Or, to give it the translated title, The Robot.
Sometimes viewing certain genre films can lead me down avenues and sidestreets I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time. While exploring a number of sci-fi movies recently I remembered that I’d been wanting to see Endhiran for quite some time. In fact, ever since a clip appeared all over the internet and “went viral” (I believe that’s the correct terminology) I knew that I HAD to see it. Here is the clip – those wishing to avoid spoilers should avoid it but the first half doesn’t give much away. But would I be able to review the thing? It runs for almost three hours, it comes from the cinematically rich land of India and it’s subtitled.
Why would these things be a problem? Well, here’s the problem with it running for almost three hours. IF I enjoyed the movie I would have to convince others that it was worth three hours out of their day and if I didn’t enjoy it I’d have to last through the whole thing to justify writing my review. Here’s the problem with it being from India. I have sadly seen NO other films from India (a situation I intend to rectify in future) and don’t want to make some amateur error in my review. And do you think I hate watching subtitled movies? No, not at all. I prefer watching subtitled movies to dubbed films but sometimes the language itself carries material in ways that you have to understand to get the most out of. Humour, subtle insults, raging emotions, these qualities often show themselves in universal ways but can also be very specific in language and culture, if film-makers wish it. As I’d not seen any other Indian cinema I was worried that it may not be something I’d ever be able to fully appreciate.
Ten minutes into the movie and those worries were forgotten. Endhiran was a non-stop feast of great entertainment and crazy special effects (from Stan Winston Studios, no less).
The brilliant Doctor Vaseegaran (played by Rajnikanth billed here as SUPERSTAR RAJNI) has spent ten years building a humanoid robot (played by Rajnikanth), even almost losing his lovely lady in the process (Sana, played by Aishwarya Rai who is billed as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), but it’s worth it when everyone sees his robot in action. The robot is named Chitti and can do pretty much anything that you could think of an amazing robot doing (speed-reading, fast travel, amazing fighting moves, etc). Which is wonderful. Sadly, approval is not given for more robots to be developed as others view Chitti as simply a machine capable of fatal errors. To improve his creation, the good doctor instils Chitti with more understanding of ideas that will lead him to have something akin to a full range of emotions. Then Chitti falls in love with Sana and things start to get a bit complicated.
My intitial reactions to Endhiran were both ignorant and innocent but they also proved to be correct. I thought the opening titles were just fine and accompanied by a good piece of music. I saw the lustrous head of hair on Rajnikanth and immediately considered that he would make a great leading man in the movie. I admired the special effects and I waited for the inevitable musical numbers. Because I knew what I was letting myself in for. Or so I thought.
This film has everything in just the right amounts and can make three hours fly by in the blink of an eye. The FX work ranges from the absolutely top notch (so many scenes with Rajnikanth interacting with his other character are seamless) to the pretty basic but it all does what it needs to do in order to facilitate the entertainment and crazy action onscreen. There’s a lot of humour throughout the movie that also works really well. I found myself laughing aloud on more than a couple of occasions, I also found myself grinning widely at most of the big action set-pieces and quickly warming to the two leads. They’re obviously big stars of Indian cinema for good reason and easily back up their billing with charisma, warmth and grace to spare. Danny Denzongpa is also very good as Dr. Bohra and there is plenty of comic relief provided by the two assistants to Dr. Vaseegaran.
Of course, I can’t write this review without mentioning the random musical numbers. Because they were great. Perhaps not as lavishly mounted or intricately choreographed as other big numbers you may have seen, the musical interludes felt like guest spots for someone who had decided to mix Daft Punk with the Black Eyed Peas with some huge Tamil pop star. I was tapping my toes and really enjoying the tunes and I didn’t care that they seemed to spring out of nowhere – I took that as something that occured in most Indian movies.
S. Shankar (billed as just Shankar on the credits) deserves a lot of praise for the direction of the movie. He also helped create the screenplay and, in turn, a movie that has become (to date) the most expensive Indian movie ever made and also the highest grossing Indian movie of all time. Watch the movie and you will soon realise just why it deserves such success.
STARS: RAJNIKANTH, AISHWARYA RAI, DANNY DENZONGPA
RUNTIME: 174 MINS APPROX