Sunday, October 10, 2010

I, Robot? Ai ai yo, Robot!

Okay, let me get this out as fast as possible...
Enthiran (though, I watched the Hindi version) is I, Robot meets The Matrix meets Green Goblin meet Darth Vader meets ASSHOLE.
The films fails spectacularly at two levels. But on the moolah level, it is doing just fine thank you, so all you Rajini fans who have cut their wrists for not getting first day tickets would do well to ignore my rants and move on to queuing up for his 2014 release.

Epic Fail #1: Where is SUPERSTAR Rajni
I was led to believe that this movie starred Superstar Rajnikanth -a paean to the man, the machine, the Botox-box whose epithet and name can no longer be separated. Whose films are like maha-kumbh, where all purveyors of South Indian celluloid must dip to attain salvation. Whose films' runs are measured not in weeks but in years. Whose facial, oral and physical symbols are meant to be imprinted on body and soul. I was once told that it is a good thing that Baba flopped else we would all be typing only with our index and little finger extended! (Reference.)
But in Robot, where was Thalaivar? Except for the title sequence where SUPERSTAR RAJNI appeared in the ESPN font, size 4400 (causing a Tamil member of the audience to scream out loud), I could not find Rajnikanth.
Where was the entrance? Shankar - dude, watch a couple of Raj Kumar movies to see how a hero, a superstar enters a film.
Where was the elaborate putting on of sunglasses (which, this foreigner calls 'more elaborate than Vegas floorshows')? Here, somebody else put it on him.
Where was the swish of the angavastram? And the whiplash of the pointed finger?
Where are the punch diaogues?
And, who is this slightly dark, wrinkled guy with bad skin and strange wigs?
The only person who seemed to have got some Superstar out of the movie was director Shankar, who peddled Rajnikanth to get Sun Pictures to cough up Rs 150-crore for his techno-masturbation. The tragedy is that the rest of the fans were so busy doing aratis and screaming their vocal chords into chowmein that they did not notice either.  
All I got out of the movie was a feeling that tons of money were burnt to make needlessly complicated sets, costumes crazier than Mohan, outlandish locations (along with lyrics involving Mohenjodaro and Kilimanjaro), AR Rehman's worst score (Boom Boom Robot is much worse than the CWG anthem).
The only not-enough-to-be-saving grace was that Shankar has finally moved on from the vigilante-killing-traffic-inspectors-and-capitation-fee-purveyors-in-elaborately-choreographed-ancient-rituals theme.
That's a first step. Maybe he will write a script instead of cheques in his next venture.

Epic Fail #2: The Cultural Baggage of a Superstar
As I saw the film squirming and waiting for what I hoped would be a Supertar Entry, I realised that one needed a whole lot of cultural conditioning to enjoy movies of aging superstars.
For example, my generation never saw Amitabh Bachchan in his prime. We only hear stories from parents, uncles, elder brothers. The legends - wildly exaggerated when they reached us - spread like juicy rumours. His explosive earlier films. The lines of Salim Javed, which seemed to be there for every occasion. The hundreds of rupees in coins that were swept off cinema floors after first shows. The press ban, making him even more exclusive. The Allahabad election. The Amul hoardings. The corporation.
When I went to see Mohabbatein with a South Indian friend, I was seeing the professor of Kasme Vaade, the father of Adalat, the bearded hero of Shahenshah. And he was seeing a slightly caricaturish disciplinarian, who was getting trumped by SRK in almost every scene. I came out predicting his triumphant return to Bollywood and my friend came out wondering if dinner at Hotel Swagath would have been a better idea.
I am sure if Ganga Jamuna Saraswati's crocodile scene had been shown South of Vindhyas, it would have got booed. I got goose-bumps during the same scene.
All I know about Rajni is that he has counted to infinity, twice. And *hyuk hyuk* he knows Victoria's Secret.
I have no experience of Billa (a frame-by-frame copy of Don, incidentally), Basha, Muthu or Annamalai (love this scene, even if I don't understand a jot of it!). I was never lathi-charged in front of Matunga's Aurora Cinema. I never preserved the tickets for my show of Padayappa.
I have no connect with the huge history that holds up the cardboard cut-out when tons of garlands are put around it. I am untouched by the passion that causes aratis to be organised before shows. I never stressed over Rajni's entry into politics and therefore, I miss all the socio-political references (not that there were any in Robot). So, when fans are seeing 150-films-worth-of-ecstasy, I am just seeing a bad wig.
Fans would say this is the evolution of Rajni. He is now confident enough to eschew 'punch dialogues' and grand entries. He is willing to let new directors experiment with his image.
If that is true, then he should go the distance. He should get people in cinemas with his super-stardom and surprise them with some super-acting instead.
(And to know how its done, he can always look at recent references.)

After all, he probably remembers the lines of a forgotten superstar - I will do what I say. I will even do what I don't say.
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