Saturday, October 2, 2010

Endhiran or I LOVE ROBO!

The demand for Endhiran tickets has been so great that I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get a chance to see the film this weekend. Due to good timing and my natural inclination to be early for everything, I scored one of the last tickets to the noon show of Endhiran today. Everything else was sold out. Last night was sold out. And even the noon show was houseful.

I haven’t been in a crowd this excited to see a film since I went to see
Om Shanti Om way back in 2008. The wolf whistles and cheers started as soon as the theater started to fill up and didn’t stop until SUPERSTAR RAJINIKANTH made his appearance. Perhaps Endhiran was an odd choice as my first Rajni film but I really enjoyed it. The film is a masala-lover’s dream come true. It had everything – romance, sentiment, comedy, action, evil villains, a beautiful heroine, songs, dancing, and a break-neck pace that kept me interested until the very, very end. I laughed: I gawked; I sat with my mouth open in disbelief; and at the end of it all, I wiped away the bittersweet tears from my eyes and began trying to piece it all together.
Endhiran was written by the same team that did one of my new favorite films Anniyan - S. Shankar (who also directed) and the late Sujatha, a Tamil language sci-fi writer that I would dearly love to be able to read in English. The premise is something along the lines of Frankenstein. A scientist (Rajinikanth) creates an android in his own image, chaos ensues, and the scientist learns a valuable lesson. And the film is perfectly enjoyable on that level, but Endhiran isn’t just mindless fun. Layered on top of the very enjoyable robot story is a meta-narrative playing with the image of Rajinikanth the Superstar, much like Anniyan explored the psyche of the masala hero, Endhiran explores the relationship between the masala hero and man playing him.

Rajinikanth still has that on-screen magic. His performance as both the android and the scientist was flawless. There was an interesting tension between the two – Chitti, the robot, was the one doing all the usual Hero tasks. He beat up rowdies, saved some people, did some dancing, and was the one obsessed with the heroine. Meanwhile, Rajini actually managed to fade into the background as Vaseegaran, the scientist, which was very impressive. Vaseegaran is a man – an arrogant man who builds a model of human perfection in
his own image, but a man, nonetheless. Chitti is a HERO but he’s clueless about how to interact with people on a real-life level – to tragic effect in one case.

But Vaseegaran is the creator and sees himself as God-like, with the power to create and destroy at will. He gives Chitti the ability to feel and then callously mocks Chitti’s feelings when he gets jealous of him.

I think it’s a tribute to both Rajinikanth and the excellent script that I found myself torn between supporting Chitti and Vaseegaran, even as Chitti does increasingly worse things. I think Vaseegaran knows (and I agree) that it’s all his fault.

SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth lived up to his name but he wasn’t the only great thing about the film. I think 2010 will be the year of Aishwarya Rai! She puts in a stellar performance as the
masala heroine and I found myself quite charmed by her act as “Sana, the college student.” Now, I know that I usually bust everybody’s chops for playing much younger than they are (*cough* Aamir) but I think Aishwarya worked in the role because she was opposite 60+ Rajinikanth and we were clearly supposed to suspending disbelief as far as far as ages went. In other words, we weren’t supposed to think that Aishwarya was actually 20. And her performance was so full of life. Aishwarya not only looked healthy and glowing but she had such fun in her attitude through the whole film. She practically sparkled right off of the screen and into the aisles. There was even a picturization later on that is supposed to be darker and you can see Aishwarya give this big grin as she dances past a row of menacing Rajinikanth robots.

Aishwarya and Rajinikanth had a fun chemistry. I believed Sana and Vaseegaran as an established couple and I
definitely bought Chitti's infatuation with her.

As for the rest of the supporting cast, Danny Denzongpa was serviceably menacing as Vaseegaran’s mentor-rival Doctor Bohra and the comic relief was aptly handled by Karunas and Santhanam.

A.R. Rahman did the songs and I enjoyed them all a lot more after seeing the picturizations than on the album, especially the Peru number “Kilimanjaro.” The dancing… well, Aishwarya was excellent but if there is one thing Rajinikanth can’t quite do as well as he could in the past, it’s dancing. Still, he did his best and the dances are all very enjoyable.

So, would I recommend this to people? Well, if you are a
masala fan, then absolutely. But if you aren’t a masala fan, then some of the Southern masala tropes might be a bit much for you. I already touched on the age thing but there were also 3 attempted rape sequences, copious jokes about how Chitti didn’t have a, um, ‘little chitti,’ and some absolutely ridiculous scenes with the robot fighting. I happen to enjoy most of that (I can do without attempted rape as a trope) but I understand that not everybody does.

I leave you with a final word: Robo.

Robo. Robo. ROBO. ROBOOOOOOO!

I kind of want to go again now.

6 comments:

Pardesi said...

Nice review. I think I will have to see this one, though I am not much of a masala or "Southern" trope fan! You have praised Aishwarya though most reviews out there have said she looked good but did not have much to do. Gotta see for myself now :D

Ros Francis said...

I saw Endhiran yesterday - the dubbed Hindi version (with English subtitles) which did work - though I am curious to hear the Tamil versions of the songs. It was my first introduction to Superstar Rajni too and I enjoyed it very much. Aishwarya was perfect! She seemed to really enjoy herself making this film and genuinely sparkled. I took my boyfriend with me who isn't so familiar with masala films and he also enjoyed it. Particularly the ridiculous robot fighting scenes :) Our favourite WTF moment was with the mosquitos It made almost no sense but that didn't matter.

Beth said...

Oooh. Totally disagree about Sana and the romances but think your points about Vasi's creator issues and the awesome tension between Vasi and Chitti. The way the tension was finally resolved quite sweet, and probably the only possible way out. I hadn't given any thought to why Vasi made Chitti look like himself, but yeah, kya hubris hai, dude!

Filmi Girl said...

@pardesi Yeah, I noticed that about Aishwarya but I was really charmed by her. Then again, I find Katrina Kaif irresistible and most critics hate her.

@Ros Francis Yeah, the mosquito scene was pretty crazy!! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

@Beth I think we disagree on romance in films in general, though... :) I feel like Aish did a fine job with the material she had.

Kaitlyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yip said...

It's very refreshing to find someone who likes 'the woods' for what they are without any 'buts' attached. So to speak...


I'm watching this movie right now - I'm at the intermission. So far, so very good. I especially like when Chitti is first revealed to the scientists and one of them asks him if there's a God. An inspired reply.


It’s also interesting to see Ms. Rai in a less-serious role, having only seen her in Devdas, and Jodhaa Akbar.

This is a great great great film, although I could have done without the attempted rape scene. Very unpleasant...

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

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xoxo Filmi Girl