When Heather Graham started dancing in a style similar to Bollywood in the 2002 movie The Guru, you know that the Indian film industry has arrived. All those numbers that feature singing and dancing to some very catchy music are staples of a Bollywood movie.
In fact, these numbers are integral parts of these kinds of movie, along with some comedy and love triangles. Doomed romances facing a lot of hurdles, such as disapproving parents, kidnappers, stupid villains and corrupt politicians, eventually will triumph because of some convenient twist involving extremely kind-hearted minor characters.
The Bollywood stereotypes have been slowly transforming, however. More sophisticated stories have been coming out, mainly as a result of greater influence of the West in the Indian home. Some have been ambitious enough to target a worldwide release, sparing no expense in the process.
One such film is the Bollywood movie entitled Ra One, the most expensive Bollywood movie ever made. Produced at a cost of $ 23.63 million, the science fiction movie made extensive use of visual effects and 3-D conversion, eventually being recognized for the technological breakthrough it has made for Indian films. Aside from the production cost, an additional $ 9.83 million was spent for the marketing of the film that entailed nine months of publicity, brand tie-ups, merchandising and video games.
Ra One featured Bollywood superstars Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Armaan Verma and Arjun Rampal, and was directed by Anubhav Sinha.
Ra One Plot
The movie is centered on Shekhar Subramanium, the character played by Khan. Shekhar is a technological geek who was able to create a unique motion sensor video game. The game, however, featured a antagonist, called Ra One, that is more powerful than the lead player, named G One. When Ra One escapes the virtual environment of the video game and starts living in the real world, all hell breaks loose. Ra One sets out to eliminate the son of Shekhar, who uses Lucifer as his video game handle. The son of Shekhar had been the only one to challenge the power of Ra One in the game.
Movie Production, Location and Techniques
Filming was supposed to start in 2010 in Miami, Florida, but the plan was shelved because of constraint in the budget. Shooting commenced in Goa instead, before transferring to London for the second and third phase of the movie. The cast then went back to India to film scenes in Filmistan Studios, Film City and Whistling Woods in Mumbai. Live action sequences involving cars and trains were also shot in both London and Mumbai.
The director made use of unique camera techniques, including borrowing a concept from video games in which the viewer’s perspective shifts quickly from first to third person, and vice versa. Bullet time cinematography procedure was also utilized.
There were also sequences that made use of multiple cameras, including one that had 36 cameras being used for just a single scene. To ensure the smooth transition of the filming process, the producers made sure that the production design crew would coordinate and work closely with the movie’s lighting and cinematography teams. Still, despite all efforts to keep expenses down, the difficulties in doing the movie meant the producers overshot the costs, as well as faced constraints in time and safety.
Ra One was widely anticipated by the Indian moviegoers. Multiplex owners in India had decided to allot as much as 95 percent of all screens in the country for the film’s showing. It therefore broke the previous record, previously held by 2011’s The Bodyguard, for the widest release for a movie in India. Extensive measures were also taken to release the movie to the widest possible audience as soon as possible in order to discourage piracy. It did not work, however, as pirated copies turned out on the Internet barely hour after the movie’s first screening.
Abroad, the film was released in more than 1,500 movie houses, more than a third of which were in the 3-D version. A release in China was expected to further boost the movie’s numbers.
Critics were mixed in its review of the movie. The most generous of the reviews praised Ra One for uplifting the level of Bollywood films, and Indian movies in general, to that equivalent of Hollywood. The numerous loopholes in the script, direction and other production aspects, however, did not escape the eyes of other more discerning critics. While the music and visuals for the movie were judged to be superior, the other behind the camera aspects of Ra One were deemed as flawed.
The movie was timed to open during the Diwali weekend, a holiday lasting five days. Producers had hoped to take advantage of the long break to attract more viewers to its screenings. The move paid off handsomely, as Ra One set several box-office records, including biggest opening day debut during the Diwali weekend and biggest total during the Diwali holidays. It also eclipsed the figures set by The Bodyguard for the biggest revenue of a movie for one day and the biggest three-day opening weekend ever. Abroad, the numbers were quite similar, with records set for the highest three-day and five-day weekend grosses for a Bollywood movie.
Ra One was not able to sustain its run however because of the widespread pirated versions being distributed on the Internet and the release of another highly anticipated movie in Rockstar. The result was an astounding drop in collections equivalent to 84 percent in its second week. The following week, screening revenues dropped a further 90 percent.
Still, Ra One was complemented for its ambitious approach and ground breaking visual effects. It took a risk and the producers shouldered a huge amount to invest in everything that the movie would need to succeed. Though the numbers were not really of the blockbuster variety, it still made more than enough to recoup its investments. The movie has made a total of $ 38.18 million for its purely Hindi version, and an additional $ 7.18 million for its dubbed versions.
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