Friday, November 05, 2010

iRobot - Indian style

After so many weeks of delays, I finally found time on Saturday to catch the biggest, most expensive Indian film ever made. And, it was the first time that a Tamil film was released globally with English subtitles for both the speaking portions and songs in the movie.

Endhiran movie poster. Image via
My ticket
Clocking in at about 2 hours and 45 mins, Endhiran was a different kind of Indian movie. This could perhaps be the first decent attempt at creating a different genre in the Tamil film industry, which has been populated with mainly commercial and "mass masala" films. The storyline of Endhiran is nothing new, as we've already seen this being played out in many Hollywood films before. It can be pretty much summed up as follows:

Scientist Vaseegaran (Rajnikanth) makes Chitti the robot (Rajnikanth).
Chitti gains human emotions.
Chitti falls in love with Vaseegaran's girlfriend, Sana. (Aishwarya Rai)
Problems and complications ensue.
Chitti turns evil, kidnaps Sana. .
Showdown between Chitti and Vaseegaran..

What really saves this movie from ending up looking mediocre and cliched, is  Director Shankar's vision and the two leads  (Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai). Shankar has a knack for the bombastic, the grand and the downright outrageous. His previous films are testament to this, and with Endhiran, Shankar aims high. The director pays homage to some famous Hollywood films like 'Transformers", "Bicentennial Man", "I, Robot", and "The Terminator" by having some similar scenes in this movie. The collaboration with Stan Winston Studios to create the visual effects for these scenes has worked wonders. While some scenes could use further improvement in the visual effects area, the climactic last 30 minutes just reeks of spellbinding visual awesomeness never before attempted in an Indian movie.
Superstar Rajnikanth (as Vaseegaran the scientist) in the song "Kaadhal Anukkal". Image via 

Still from the song "Chitti Dance Showcase". Image via
What to say about the star of the film, Rajnikanth? For one thing, he never does look his age (he's 60). He still looks stylish, has the charisma, and is believeable enough in his dual roles in the film - one as the creator/scientist, and the other as the robot "Chitti". He has done a third role in the film as well, that of the evil version of Chitti after he gets reprogrammed by  a jealous rival scientist. If I had to choose between the two versions, I'm going with the evil one. The way his mannerisms change, the way he does that evil laughter and that smirk hark back to the olden days in Tamil cinema when Rajnikanth was commonly essaying negative roles in movies before he was established as a hero/leading actor. He simply kicks serious butt as a villain. Period.
Still from the song "Arima Arima". Image via
Still from the song "Irumbile Oru Ithayam". Image via
As for Aishwarya Rai, she still looks elegant and beautiful as ever.  She steals the show during the song and dance sequences, and even Rajnikanth manages to show off a move or two, especially in the "Chitti Dance Showcase" scene.
Still from the song "Kaadhal Anukkal". Image via
Still from the song "Kilimanjaro". Image via
Still from the song "Irumbile Oru Ithayam". Image via
Still from the song "Arima Arima". Image via
Songs and dance sequences have always been a must have in almost every single Indian movie. Oscar winner  A.R. Rahman composed a total of 7 songs for this film, and he even lends his voice to the title track played over the opening credits. The songs on the whole are decent fare, but the best ones have to be "Kilimanjaro" and "Kaadhal Anukkal". It's ironic that out of all the placements of the songs in the film, "Kilimanjaro" gets placed in a rather odd moment in the film, as though the Director just decided to plonk that sequence in the last minute. Even so, the picturisation of the songs, the lavish costumes, the breath-taking landscapes and set designs quickly reel you back in to enjoy the proceedings. 

On the whole, the first half of the movie seems to be the better half in terms of pacing and progression of the plot. The antics of the innocent Chitti are bound to evoke laughter, especially the dialogues in the scene where Chitti the robot tries to question the traffic policeman on whether parking the car in a "No Parking" area was wrong. The highlight of this half would the awesome fight sequence inside a train where Chitti protects Sana  from some gangsters, and also the elaborate sequence where Chitti flies,  jumps, runs, and smashes his way inside a burning building to save everyone.

The second half switches gears, focusing on Chitti's transformation into an evil, vengeful robot hellbent on killing the scientist, and marrying his girlfriend. The pacing in the second half gets marred unfortunately by the song sequences, dragging the movie a little bit longer.

Even so, once the last half hour kicks in, everything goes into overdrive and nothing is spared. It is pretty clear that most of the budget in this movie went into perfecting the final climactic sequence,  which has Chitti using his army of cloned robots to morph into a gigantic ball, a giant snake, a giant drill and finally, a gigantic robot form reminiscent of "Transformers", to overpower the military who are called in to put a stop the chaos. Director Shankar and his team pull out all the stops to make sure your jaws drop. And once the movie finally ends, you will only be left wanting more.

Official website for Endhiran: The Robot :

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