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Monday, October 04, 2010

When the Best Is Bad

The Tamil blogosphere, 'critics' and 'pundits' are abuzz with Shankar/Rajini combo taking Tamil cinema to the next level. Wait a second, let me retract that: taking Indian cinema to the next level. And where has Indian cinema been all these days if 'Endhiran' represents the next level?

The movie is one big ad for a Rajini toy for all fanatics who puke on their Facebook wall that Rajini can make an onion cry and his gmail id is gmail@rajini.com. Too bad producers haven't thought of merchandising. By the time hundreds of Rajinis are stacked together to take the shape of a snake to gobble up cartoon police (near the end of the movie), I wished the snake to leap out of the screen and eat up most of the audience. They were all cheering. I don't know exactly what they were happy about - the very idea of a multiplied Rajini which was mind bogglingly stupidly executed or the 'special effects' which are notable because of their sub-par effects. Sensible people who hail this as a milestone must carefully choose their words - that this maybe a milestone for an Indian movie, in terms of special effects. But otherwise, the plot is badly conceived. The dialogues are bad. The special effects are pre-Jurassic Park era. The action (as in thespian, not blowing things up) and direction are plainly incompetent. I'm not a Rajini fan. But for a sensible fan, I'd recommend he get his fix from Annamalai.

The movie opens with the scientist Vaseegaran, played by Rajini (I know, it's hard to say with a straight face that Rajini plays a scientist) working on a humanoid robot. And by working, I mean he's literally working on it. He's screwing the stuff together, with the help of an assistant scientist and a deputy scientist played respectively by, wait for this, Santhanam and Karunas. These two wouldn't know the 'neural schema' (ooohh, a big word for a Tamil cinema) of the humanoid, and they primarily help with polishing and changing the dress. It just gets interminably boring from these first 2 minutes: Aishwarya Rai, the woman who's just dying to marry the scientist man and settle down, is pissed off that he hasn't returned her calls or replied to her emails as he's busy working. And after Vasee emerges from the lab, he goes on charm offensive and wins her over. Seriously, can it get any more clich├ęd? Bastards. I can't dwell on the storyline anymore; my IQ is dropping every minute I think of the story.

One of the guys said "machi, padam pattasu machi". Most of our (Indian/Tamil) movies and TV shows have been courting people who have a deep hatred for anything that is either intelligent or tastefully done. Shankar and Rajini have sound judgment. They know very well what makes their target audience go 'pattasu' and they get paid to flesh out their ideas which wouldn't pressure the acumen of a stupid 15 year old boy. (But there's a scene where Rajini converses with a bunch of mosquitoes. Anyone over 5 and has an attention span of 2 minutes would have heard their brain cells killing themselves).

One of the atrocities committed by the blogosphere is to classify this as a science fiction. It has to be, right? Because they use words like neural schema and humanoid and robotics. They obviously haven't turned a leaf of either Clarke or Asimov or seen '2001' or 'Solaris' or even something very commercial like 'Minority Report'. There's just not very little science in the movie, there's anti-science here. Artistic liberty on top of some basic science would have been appreciated. Every concept is either dumbed down or simplified or misinterpreted. The android is taught emotions and it falls in love. It's been done at least 18 times before with a decent scientific rigor. But what we witness in 'Endhiran' is a crime against humanity and humanoid-ity.

Hollywood is a medley. Titanic and Avatar, two mega-blockbusters feature maudlin plots with some horrible writing. But when they do special effects, they do it better than anybody else. The 'Men In Black' franchise is stupid, but it knows it's stupid and doesn't treat the audience like they're stupid. The Batman series by Nolan has a solid story and inventive action scenes. The independent film circuit here is super good. Darren Aronofsky has done 4 movies in the last 10 years and just look at how magnificently different the themes he's dealing with are. Alejandro Inarritu has done 4 movies in 10 years and though they have the same undercurrent, I don't think there's any other filmmaker who can do a better job of interconnecting multiple stories with this level of emotional impact. And there's Paul Thomas Anderson. Need I introduce Coen brothers or Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino? My favorite writers Aaron Sorkin and Charlie Kaufman excel in their own styles.

I'm not saying these guys are the best. Hollywood produces its share of trash every week. But there's something for everyone in every mood. I don't see that in our movies. Maniratnam, one of our best shots, directed 'Ravanan'. A movie that just goes nowhere, conveys nothing. And I have to say that I like 'My Dinner with Andre'. Just see 'Ravanan' for its dialogues. Kamal Hasan's 'Unnai Pol Oruvan' discounts the complexities of religion and politics and offers a 'thriller'. Well, Shankar and Rajini don't pretend to offer popcorn bites for the mind. But these guys combined are our front-runners and they all suck.

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Slate, an American online magazine I visit daily, carried an article on Rajini and introduced him thus:
If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth.
Seriously? Is there a universal rule that if you like Rajini you'll have to write nonsense?