I put up my non-spoilers review already, now it’s time for the one where I zoom through the whole film for those who missed it in theaters and want to know what happened, and for those who saw it in theaters and want a detailed discussion of every part.
We open with the classic “bad guy explaining their evil plan” scene. Normally in these movies, I find the “bad guy plotting” scenes suuuuuuuuuuuper boring, and am eager to get back to the “hero being heroic!” scenes. But in this case, the bad guy is Kay Kay Menon, and I could happily watch him read the phone book, so I am delighted that we open on his eeeeeeeeeeevil corporate office, with a discussion of the central conflict of the film, that the eeeeeeeeeevil chemical factory needs to build a bridge that will go right over the idyllic home of Tiger and his mother Amrita and brother Gaurav Panday (Humpty’s friend in Humpty Sharma, star of the y-films youtube series A Man’s World, surprisingly good actor!). Also, we see this whole thing in one of those 3D graphic projection things in the middle of the conference table. Is this a tool anybody actually uses in conferences in real life? Or is it just something for movie conferences?
(You should watch at least a few episodes! It’s interesting!)
Oh, and the real problem is, right at the point where the bridge would make landfall is a holy tree, which is hundreds of years old and spontaneously grew a Khanda in the bark on the side. People from all over “the city” come to pray at the tree. By the way, I greatly appreciate that this “city” is never named. In Krrish 3, there was a huge problem because it was supposed to be in Bombay and Krrish was saving all the people of Bombay. But we only really ever saw one intersection, and the same people showed up at every public event, so the idea of a city of millions didn’t come across. But in this, it is just “the city”! It could be a city of 100,000 for all we know, in which case it is completely reasonable for them all to pray at the same tree and keep bumping into each other and so on.
The business people explain to Kay Kay that they want to buy the land, they keep offering for it, but Amrita keeps slapping them and sending them off. But, they decide they can try talking to her son, Tiger, who teaches Karate at a local school,
And, Tiger intro! It’s very similar to his intro for Baaghi, he is all noble and doing a martial arts pose in front of a class. And then we change angles to see that all the kids and wriggling around and playing and ignoring him! And he drops the pose and says “oh come on, children, pay a little attention!”
This is what I was saying in my non-spoiler review about not making him into a perfect hero type. He isn’t naturally charismatic and special with everyone honoring him. He’s just a nice guy trying to do his best.
Although he’s also a great dancer! We go right to seeing the big bhangra number with all the people of the neighborhood dancing together. And in the middle of it, Jacqueline arrives! All colorful and full of personality, and Tiger is all over-taken at the sight of her.
I am positive there is a couple minute scene that they cut right here because they wanted to open on a dance. Jacqueline is arriving in a cab with baggage, we later see that she and Tiger work at the same school, obviously he invited her to rent rooms from his mother and this is her arriving at the neighborhood and immediately joining in the big dance. But they cut the scene where they actually talk about her moving in and explain how they know each other and what her name is and all that, so she is just, boom, here, and we don’t get her character name of connection to anyone for a few more scenes.
Song over, Kay Kay arrives! With a bunch of scary cars. He tries to buy the land for a very large price, and Amrita turns him down, even though her sons seem like they might be willing to consider it. After he leaves, Amrita drops some heavy exposition on us, explaining that her husband was the first Sikh to study Kung Fu in China (awesome cartoon flashback illustrates this) and he could jump so high and kick so far that he was called “flying jatt”. But he couldn’t escape the cancer that came from the pollution of the city, so before he died, he set up this little community outside the city where they could have clean air, and Amrita will never give up his legacy! Even if her sons are cowards and not nearly as good as they could be, especially Tiger who doesn’t even wear a turban. That last isn’t subtext, she comes right out and says it. A very demanding mother!
(I hope she isn’t nearly as demanding in real life. If so, I feel very sorry for Sara and Ibrahim)
Tiger is back to teaching karate and no one is paying attention again. Until he mentions Bruce Lee and says, just like Bruce Lee caught bullets with his nunchucks, so will Tiger catch tennis balls from the school ball machine! Oh, and he is doing this because Jacqueline is walking by, talking to another teacher. Again, it really feels like there was a short scene that was supposed to be before this establishing their love triangle!
Tiger does manage to catch the balls, he’s not a totally incompetent martial artist, but then the naughty little Sikh kid, with the encouragement of the music teacher who also likes Jacqueline, turns the speed up on the ball machine and it all falls apart, because Tiger is good, but not that good.
But forget all this kind of boring stuff (seriously, the first 20 minutes of this movie reeeeeaaaaaaally dragged), Kay Kay is back! He called Tiger to his house, where he is cutely playing hide and seek with water guns with his little daughter. He calls Tiger in, and while they hide together, he casually explains that his wife is dead, so he plays with his daughter, so she won’t feel the loss of a mother. Nothing is worse than to lose a mother. And by the way, Tiger should really try to convince his mother to sell the land. Threat received!!!
Tiger goes home to beg his mother to give in, but she is adamant! Meanwhile, Kay Kay has called “Raka”. He is currently hiding in a sand dune in Rajastan waiting to be captured by the local lords goons. Because only after he is captured will the lord come out of hiding. And then he can kill him. And all his goons. It’s an okay action scene, but it is mostly notable for being so violent-not-violent. Yes, dozens are killed, but they are killed by being thrown around and stuff, not by bloody stab wounds or anything unpleasant. Oh, and then as Raka (Nathan Jones) is walking away, he gets the phone call from Kay Kay to come solve a problem in Nameless City.
(here’s Nathan Jones doing an interview for Mad Max. He seems like a nice guy, right?)
Meanwhile, Tiger is praying at the holy tree. He explains that he stopped believing in the tree when it failed to save his father. But now the tree has a second chance, if it can save his mother. Tiger knows he isn’t strong or brave or good enough, so the only chance is if the tree can help them. And then Nathan Jones shows up with a chainsaw to cut it down! NOOOOOO!
Tiger tries to fight, but he isn’t strong enough, and Nathan gets him backed up against the tree trunk and starts punching him, right up against the sacred Khanda! And we see a sort of blue light shoot through Tiger. And then Nathan grabs the chainsaw and is about to chop through both Tiger and the tree! When a sudden electrical bolt comes down and shoots through both of them, shooting Nathan all the way into the air, to land in a toxic waste dump, and Tiger to shake up against the tree while blue lightening shoots through him. Next morning, Tiger wakes up in his own bed, gets dressed, and doesn’t see in the mirror what we, the audience, see-that the Khanda has been scarred into his back.
At work that day he tries the same trick with the tennis balls, only this time when the naughty kid turns up the speed all the way, he can still hit them all! So precisely that he even manages to shoot one over to injure his music teacher rival! And when he loses his nunchucks, he can still hit them away just with his hands!
That night, Kay Kay has ordered more goons to chase down Tiger and beat him up. They catch Tiger and Gaurav Panday walking down the road together, and just as Gaurav has handed Tiger a DVD case of the Sunny Leone movies they will watch that night to distract Tiger from being love sick over Jacqueline, the bad guys get out and threaten them. The threat makes Tiger’s blue lightening power come out, only it shoots into the DVD case, so he starts doing a perfect dance/song version of “Baby Doll”! (this is my second favorite scene of the film. If Tiger ever wanted to do a whole movie that was just him dancing to famous female item numbers, I would watch that!)
(the hands bit always creeps me out. Also, I saw Kanika Kapoor perform this live! It was okay)
The dance momentarily distracts the bad guys (who wouldn’t be distracted by Tiger Shroff doing a perfect Sunny Leone!), but then they recover and start shooting. So Tiger grabs Gaurav and takes off running, running so fast Gaurav is flying behind him and the cars can’t catch them! And even when Tiger is shot, nothing seems to hurt him!
The next morning is one of my favorite scenes! Tiger is asleep in his room, and Gaurav runs and gets Amrita to tell her that Tiger has superpowers. Amrita doesn’t believe him, Gaurav shows her the smoking shoes from the run, and the jacket with bullet holes in it. She still doesn’t believe him, so Gaurav grabs the chopping knife from her hand, and gently stabs Tiger in the shoulder. And then they both watch as the wound heals itself. Gaurav does it again, just to see what will happen, and then it’s Amrita’s turn! She hesitates a moment, then gently stabs Tiger too. Then she kind of gets into it, stabs him a few more times, then turns and gently stabs Gaurav too, just for comparison! Gaurav objects, then grabs the knife back, climbs on top of the bed and raises it up to stick right into Tiger’s chest, just as he wakes up, sees what is happening, and shoves Gaurav all the way into the cabinet, shattering it!
And now comes my top favorite moment of the film, a great montage song showing Gaurav and Amrita trying to work out Tiger’s powers. They rent a bunch of American superhero DVDs and try to make Tiger light on fire like The Flash, or stretch like Mr. Fantastic. The direct him on how to pose while flying, and shove him off the roof to test his flying abilities. It’s a really funny sequence, and it’s also a nice tongue in cheek acknowledgement of how the filmmakers based their superhero film on all the American ones that have recently come out.
Poor Tiger puts up with all their experiments, and also their attempts to make him a superhero costume, until finally his mother is inspired and sews him one based on the old Sikh warrior outfits, with a Khanda on the front, and a lion belt buckle. She offers him his father’s turban as well, to complete the outfit, and Tiger gently refuses, pointing out that he doesn’t feel worthy or ready to wear it, and that they are told not to wear turbans unless the spirit moves them. Tiger also explains why he cut his kesh when he was a boy, because his classmates use to tease him all the time about “going crazy at midnight”. And Amrita lays some history on him, explaining that the whole joke came about because Sikh raiders used to attack at midnight when they were rescuing Indian hostages and valuables from invaders. Tiger listens to her whole argument, but still doesn’t feel comfortable wearing the turban. But he will take his father’s old nickname, “Flying Jatt”!
And then, now that he is outfitted, his mother orders him to go out and “do good!” Like a superhero is supposed to! So he goes off, and his first attempt does not go well. He tries to save an old woman from muggers and gets pepper spray for his troubles. He returns home, tired and embarrassed.
But the next day, just as he is wondering how this is supposed to work, he hears something! A little boy is praying at the holy tree for someone to save his father! Terrorists have taken over the airport and are holding hostages, and someone needs to save them!
See, this is where the simplicity of the origin story really pays off. He’s not a hero by accident, God himself gave him his powers, and he is meant to use them as an avatar of God, to help those who ask God for help. No need for an elaborate “Bat signal” when he is needed or anything, God gave him the powers, and God will tell him when to use them.
So, he goes flying off to the airport, a solid 6 feet above the ground (he can fly, but he is still afraid of heights). This is the big from the trailer, when he arrives all dramatically, and promptly falls onto the hood of a car, crushing it. And then tries to stride of dramatically, and has to pause to free his cape because it got caught in the car.
Once he is inside the airport, there is a spot on rip-off of the “Time in a Bottle” scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. But, you know, it’s a good rip-off! The special effects are spot-on, they wrote a new piece of music that works really well, and there are some fun bits with replacing a gun with a sandwich. And then everyone is free, and we go right into a hero montage! Set to the title song, which is cool, but I am heartbroken that they didn’t use the promotional version with the adorable little girls singing to him.
But, like I said, the montage is nice too. What I like is that it sticks with the idea that he answers everyone who prays, no matter how big or how small are their problems. He gets bitten rescuing a little girl’s dog, he goes into a burning building to save a little girl, both problems are equally important.
Meanwhile, Kay Kay is frustrated! Nothing can stop the Flying Jatt! And he has started dumping the toxic waste that Kay Kay wants to bury on public land into Kay Kay’s front yard. And then, Nathan Jones re-appears! He has been lying (laying?) in a pool of toxic waste this whole time, and now he comes stamping in to the corporate headquarters, everyone runs in fear, except for Kay Kay, who seems happy to see him. They clean him up and bring him to the corporate hospital? Or something? The doctor wants to keep him sedated, but Kay Kay wants to wake him up. And then the whole argument is moot because Nathan wakes himself up and starts throwing doctors around. There is this prominently placed pot of flowers, which is odd in the scientific equipment type hospital room, and I was SO SURE that we would see them dramatically wilt to show how Nathan’s very presence is toxic. But no! I guess they really were just random things thrown into the background of the set.
Kay Kay is, predictably, awesome acting opposite Nathan Jones. And I kind of love watching their contrasting acting styles, Nathan being all over the top and growling his lines and stuff, and Kay Kay being super quiet and casual about it. Kay Kay asks Nathan to take on the Flying Jatt, and Nathan agrees, so long as Kay Kay makes him a super cool suit.
Meanwhile, Tiger is flying along home, when he gets a phone call from Amrita. She needs him to stop on the way home and buy bottle gourd for dinner. Or, if he isn’t willing to do that, at least stop by the wine shop and get her some whiskey. Tiger complains that he’s in his costume!!! He can’t stop by the market!!! Amrita is having none of his excuses and besides, as she points out, if he shops in costume he can probably get them a good discount. Again, love the very practical attitude towards superheroes! Why not use your costume for a discount?
Tiger stops by the market, and Jacqueline is there! She is all excited to see her hero, the Flying Jatt, in person! She offers to buy his bottle gourd for him, and in the middle of her excited flirting, Nathan Jones appears! By the way, I love that Jacqueline is so excited to meet him. Too often superhero movies fall back on the idea that the “heroine” will be the only one who isn’t impressed with the hero. That he will like her because she is so cool and above it all. But this one says “No! Be yourself! You don’t have to hide your emotions just to make the boy like you!”
Oh, and fight fight fight fight fight. At first Nathan Jones is winning, and then Tiger is winning. And then the other way around. Until finally Tiger tries really really hard, and really really wins. And we all cheer! But he has to rush off because part of his mask got torn off in the fight.
That night, Tiger quickly cuts a new mask out of a strip of cloth, and then flies over to visit Jacqueline. She is all excited to see the Flying Jatt on her balcony. Tiger awkwardly explains that he is there to pay back the money for the bottle gourd. And offers to take her for a flying ride, all Superman: The Movie style. And, love song!
Now, here’s what bothers me about this song. Why is he wearing the funky trailing mask for it? I know why in script terms, it’s because his regular mask tore and he was rushing out so he just threw something together quickly. But, why did the costume designers/scriptwriter bother? Was there something about the original mask that made it harder to move in? Was it just to have the cool trailing strands? Are they going to market Flying Jatt toys with multiple clothing options (this is often the reason for random costume changes like this in American superhero movies)?
After the love song is over, Jacqueline gets him to promise to to visit her school the next day, and says she can’t wait to introduce him to her best friend, Tiger Shroff! Oops! Tiger goes home and begs and begs his brother, Gaurav, until Gaurav agrees to dress up in the costume the next day so Tiger can be there as “himself”. Oh, and Gaurav needs to be convinced, because he dressed up in the costume once before, just for fun, and ended up getting beat up when drunk Amrita say him, didn’t realize who it was, and wanted to show off how nothing could hurt him, by hitting him with cricket bats and coconuts.
Gaurav eventually agrees, and the next day shows up at school, and does some fancy talking to explain why he can’t show them how he can fly or anything. Oh, and before he shows up, Jacqueline is talking to Tiger about how much she likes Flying Jatt, and Tiger accidentally reveals his own feelings, telling her that Flying Jatt will surely like her back, because there aren’t any other girls like her. “You aren’t one in a million, you are the One.” Awwww!
Right, so, Gaurav shows up, and the whole school piles into a bus to go on a field trip. But then the bus has to stop, because there are a couple of cars parked in front of them on the road, and some drunken louts hanging around and refusing to move. Jacqueline gets out and yells at them, because she’s spunky! And then she pushes Gaurav forward to fight them, and Gaurav does some fast talking saying that “I’m not the superhero! Anyone who stands up against wrong is a superhero! Even your Karate teacher could be a superhero!!!” And he pushes Tiger forward to beat up all the bad guys. And the kids all cheer! And are finally willing to show up for Karate class.
But, eeeeeeeeevil is on the way! Nathan Jones has recovered from his fight and discovers, when Kay Kay blows smoke in his face, that pollution makes him stronger! So he tells Kay Kay to pour all the pollution from their factories into him until he cannot be defeated. This is a great solution for global warming! Just make the supervillains eat it all! Oh, only apparently it not only makes the supervillains stronger, but it also lets them spread the pollution even further or something? Anyway, it’s bad!
Tiger is more concerned with Valentine’s Day being on the way. He wants to spend it with Jacqueline, but his mother is guilting him because a charity has organized a whole event in his honor and she wants him to go to that. Rather than stand up to his mother (Amrita Singh is terrifying!!! Who would?), Tiger convinces his brother to dress up as him, against Gaurav’s objections that bad things always happen when he wears the costume. So Gaurav goes to the Valentine’s event, and Tiger goes over to Jacqueline’s. Arriving at the same time as the music teacher. And Jacqueline sits them down, and tries to explain that, although the music teacher is okay, and she really really likes Tiger (see! She already liked him, it’s not just because he’s a superhero!), she is in love with Flying Jatt. And just then, on the TV, Shraddha Kapoor shows up (remember, she starred in Remo D’Souza’s last movie, ABCD2, and co-starred with Tiger in Baaghi, so she’s friendly with both the star and the director and therefore up for a “friendly” appearance!). She is playing herself, Indian filmstar Shraddha Kapoor, and she has come to tell the Flying Jatt that she is in love with him, and wants to marry him! Gaurav, caught up in the moment, of course says yes! Jacqueline is heartbroken!
That night, Tiger yells at Gaurav, Gaurav asks how he could say no to “Shakti Kapoor’s daughter!”, and Jacqueline overhears the whole fight! She knows the truth! She is delighted!
(Somehow, I just don’t see this guy as being what makes Shraddha really attractive to young men)
And she decides to have some fun with it, very briefly, by going to Tiger and Gaurav and telling them how the Flying Jatt came to visit her after the Valentine’s event, they kissed! Her first kiss! Tiger is furious at Garauv and starts punching him, accidentally revealing that he is the Flying Jatt!!! Jacqueline pretends surprise for a second, and then reveals that she already knew everything, and of course didn’t really kiss anyone last night. Tiger and she slooooowly lean in for the kiss (small children all around me in the theater start going “ewwwwww!”), and then song! A really silly and not very child friendly song. But I guess you need something sexy for the promotions?
Oh, and THIS is when Amrita gives the whole “midnight” speech!!! I knew it was when they were fighting over the turban, but it felt too early way back right after she made the costume. But now they are fighting again, because it is Holla Mohalla (I think, I didn’t quite catch it in the film, but from the description of festivals on The Internet, that’s what it looks like), and she wants him to wear the turban as a sign of respect.
And then we go straight from that, to Nathan Jones holding a bunch of people hostage in a mall. It’s kind of cool how quickly this is resolved. In another movie, they would have dragged it out and out and out, but in this, he barely offers the threat and we get a handful of panicked reaction shots, and then as he goes to kill the first person, voooom! Tiger is there! Ready to beat him up!
Fight fight fight!!! Most of the damage is done to cars, and Tiger is careful to carry away all bystanders who are in trouble. Very nice, thank you Indian film! Better than the recent American superhero movies, where innocent people are killed all over the place and no one seems to care.
Tiger ends up completely beaten, for once his wounds aren’t healing, but he manages to escape by hiding in the crowd of Sikhs. I was kind of hoping that he would make his way to the moveable altar that is, presumably, holding a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib and have his powers restored there. But no such luck! Instead, he just manages to slip away, still gravely ill, to be tended by his mother and brother at home.
Meanwhile, Nathan Jones is making the city worse and worse! Killing all the trees, polluting all the rivers, everything is horrible. Even Kay Kay is now against him, and tries to pay him off, because Kay Kay’s own daughter is dying of asthma in the polluted air. But Nathan Jones doesn’t care about money any more! He just wants power and pollution.
Kay Kay and his daughter, along with a crowd of others, go to pray at the holy tree, and Tiger hears their prayers and tries to stand. But he can’t make it, he is still too injured. Finally, Nathan Jones takes over a news broadcast (this speech is where I really feel his wrestling training! Very over the top and silly) and says that he will keep polluting the city, unless the Flying Jatt shows up to fight him! Amrita is worried, and asks Gaurav to go check on Tiger.
She and Jacqueline are still watching, and the Flying Jatt shows up! Yay! They rush to the room to look at Tiger, and he’s not there! Only, then he comes stumbling out of the bathroom, still all messed up looking, and they realize it’s Gaurav! He took the costume again and went in Tiger’s place. Awwwww! This is legit sad and touching!
He tries his best, he lets Nathan Jones fight him, but of course he can’t take it. And finally, Nathan Jones throws him to the ground from a great height, just as Tiger and Amrita arrive. Tiger rushes to the body, and quickly remembers Gaurav saying “bad things always happen when I wear your costume!” And then his speech about how any time people stand up and fight, they are superheroes. And lets the reporters and people still call Gaurav the Flying Jatt because, since he tried his best to stand up to wrong, he really was a superhero, just as much as Tiger. The main message of the movie, which is a really good message! Don’t wait for Superman to save you, or anyone else, just do the right thing all on your own.
And, sad song! Amrita and Tiger have a sad dinner, Amrita automatically puts out 3 plates and 3 rotis and then stops herself. Tiger flashes back to the two of them playing as children, and hanging out as adults, it’s just really sad. Mostly because Amrita is selling the heck out of it.
The people are trying to fight back against the pollution that is feeding Nathan Jones, having marches and sweeping streets all Swachh Bharat style. But it’s still not enough. And finally, Tiger dresses up in his outfit again, and this time puts on the turban. He also has a little bit of stubble, but it looks really really fake. Like, put on with a ballpoint pen fake. But I get the point! He is finally accepting the full Sikh identity.
(It’s a way more serious and respectful version of this. But I like this song, so I am including it anyway)
Amrita tries to stop him and, again, really sells her grief, having lost one son, she can’t bare to lose another. But Tiger grabs her hand and forces her to share the voices he hears, all begging for help. And she agrees to let him go.
Fight fight fight!!! Again! With a lot of location changes! We start where the small kids from the school are planting trees with the help of their music teacher (see! He isn’t the winner in the love triangle, and he is kind of obnoxious, but he is still able to do the right thing and be brave and plant trees!) Nathan Jones shows up to threaten them, and this is the scene I mentioned in my review, where you can kind of see the person poking through the character, and Nathan Jones the person clearly thinks this child actor is the cutest thing he has ever seen and is getting a huge kick out of acting with him. And it ends with the little boy punching him, and Nathan Jones doing this huge fake fly backwards, as though the punch really knocked him out! And then the camera pulls back to reveal Tiger standing behind the kid.
Location change! Tiger grabs him and brings him over to the little neighborhood where he is from. Brilliant! This is the area his Dad set up with no pollution (there are prominently placed solar panels everywhere), so Nathan Jones has nothing to give him power! And, fight fight fight again! Until they end up by the tree again and Tiger seems beaten. But the crowd is still there and is with him! Nathan Jones goes over to threaten Amrita, who is leading the crowd, and she refuses to back down. Reminding him that, “the sparrow will fight the hawk, and one man will fight one hundred and twenty-five thousand-Guru Gobind Singh!” And then the “Ik Onkar” hymn starts up, and Tiger rises again, strengthened, and continues the fight!
New location! The moon? Or an asteroid? It is unclear. Tiger keeps dramatically inhaling through his nose, but there’s no air on the moon, right? So I don’t know what he is doing. Oh, and fight fight fight. Finally, Tiger throws Nathan through a Chinese satellite powered with a nuclear core, which you would think would kill him. But, it doesn’t! Because he can gather more power, since “even space is polluted!” Fight fight fight some more on a bigger satellite. Until, finally, Tiger just punches all the way through him and Nathan disintegrates into dust. And then we get a shot of the earth with the words “Everything has an alternative except Mother Earth-Remo” written over it. A nice sentiment, but I have a hard time taking seriously a quote from the director of ABCD.
(This is actually the opening credit sequence, but it ends with the same quote.)
And, the end! It’s just that sudden, Tiger lands back on earth, Jacqueline and Amrita cheer, freeze frame, the end! Thank goodness, no lingering plot tails or any other reason to expect a sequel. I am so sick of the trilogy style superhero movies from Hollywood! Just tell the story you want to tell and leave it at one movie! Don’t make 3 movies that only work together! The open ending was my least favorite part of Ra.One. Okay, rant over.