Enthiran (The Robot)

Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: 4/5

 Rajni as Dr. Vaseegaran introduces Chitti the Robot to an audience of scientists. 
Scientist: Kadavul irukaara? (Does God exist?)
Robot: Kadavul na yaaru? (Who is God?)
Scientist: Namla ellam padaithavar Kadavul (We are all creations of God)
Robot: Enna padaithavar Dr.Vaseegaran. Appo, kadavul irukaar (Dr. Vaseegaran created me. So, God exists)

A thunderous applause followed in the movie theater; hooting and whistles persisted for the next 30 seconds. If anything, you would watch this movie to witness the frenzy of Thalaivar’s die-hard fans, exulting with pride upon being presented with tokens of Rajni’s eulogy one after another.

Quick facts:  (1) Thalaivar – Superstar Rajnkanth’s moniker, meaning ‘Leader’ (2) Filmmaker Shankar is known for directing films with record-breaking budgets and his filmography has never registered a dud (3) The soundtrack and music are by the most expensive Indian Music Director, the Mozart of Madras, A R Rahman (4) The highest paid Indian actress, former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai is part of this bandwagon (5) While on the top dollar note, Rajni is the second highest paid actor in Asia after Jackie Chan (per current trade reports)(6) Enthiran is Asia’s most expensive film till date, at ~Rs. 170 cr.

Are we in Utopia yet?  It’s OK don’t play skeptic now, I am not going to pull the plug on you. Enthiran rocks the box office Rajni- hard by measuring up well, while deemed ‘highly ambitious’ for Indian style, standards and history of movie-making, limited audience, mega-budget, and a heavily-hyped  project that was delivered in 2250 prints all over the world. As is clear from the title, the plot of Enthiran revolves around a Robot ‘Chitti’ (played by Rajni) that is designed by Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajni again). The humanoid is the most advanced robot of any type; is able to read, observe, understand, learn and apply (or imitate) any form of verb. Examples of verbs (present participle) – running, dancing, driving, fighting. The most important of all, emoting, cooks the meat and potatoes of Enthiran. You may assume a negative angle when you’d see Danny Denzongpa’s name feature in the cast. Not giving away much, watch the movie to find out how a scientist, his fiancé, a robot that can emote, a rival scientist all fit together to tell a story.

Yevarum Uzhaicha Uyarnthidalam Endru Yeduthu Katruvathu Cinema Thaan
Adhuku Yaar Inga Saatchina Ada Vera Yaaru Namma Thalaivar Thaan”

(Cinema shows you can make it big by working hard; who else but our own Thalaivar is an example). ‘Cinema Cinema’ lyrics, from the movie Kuselan, based on stardom.

Very few entertainers command standing ovation at the beginning of their performance. Let alone the fact this was on a movie screen and not live. Rajni as Dr. Vaseegara  is a subdued character in the movie, letting Chitti’s character hog most of the limelight. Rajni, through Chitti brings back some of his famous screen mannerisms, most notably his laughter, his gait and his signature standing pose with one leg crossed. Arguably, Chitti is the more charming personality and compares well with a lot Rajni has done in the past – comedy, action, romance, you name it. A chunk of Chuck Norris jokes have been attributed to Rajni owing to his ‘invincible’ image, but Director Shankar made it all reasonable by conceptualizing Chitti, who does everything we have joked about. Rajni as Chitti has adapted the restricted body movements of a Robot well. The man sports a wig, wears make up and fits perfectly into the protagonist’s character in a Sci-fi movie. There are numerous moments he’ll make you forget he is a 60 year old playing a character at least 20 years younger.

Aishwarya Rai (Ash) as Sana seemed alright for a change, and does not get lost in the Rajni mania. Any other actress in her place would look terrible when Thalai grabs most of the eyeballs in the audience. Sana in Chitti’s words – Manishan padachaduliye urupadi aana vishayam, onnu naa, innonnu nee (To list everything beneficial man studied, one is me and other being you), and Ash is the glamour quotient as you may imagine. Her dance moves are gracefully choreographed, she does not ham so much and presents herself charismatically, yet doing the usual. Danny Denzongpa  as Dr. Bohra, paints a good image of some of the Hollywood Sci-fi villains we have seen in the last 5 years. His lip-sync is evidently dysfunctional, however, his hand gestures and expressions more than make up for it.

Shankar has delved into a challenging project with very unique attributes – a cult star, a subject of tomorrow, visual effects par excellence, technical artistes of great repute, and to add, production values that yesterday did not witness. All credits in this section including scripting go to Shankar, except Editing. Shankar, over the years has dealt with subjects that directly affected the society, primarily modeling the male protagonist as the game-changer. While his earlier works have been somewhat preachy, Endhiran scores big on keeping it real, letting the hero operate within the system and not above. While, the plot also aims at entertainment and this is achieved through some of Chitti’s gimmicks, comic acts and most importantly through special effects.  Converting a dream on paper to celluloid reality is an arduous task, especially when Shankar’s role was to extract the best from the best.

Although this seems like a subject focusing on the urban class, the humour is universal. When Chitti is watching a mosquito bite Sana, you would expect him to thwart it with a Kosubat and be done. But there is a whole comedy scene on the interaction between Thalai and mosquitoes named Cholera Jasmine, Dengue Lakshmi, etc. Sensibilities like these make Shankar reach out to a wide audience base. Shankar seems to have employed elaborate research on the technical know-how, and otherwise ignorable specifics like Robot’s melting skin when it catches fire, Robot programming itself, Robot functioning through stored electric charge, etc. and other such, if ignored, would be found in Readers-don’t-digest columns months later. Screenplay is (chrono)logical, except there is a lot to digest, so if any, I would have wanted to cut down on few special effects and mini action sequences to reduce running time.  Editing by Anthony Gonsalves is slick, keeps you hooked. If that proves he has done a good job, imagine the amount of work in front of him, having to choose from a wide array of options in form of special effects.

The best part of the movie after Thalaivar himself, the visual effects, have been done by Stan Winston Studio. Endhiran is not India’s response to Avatar, not yet. But it is a bold step in the right direction having employed experienced Hollywood artistes with a Terminator 2, a Jurassic Park, and  suchlike behind their back. How they make you feel normal about two Rajnis in the same frame, making one dance like Prabhu Deva, while keeping you guessing if its really Rajni, and the formations scene in the end makes me want to enter their minds to see how graphically and geometrically they think.  Great teamwork is seen at play between DOP R RathnaveluArt Direction team led by Sabu Cyril and the VFX team. The elaborate sets are worth noticing and must easily cost a bomb each – be it outdoor or indoor – grandiose is the word.  Shankar seems to have a fixation to picturize Ash in all 7 wonders of the world, which changed recently adding Machu Picchu amongst others, and what do you know!  How all the sets and outdoors are captured on camera, and vividly remain in your mind is Rathnavelu’s art and he proves himself yet again.

If A R Rahman sneezed, would it be musical too? Not sure. But unlike earlier associations, A R Rahman has used less of Superstar’s flavour and rather fit the album into the contemporary style he practices today. The music album is not a craze yet, but its apt to say it grows on you. Background music is ARR’s bigger contribution to Endhiran. Very astutely written octaves, amazing sound design, and world-class artistes recording in 3 cities (Chennai, Mumbai and London), ARR ensures the music enriches your experience. Sometimes operatic, sometimes comical, mostly flamboyant – much like the movie itself.

Why 4/5:
I take away because 1 point because Rajni’s age shows, and would have preferred shorter run time, with reduced action sequences. The good part being the ensemble, the performances, the technical aspects, a good subject, great special effects, great direction and most important of all, Rajni himself! Watch it simply because the man proves yet again why they call him Thalaivar!
9 Responses to “Enthiran (The Robot)”
  1. " Shankar seems to have a fixation to picturize Ash in all 7 wonders of the world, which changed recently adding Machu Picchu amongst others, and what do you know! " Manchi trivia undhi masteroo…nee review…good point.. aa line chadavagaane Jeans 7 wonders song gurthocchindi, mosquitoes scene.. ha ha.. hilarious.. aishwarya dances are very nice…really… overall its a decent watch.

  2. Sunny says:

    Thanks Krishna! Yep Jeans came to my mind when Machu Picchu was on screen. Did you see any negatives? Rating?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you and I think the movie was well made. But there were a few times when I felt it was dragging. Also, dubbing is poor in Telugu … Songs also … Otherwise amazing movie… Rajni as a villain – too good 🙂

  4. Sunny says:

    I did not have a chance to watch the Telugu version. Songs, somehow I hear most people say the same thing. I think its really time for ARR to kick it up a notch or two. Thankfully Rajni played the villain, so we got to see some of his mannerisms, otherwise Vaseegaran was all waaa! Thank you for the comment.

  5. Sunny says:

    Very interesting. We have seen so many movies (formula films) with the same similar scripts, yet one works and the other doesn't simply because of better technical elements like screenplay, cinematography, punch dialogues and as we see a distinguished starcast. Most important lesson learnt being economics – publicity, timing and positioning. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    good review Sunny! The concept of the movie isn't anything new..there's some x-factor though…totally worth watching!

  7. Sunny says:

    Thank you! The details in the script sure are new, I think the bigger challenge of portraying Rajni as larger-than-life overshadows everything else! But the production values are extremely high, and sure enough, shows in the final product. Respect for Shankar!

  8. Sunny says:

    Superstar Rajnikanth being discussed on US radio 93.9 FM WNYC, by a couple of RJs going gaga over the phenomenon. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/2010/oct/07/superstar-rajinikanth/

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