Five reasons why I can do without Ra.One
By Mahesh Dattani
Editor's Note: Ra.One is THE film this Diwali and getting wall to wall coverage. It might not have broken Bodyguard's opening day collections but it's still got the rest of the holiday weekend to gather steam. But eminent playwright Mahesh Dattani says despite the hype and the special effects, this is a movie we can do without. Especially for a film that pegs itself as a family film. Here are five reasons why.
This model of an Indian kid we can do without.
This film is made for a pan Indian audience. How many kids in India can afford these kinds of games? How many Indian kids can relate to gaming heroes? And why is it that being a ‘dood’ is supposed to be ‘cool’ for Indian kids? Why can’t Indian kids be cool eating with their fingers? Also why do they have to look and dress in such a way that they can ‘pass’ for a white American kid? The kid’s deepest concern is that his father is not cool. His dad eats with his fingers and says ‘dude’ instead of ‘dood’. The kid is a gaming junkie with attitude. He doesn’t like fat kids and does nasty things to them, but we are supposed to like this kid. The disturbing thing is that kids in the audience do like him. And the film does not develop into any moment of realisation for the kid except that he ought not to think of villains as cool. But by the very absurd standards he sets for a regular Indian kid, he is truly the villain of the piece.
This model of a South Indian protagonist we can do without.
I really thought the ‘Ayayo’ kind of caricature of a South Indian person went away with Mehmood. Mehmood was at least witty and his characters had the wisdom of a Shakespearean fool. Mr. Khan’s South Indian nerdy male act is a direct assault on one’s sensibilities. No matter how jaded and socially incorrect you wish to be, you will find this gross representation sickening. He eats noodles with curds using his fingers the way North Indians think South Indians eat. Or more precisely, the way Mr Khan thinks South Indians eat. While one does not expect him to be a method actor, he only needs to open his eyes and see. But artistic representation is the least of his concerns. Getting a few laughs is all that he cares for.
Every move of his on screen screams out “Love me, I am Shah Rukh Khan”. With this sales anxiety occupying his every single thought, he suddenly remembers that he has a vast South Indian market that his company needs to make capital of. So you have a hastily added scene with ‘Rajni sir’. Kareena Kapoor even does a prayer when he appears on screen. Clearly the sales anxiety has been passed on to the director Mr Anubhav Sinha. But the producers undermine the intelligence of a South Indian audience, who know when they are being laughed at.
This kind of sexist, suggestive smut we can do without.
Five minutes into the film we have a scene where Shah Rukh Khan’s character is in the game and in enemy territory. The enemies are three Chinese females who are called – hold your puke– Iski Lee, Uski Lee and Sabki Lee. Parents and kids in the audience laugh in complicity with the demeaning attitude of the super hero towards women. It just doesn’t seem to be an issue amongst parents.
I wonder if Mr Khan is okay with the fact that his children could grow up thinking a woman’s identity is nothing more than her sexual organ. Looks like he has many Indian parents for company in this regard. Also, Kareena Kapoor’s character is happy to be the yummy mummy who can magically transform from caring mother to chamak challo and then to damsel-in-distress. Isn’t there an organisation giving out a Rakshas award to sexist filmmakers? Ra.One definitely deserves a Rakshas award.
This sort of screenplay by numbers we can do without.
I know Bollywood is at a crossroads where the old paradigm does not work anymore and a new one is yet to be discovered. But there seems to be a certain join-the-dots kind of approach that is still in place. Alas it doesn’t work if it is used as clinically as it has been used here. The ingredients that go into the soup pot are: A villain and a hero. Next, a comedy track that comes and goes but never adds to the story. Throw in some mandatory car chases and body part jokes. The sure hit formula now is to marry Hollywood silly with Bollywood silly. I am afraid two sillies do not an engaging film make.
This kind of hard sell we can do without.
My neighbour’s child has already made up his mind that he wants to see the film twice. He doesn’t possess video games but now he wants one of those gaming consoles that his parents have to now consider shopping for. Undoubtedly Shah Rukh Khan has some kind of charisma that attracts many adults and children. Also, maybe his heart is in the right place going by some of the scenes in the film.
The best part of the film is when he tosses away a cigarette saying ‘Thousands of people give up smoking every year, not because they read the warning, but because they die.’ There are those occasional gems in the film that makes one warm up to him. If only he wouldn’t sell things. Maybe if he is made aware of the grave consequences of his actions, he might change his mind. But then who is to tell the Badshah of Bollywood that his subjects are better off without his wares?
Mahesh Dattani is a Sahitya Akademi award winning playwright and director and the author of many acclaimed plays including Final Solutions, Dance Like a Man and Tara. He directed the films Mango Souffle and Morning Raga.