Monday, October 4, 2010

On Romance and Endhiran! PS I REALLY LOVE ROBO!

There are movies and then there is Endhiran. I wrote a spoiler-free review here - spoiler for the review, I loved it - but I wanted a chance to dig into some meatier stuff. Endhiran was not only extremely entertaining but it had a lot of substance to it and I think those things are just as worth exploring as Rajinikanth’s Superstar charisma. This may be a series if I can gather up enough brain power to work it!



On romance and Endhiran

I had actually started writing a post on a similar this topic last week in fit of extreme apathy over the trailer for
Break Ke Baad. The topic being - Bollywood has forgotten the difference between ‘chemistry’ and love in their race to produce “Hollywood-style” romantic-comedies, a genre I generally loathe for that very reason.

While we all know that the chances of a scientist creating a robot that looks exactly like him and then having that robot be able to create other robots that also look exactly like him and then form those robots into a giant cobra are extremely slim. However, the chances of an instant romantic connection leading to a happily-ever-after are just as slim. The difference is that “Hollywood-style” romantic comedy portrays it as not only probable but desirable - and hints that those of us who don’t have it are abnormal somehow. Then we get into plotting situations where not having “THE ONE” is a huge tragedy on par with having a cobra made of robots who look like Rajinikanth eat you up.

“Oh, no, I am a nerd and therefore have a tragic life despite the fact that I am smart, make a decent living, and live in a nice place. My life is incomplete without a hot girl. Woe!” - aka Pyaar Impossible

“We are immature adults with jobs who wear great outfits and are unable to speak our feelings directly. WOE!” - aka I Hate Luv Storys

“We are extremely immature adults who are so self-absorbed that we are unable to deal with minor setbacks in life despite our great outfits. WOE!” - aka Anjaana Anjaani

I wish the evil robot cobra would swallow up every one of these poisonous films and crush them to bits in its evil robot stomach.



That is not to say that airy-fairy ‘chemistry’ doesn’t a role in
masala films - for example the excellent Magadheera did it just right. But in masala films, there are so many other ingredients that the romantic ‘chemistry’ is either treated as one element of equal or lesser value to everything else (a la Dabangg) or used to spur the Hero on to action - to give him a reason to follow the Heroine home to discover that her family is being held hostage by Pradeep Rawat. That is the way I prefer it - romance as an ingredient to life instead of the main course.

(And when ‘chemistry’ takes over your life, you end up like Devdas or like SRK in
Dil Se, but that a topic for another day.)



So, where does
Endhiran enter into it? Well, I had all of this buzzing around in my brain when I sat down to watch the film, which is maybe why I latched right onto the dichotomy in the romance department between Dr. Vasi and Chitti. They were both competing for the affections of Sana (Aishwarya Rai) but they went about it in two completely different ways that (to me) stood in for grown-up love and base ‘chemistry.’



(Protecting the Heroine!)

In
Endhiran, Dr. Vasi the scientist is a man who basically builds an idealized version of himself. This idealized self then engages in very Hero-like behaviors, including (once he has emotions built into him) falling in love-at-first-sight. While Dr. Vasi and Sana share a companionable relationship built on a mutual affection for each other, Chitti is head-over-heels for Sana and will do anything to get to her. This includes sneaking into her bedroom late at night like Edward Cullen a creeper and making her the entire focus of his existance also like Edward Cullen a creeper. I give major kudos to Rajinikanth for making me feel Chitti’s desire for Sana so deeply. I was half-way hoping (okay, I was really hoping) that she would give in, even though I knew that it could never work.

(
Beth disagrees with me on this, which is fair enough. Also, I got a flash of some disturbing “marriage is for a man and woman only” anti-gay sentiments but thankfully it was really only a line or two and despite what True Blood would have us believe, evil vampires and robots are not a good metaphor for gay people.)

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Vasi and Chitti are from the same genius mind that brought us REMO in
Anniyan. And just like REMO (O HAI MADAM, WOULD YOU LIKE TO YO-YO?), Chitti represented the epitome of selfish, immature ‘chemistry’ at work, Chitti’s immature programming is such that he is unable to have a grown-up love - he doesn’t understand it. In that way, he’s almost like a teenager, like Romeo who cannot understand the consequences of his actions.



Dr. Vasi was far from perfect as a suitor but his flaws were realistic - he’s an arrogant scientist who thinks humans are beneath him - and they come back to (quite literally) bite him in the ass. (And I think I will do a post on him - so stay tuned for more!)

I don’t know if this will resonate with anybody else but it was on my mind. I know some people are very fond of those love-at-first-sight stories but I have never been a fan. Perhaps it’s my pragmatic way of viewing the world - that I prefer romance in the medieval sense of the word than in the way it’s used in films like
I Hate Luv Storys.

(And really, is there anything less respectful of love and human companionship than 1. calling it ‘luv’ and 2. having it be represented by Sonam Kapoor flouncing around with a great wardrobe?)

But one of the reasons that I was drawn to Indian films in the first place was this treatment of love that was so different - and to my mind much more emotionally realistic - than that in Hollywood and I’m sorry to see it lost in films like I Hate Luv Storys but glad to see it explored in the brilliant Endhiran!

3 comments:

Anu Russell said...

http://anurussell.blogspot.com/

Loved Endhiran...loved Rajni...loved the movie....aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

too good and I love your take on it!

Shakthi varman said...

I am amazed at your know-how on the Indian Movies. That too giving comparisons from all the 'woods' (aka Bolly, Tolly and Kolly) ! And I resonate with ur ideas u portrayed for Endhiran as a emotionally intelligent Love Story ! Keep writing :)

yip said...

"This idealized self then engages in very Hero-like behaviours, including (once he has emotions built into him) falling in love-at-first-sight."

I would ever-so-slightly diverge from this conclusion. To me it’s not reflective of an idea of ‘falling in love-at-first-sight’ but rather the building and solidifying of an ego, - ‘a sense of self.’ Chitti is beginning to ‘see’ himself – to reflect upon his actions. Whereas before he was simply Do-ing, obeying his instructions, taking everything literarily, later he has a sense of ‘I am Do-ing.’
It’s quite gradual, and I think that the good Doctor’s attempts to make Chitti feel emotions simply speeded up a process which was going to happen anyway. After all, Chitti claims to feel no difference directly after the Doctor has finished, but then starts to argue. Like a child, I guess. And, also perhaps like a child, Chitti finds that performance, his saving of the baby, brings attention and attention from sources that he finds pleasing and which he begins to crave – i.e. Ash’s character. He craves the attention and the most active and consistent provider of the attention – Ash.
So, for me, it’s not love-at-first-sight, but rather, at least initially, the realisation of one’s place in the scheme of things... A bit like if a spoon developed sentience. Before the spoon was simply acting as vessel to shove food into a mouth. However, suddenly, the spoon feels like it’s doing something – and may become concerned with how ‘spoon-like’ it’s abilities are, or what food it is spooning, and whose mouth it’s going into, and would it be better, perhaps, to be a fork, etc, etc.

In conclusion, how come, right, if Chitti was made for the Indian Army, and almost killed the good Doctor, because ‘he was confused,’ the Bad Guy had to actively make him a killer? And how come, right, Chitti was all super tough and everything, but the good Doctor took him apart with a fire axe? Although I like to read that as Chitti allowing his father to destroy him. Chitti’s sense of self, like so many of us, is fraught with feelings of self-worthlessness and loathing...

And perhaps Chitti’s desire for Ash’s character is more reflective of his desire to hurt / destroy / displace his creator, the Doctor..?

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