Friday, October 8, 2010

Filmi Girl reviews an Endhiran review!



It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these - mainly because my nemesis Rachel Saltz over at the NYT hasn’t been writing much - but I found a beauty of a misguided white person’s review on Endhiran to share with you over at the Orlando Sentinel. You can read the full review here.

From a simple glance at Roger Moore’s smirking photo on the banner of his blog at the Orlando Sentinel I am convinced that his review will be chock full of lazy Western film school stereotypes about Indian film and misinformed hack journalism.

I am not wrong.

Let’s begin at the beginning:

The first song Aishwarya Rai sings, she hits notes that would fetch most dogs on the Subcontinent to her, or make Westerners wonder about the use of helium off camera.

Point one - that isn’t actually Aishwarya Rai singing. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the conventions of any of the Indian popular cinemas would know that. See, there is this thing called “playback singing,” which allows us to enjoy good actors and dancers that may not have great singing voices to become big stars and (mostly) saves us from good singers who are forced into acting because they want to perform. In “playback singing,” a singer records a song for the actor to lipsync to. Nobody in the intended audience for
Endhiran is under any illusion that this is Aishwarya Rai’s singing voice.

Rajinikanth is a 60 year old Tamil superstar who may seem, to some Western eyes, like a Tamil Elvis impersonator — a bit paunchy and helmet-haired and too old for such silliness.

Okay, so by “some Western eyes” Mr. Moore means himself? And while perhaps Rajinikanth is a bit too old for the Hero roles, there are other ways to say it than by linking his performance to that of an Elvis
impersonator. What this says to me is that Mr. Moore walked into the film expecting a Camp Classic and viewed everything through that lens, not bothering to take the film on its own terms and delve the interesting material there. A more apt comparison would be of Sly Stallone kicking butt in The Expendables or Bruce Willis in the upcoming RED if Mr. Moore needed a Hollywood analogy for the older but still virile Superstar Rajini.

The robot (“Endhiran” means “robot”) speaks with a synthesized mechanical voice, and can cook, clean, break dance, fight, drive, compute and help Sana cheat on her tests, which makes her warm to him.

Pity he still looks like a Tamil Elvis impersonator clothed by J.C. Penney.


Again with the attacks on Superstar Rajini. And why the specific attack on Chitti’s clothes as being from J.C. Penney? What should the robot have been wearing?
Commes des Garcons? Tommy Hilfiger? This kind of snobbish attack on the price tag of an actor’s clothes is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I won’t have any problem when the Tea Party mobs attacking “liberal elites” come for Mr. Moore, presumably sitting in his nice house in Orlando wearing only the finest the Orlando shopping area has to offer, making cracks about the po’ folk who have to *gasp* shop at J.C. Penney. If he had thought at all about it, instead of wanting to prove that he is somehow superior to Rajinikanth because he has better clothes, he might have thought that maybe making jokes about the price of clothes in India - where people don’t make nearly as much money as he does typing out ill-informed reviews - is a little insensitive.

Despite its sci-fi story and effects, Endhiran is old school Bollywood — silly, overlong and packed with tunes.

No.

Endhiran is not old-school BOLLYWOOD. Old-school Bollywood is in Hindi and most likely stars Raj, Shammi, Shashi, Garam Dharam, or Amitabh. There would be an item song and lots more posturing by the villain. Plus, there would be a comedy track. What Endhiran is, is a slick, fast-paced update on the classic masala formula with lots of philosophical asides on the nature of humanity and a heavy dose of A.R. Rahman. And while there is lots of levity, the film is far from “silly.”

Also, it is only over-long by the standards of somebody used to the cinematic oeuvre of Adam Sandler.

What makes this a good intro-to-Bollywood comedy is its pacing, and the toe-tapping Indo-pop production numbers. Over three hours you can duck in and out (it’s showing at the Cinemark Festival Bay, at premium ticket prices) , hit the snack bar, the restrooms, and not miss enough to lose the plot. Such as it is.

NO! It is absolutely NOT a good intro-to-Bollywood comedy for these reasons:

1.
Endhiran is not a Bollywood film.
2.
Endhiran depends on at least some working knowledge of masala conventions and SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth.
3.
Endhiran is not a comedy and if you go in expecting to laugh at everything - including the serious stuff - you will swiftly get tired and overstimulated. Masala conventions are not inherently funny if you aren’t a giant douchebag who goes to movies to laugh at things other people like. (In other words, it's only hilariously stupid if you don’t understand it.)

Also, if you are ducking “in and out” of the film, you are going to be missing the nuances offered from the great script by Shankar and Sujatha. While there certainly are films you can miss a good 20 minutes of (*cough*
Race), Endhiran is not one of them.

Everything about Roger Moore’s review is an epic failure except his appreciate for Aishwarya Rai’s charms. She is, indeed, a very pretty woman.

While I am glad to see Indian films get broader recognition, this kind of lazy writing just infuriates me. There are other ways to assemble a film than the one that comes out of Los Angeles, California. (Just FYI, Mr. Moore.)

You can visit the comments sections for more quality Roger Moore zingers (Tamil Elvis Impersonator - ZING!) like this:

MAJOR correction–while this is an Indian film, it is NOT a Bollywood film. Bollywood is a term for Hindi language cinema. This is a Tamil language film from South India, and the commonly used term for films in Tamil is Kollywood.
Posted by: MD Friday, October 8, 2010 at 4:45 AM

You’re narrowing the definition of “Bollywood” to one the rest of the world might not agree with. It’s too long, it’s musical, it’s chaste and it is silly and it was made in India.
Bollywood.

Posted by: otownrog Friday, October 8, 2010 at 8:07 AM

First of all - WHAT?! There is no narrowing the definition of “Bollywood” - MD gave the correct definition. I believe Mr. Moore will find that his definition is the one lazy film critics use to describe anything that has both a) brown people and b) songs. While it may not matter to Mr. Moore, the distinction is important to the people most likely to attend a “Bollywood” or Bollywood film: the NRI audience. Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Malayam... the distinction is important to people.

I wonder if Mr. Moore would be so cavalier about the differences between Korean and Japanese films or if he would say: “Whatever. It’s all Chinese to me.”

Robert Ebert says that a good review analyzes the film for its target audience - this review does nothing for the people who would actually see it. And on top on that, if Mr. Moore's desire was to inform Western viewers about
Endhiran, he did a really poor job.

I will leave you with an animated gif I created for just this occasion. The Sisko Face-Palm, for when words just aren’t enough.

8 comments:

Anonlee said...

Good response.

Here are two good reviews by Western critics

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/10/review-enthiran-english-the-robot#more

http://twitchfilm.net/reviews/2010/10/enthiran-robot-mega-review.php

Filmi Girl said...

Thanks, dude... it just angered me so much to see him say things like "it's Bollywood if I say it is." He was just writing to be a pompous douche. Ugh.

josh said...

Hi, I wrote that review for Twitch and I cover Indian film there, and I wanted to say thanks to the above poster for the kind words. I agree that this review from Mr Moore is horrific, he did the same sort of hack job for Piranha 3D, another film I absolutely loved and at this point comes in a distant, but still beloved, 2nd place in my top theatrical experiences of 2010 behind Enthiran.

Part of me wants to thank him for even taking the time to review it, but doing such a hack job does not one any favors. Going into a film like this completely blind is certainly risky, but ignoring the audience for which the film was made and then arguing about its conventions as though you knew it all, is just arrogant. That whiny piece about narrowing the definition of "Bollywood" is just ridiculous.

KrishnaDeverayar said...

ReviewGang.com gave Endhiran 7.0/10 in total for critics. So Universally Endhiran is liked by all. Except for few rotten people..

Anyway thank you Filmi Girl, for you supporting Endhiran and Rajini

Rajini and Rajini fans owe you. :)

பகீ said...

What can i say? thank you for the great review.

Prithvi said...

How I felt seeing endhiran is how I felt when I read your post. To be honest yours is the only review I feel is complete and rounded in really bringing the inner meaning of what the director intended to show and I think you really blew me away .No one has seen the movie like how you explained either they are fascinated by rajini or aishwarya or the special effects .thanks for that , love to go movie with you and discuss kore true to your name you ARE FILMIGIRL

memsaabstory said...

Truly that guy is an idiot...but his commentary struck such a chord with me---I hear this kind of thing from people all the time when they get to know that I love Hindi films.

I just wrote a post about it if you want to see my reaction, but thanks for linking to it---made me really think all over again about what is I love in Hindi cinema :)

Nat G said...

Hi filmi girl..
I have been reading your blogs.. I liked your take on the movies, even the ones that are flops..
keep going girl..

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.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl