Friday, 5 November 2010

Rajni's Universal Robots [Review: Endhiran]

Endhiran (Robot) is a Tamil production starring Tamil superstar Rajnikanth and Bollywood's Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Given the size of the Indian movie industry - and audience - I don't think I need to point out the significance of bringing these two names together in one film. Rajni plays android Chitti and also his creator Dr. Vaseegaran who would rather spend his nights in the lab with a soldering iron than with his long-suffering girlfriend Sana, played by Aishwarya Rai.

Even though the film is shorter than Return Of The King there is a hell of a lot of plot: Chitti goes from failed military prototype to superhero to love rival to supervillain, and the film rolls together ideas from RoboCop, The Terminator, I Robot, Bicentennial Man, very heavily from Short Circuit and probably every other robot movie book or play since Rossum's Universal Robots, while adding one or two twists of its own.

Endhiran also utterly disregards Western genre conventions combining elements of action, thriller, romantic comedy, slapstick comedy and black comedy and of course musical theatre, and there is absolutely no conflict between any of the styles: you get to have your cake and eat it.

I have one complaint: the subtitles. Endhiran has the worst English subtitling grammar I've ever seen. Sorry. I'm often disappointed in fellow cinemaphiles who miss out on some great films because they find subtitles too irritating - but this is exactly the kind of thing that gives subtitling a bad name. Incidentally, and just to drive the message home, you can see the best subtitling ever in this film.

As a Westerner with little experience of Bollywood or Tamil cinema I can report Endhiran is very watchable and I would recommend it to others outside the traditional audience. It has captivating stars and catchy music, it's full of ideas whether original or borrowed and it's fun from start to finish. I sincerely hope this leads to many more Bollywood-style sci-fi epics.

3 comments:

Michael Chrichton said...

The Tamil film makers in my opinion dare to push the envelope and are infinitely more creative than the Bollywood ones. Bollywood seems to agree as most of the Tamil productions get remade. I personally liked how Rajnikant felt confident to go completely over the top with it's special effects and provide the viewer some chaotic but gorgeous eye candy.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Interesting. I haven't seen enough of either Tamil or Bollywood films to judge, but it sounds similar to the way Hollywood trends more towards less creative or risky films. I definitely have to see more of both, so would welcome suggestions of other Bollywood or Tamil sci-fi.

Michael Chrichton said...

Here is a link of a list I found.
http://l-lists.com/en/lists/3ptq4i.html I haven't seen most myself other than Krrish and Krrish 3 (conventional super hero movies). But I will soon enough.

I grew up on Bollywood movies next to Kungfu and monster movies. So for me it is easier to get into them without raising an eyebrow about the excessive song and dance sequences or the mixing up off all kinds of genres into one film. I myself never really liked the songs and dance stuff that much. But I am glad that contemporary filmmakers are finally understanding that they have to progress beyond this. Although I don't think the typical Bollywood movies will disappear as so many people seem to love them a lot. You should see how angry they get if the old formula is changed. A superhero movie like Krrish 3 for example is met with a lot of hate since it strays away too much and does not contain enough songs. Yeah, that is the kind of criticism I simply don't get. (Well, I do understand that for Indians the songs are very important. Still for me it's nothing but a distraction and filler content.)