Written by Shankar, Sujatha Rangarajan, Madhan Karky
Directed by Shankar
In 2010, Endhiran exploded onto the scene, focusing the world’s eyes onto the Tamil film industry for what may have been the first time. Of course, many of the eyes then left just as fast, but Endhiran did succeed in exposing people to something they would never watch otherwise and getting a lot of new fans for Indian cinema in general. Endhiran is the classic love triangle combined with father-son angst, resulting in the biggest Oedipus complex you ever did see. All neatly wrapped up in SciFi flavor, which helps give us some cool visuals and the most ridiculously awesome action sequences that fill the last half hour.
Endhiran was released simultaneously as the dubbed versions Robo in Telugu and Robot in Hindi, smashing records with ease. Rajinikanth is the superstar of Tamil cinema and is one of the most famous actors in India. It is hard to believe that he was 60 when Endhiran came out. He’s paired up with an equal in superstar statues, Aishwarya Rai, who is often cited as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Though the fantastic action shots are what gained the film exposure, Enthiran is about much more than that. Enthiran is a love story. A love story of both a couple (Vasi and Sana), and also a father and son love story between Vasi and his creation, Chitti. Vasi pours his whole being into his work, to the point of avoiding all contact outside of it. This rightfully ticks off Sana, who feels the jilted fiance. Despite creating what is arguably a life, Vasi also spends a good chunk of the film trying to make up to Sana for ignoring her all the time.
Sana sees Chitti as a tool, a toy, maybe a pet, but not as a man, not as a potential lover. This gets complicated once Chitti develops feelings, as he falls for Sana, who does not return the affection. This drives Chitti to anger and desperation. Chitti reacts by sabotaging Vasi’s attempts to get the machine approved by the army.
Chitti’s rage is partially responsible because of Dr. Bohra’s jealous prodding of Vasi’s creation. He looks for excuses to reject Vasi’s work, angry that his student succeeds where he failed. It is Dr. Bohra’s idea to give Chitti emotions, as he knows that will cause all sorts of problems. And if we’ve learned one thing from films about robots suddenly getting emotions, emotions are problematic. Especially if you aren’t used to them. Suddenly Chitti has all these feelings inside him, and he doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s like hitting puberty, but all at once. An atomic bomb of emotion.
Sana is a modern woman, educated, becoming a doctor. She has a life and career goals. But she also wants her fiance to pay attention to her. She doesn’t like him being engrossed in his work. And Vasi is far too focused on his research. You are allowed to take breaks, dude. Trust me, I do research. Sana throws fits at Vasi because he’s an idiot. And he is an idiot. But she also purposefully tries to make him jealous, one such event almost getting both of them killed. She’s that mix of modern and traditional you see in Indian films, inoffensive, but not blind to the plight. But she’s also more of a prop, a prize. Though to be honest I never expected her to be all girl power, anyway.
At the dorms, we see that her dorm is an all female apartment complex, filled with women who wanted a sanctuary away from men who were harassing them and as a place for widows with no place to go. The women are presented helpless and can’t even deal with annoying men next door who blast their radio at a loud volume. The men are gangbanger thugs, and Chitti smashes their radio. Chitti is accepted as part of the all female family because he’s a machine and therefore not technically gendered.
There is a constant theme of modesty throughout the film, a lot of fear of shame, losing privacy, public humiliation. Much of it is laced with modern technology. On the train back to the city, Sana is accosted by the radio thugs who at one point get her on the floor to assault her sexually, the rest of the gang members all have their cell phones out recording what will happen. The focus is not just on the horrible event that might happen, but on the phones, on how the vent will then be uploaded onto the internet, passed around social networks, her shame being replayed over and over again. Of course, she’s saved by Chitti before any of this happens.
The shame aspect comes back in a powerful and controversial scene during an apartment fire. At this point, Chitti has just been rejected by the military as unstable, but Vasi is so eager to prove his creation can save lives that he sends Chitti in to save people from the fire. All goes well until the last person caught in the blaze, a teenage girl in a bathtub. She doesn’t want to be rescued because she has no clothes, and Chitti has no reason to think she would want them. He’s even “nude” in that his plastic human skin has begun to melt away. Against her wishes, Chitti grabs her and jumps outside, where dozens of tv cameras await, recording away. The girl instantly realizes that her nude image is being beamed all across India to a billion sets of eyes, and panics and runs…where she’s instantly hit by a truck and killed. Though I find the film’s choice of having the modesty theme pay off in such a tragic manner not the way I would have liked to see it go, I do recognize that when you are a teenager, it’s easy to freak out about such things. Everyone who saw it happening knew that not covering the girl was wrong, but that didn’t stop the cameras from rolling. Vasi’s eagerness prevented him from thinking of the consequences of sending an unsocialized robot into the real world.
Chitti latches on to the one woman who has been in his life at all, the one woman who talked to him, and instantly falls heads over heels in love. It’s a typical 13 year old first crush, but Chitti is far from your typical middle school kid, he’s basically Superman. What do you do when the most powerful thing in the world is acting like a brat? But Vasi and Sana aren’t perfect, either, especially Vasi, who begins to treat Chitti with no respect. Vasi’s anger at Chitti when he starts expressing the emotions Vasi built into him ignite a time bomb inside Chitti. Chitti’s sabotage of the military presentation results in Vasi destroying Chitti in a rage and dumping the pieces.
This is not the end of Chitti, Dr. Bohra rebuilds him in exchange for learning how he works. He also gives him the power to harm people, as Dr. Bohra owes international terrorists robots to use for nasty activities. Chitti then goes on a rampage through the city, kidnapping Sana from her wedding to Vasi and killing hundreds of cops. This sequence takes the freeway battle from Matrix: Reloaded and multiplies it by 60 bajillion.
Having no real ties to Dr. Bohra, Chitti kills him off-screen and builds a whole army of clones of himself. There is now an army of Chittis set up in an armed compound, and India must figure out what to do. Chitti has Sana walled up, demanding that she love him, but knowing that she doesn’t.
Chitti’s feelings for Sana become some of the best musical numbers in Enthiran. The design of the costumes and sets are homages to classic science fiction properties, invoking cylons, Metropolis, Aelita: Queen of Mars, and many others. The songs are pretty rockin’ as well.
All the action and adventure comes down to final confrontation between the army and the army of Chitti clones. using their robot powers, they morph into spheres, walls, a drill, a cobra, and a giant man that gives them the finger…who is one of the Chittis, who also gives his finger. Yeah, that happened in a movie. The best movie ever!!
Vasi is a failure as a parent, but he has a problem child. His attention is focused like a laser while making Chitti, but after the robot’s creation, it becomes all about presenting Chitti in public, to the military. It is no longer about Chitti, but about how Chitti reflects back on Vasi. The lack of proper attention from Vasi drives Chitti further away, further into behavioral problems. He is unable to control the emotions Vasi gives him with no guidance. Vasi is just as much of a villain as Dr. Bohra, but he has no quick way out like Dr. Bohra’s death. Vasi has to live with what his creation has done, and what his creation might still do. Dot.
Rated 8/10 (robo delivery!, phone that will never be answered, target practice, square eggs, square head, prequel to Eega??, helicopter time!, virus transmission)
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