G-One, Ra-One…Do They Matter?

I love my comics. And I love superhero films based on them. I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha, Phantom, Mandrake, Tarzan and Marvel and DC comics and have seen virtually every superhero film made, including Superman and Batman releases from the 40s and 50s. This weekend, for example, has been reserved for Green Lantern and X-Men – First Class.
In this context, the more I see the marketing blitzkrieg around Ra-One, the more I despair for this film. Movie marketing has now become one big publicity machine centered around driving people into the theaters over the opening weekend…like the purported superhero of his film Ra-One, Mr. Shah Rukh Khan also seems to be omnipresent. If for nothing else, we need to give him credit for his energy levels at this age.
I just can’t fathom how an Indian superhero film like this will work.
1. All superhero films are based on pre-existing characters from Marvel or DC Comics with a fan base, a back-story and an ongoing plot. The personal devils they have to deal with, the quirks in their personalities, some admirable, some not, are all typically already known and have been analyzed threadbare in their comic books. The films pretty much exploit these in the best possible manner. Ra-One has none of these…its superhero is unknown and there is no back-story or social construct to understand his presence and being.
2. Worse, the only superhero persona being projected at this point is of Mr. Khan as a superhero with the name G-One. Most superhero films work when their main leads are unknowns (e.g. Toby McGuire in Spiderman). Even if the lead actor is well known (e.g. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man), the actor immerses himself/herself in the superhero persona so completely that the character becomes more important than the actor. In Ra-One, it is and always will be about Mr. Khan…G-One himself seems irrelevant.
3. Even though we have our own Indian superheroes such as Rama, Krishna, the Pandavas, etc, no film on any of them has really ever been successful.
4. The counter-argument is that Krrish was successful. But that also was due to the back-story of Koi…Mil Gaya. If Koi…Mil Gaya had not happened, Krrish would never have been made anyway.
4. Robot is another argument. But that film is an awful superhero film and was monetarily successful only because Mr. Rajnikanth can get away with pretty much any rubbish because of the “Rajni” phenomenon.
5. Mr. Khan is old and looks his mid-40s age. Superhero films need fresh, young faces. And imagine if there is a sequel with a 50-years old Mr. Khan continuing to play a superhero.
6. A superhero film is as much about the special effects as the story. And good special effects cost us in India as much as they cost Hollywood producers. A typical superhero film in Hollywood costs between 125 to 300 million US dollars to make, which is around Rs. 625 to 1350 crores. Even if we take the cost of Ra-One at Rs. 150 crores, this just isn’t enough money to buy and create the great special effects that a film like this would need.
I wish Mr. Khan the best and will be happy if proven wrong. In any case, it is very likely that the film will get its investment back irrespective of how good or bad it is. But there’s a huge difference between a monetary successful film and one that makes an impact. Who really will remember Singham, Ready and Bodyguard after two years?

2 Comments

  • The carpet bombing is hard to escape, omnipresent is right
    prepare for hate mail and even threats from the old hero’s fans

  • Congrats on having the guts to state the obvious on a public platform. You are right about almost everything (except for Robot – I really liked the movie for what it was), I mean, normally a movie should come out first and then the merchandise. I’ve gotten Ra.one comics in TOI, and advertisement of toys, all this just to create hype about a movie, I am not going to watch anyway. There are just certain things you have a gut feeling about, and I feel the story / plot is going to be a ripoff…. only time will tell.

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