number.
Writer-director Anubhav Sinha (Cash, Dus) plays his cards right. The fights are spectacular, the visuals including the literal symbolism are fetching, and the dough spent on special effects shows. Even though it's not a patch on Hollywood standards or even as slick as Robot, the film sets a benchmark for most Indian films.
Sinha also peppers the film with moments as warm and gooey as freshly-baked brownies, so the audience remains highly involved.
Ra.One is a visual extravaganza and fun enough, especially our superhero's antics - he can climb sideways on walls, recharge himself with loose wires, and stop a train on its way to an accident (some truly dramatic action here). The finale battle, as all superhero movies must end with, is surprisingly a crashing bore. Perhaps because it's all too predictable.
As the good guy G.One, Shah Rukh Khan, is, well, Shah Rukh Khan. Playing a larger-than-life character suits him well. Equally adept at comedy, action and emotion, SRK is massively entertaining.
Kareena Kapoor is an absolute delight. She deservedly basks in a role that requires more out of her than just being a Chammak challo. She has some of the best dialogues, including the one where she questions why all Hindi abuses attack the mother and sister (only women) and proceeds to invent some innovative ones attacking men.
Child actor Armaan Verma is the most effortless of the actors and is sure to be a hit with his floppy hair and disarming smile. Arjun Rampal makes for a sexy, formidable villain.
So there you have it - the special effects are cool (even cooler in 3D, I'm sure), the actors rock, and the story's fun. The only reason one stops short of recommending Ra.One is the sporadic adult content that has no business being in a film for kids. Too bad, really.
Rating: 2.5 stars