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.


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?


Arun said...

I haven't seen Endiran yet, but I have heard generally positive reviews from the crowd over here. Yours is the first downright negative review I've read so far.

To be fair to Shankar & Rajni, they had to dumb down every sci-fi concept. Otherwise the 'mass' audience here will not understand the movie and the producers will not be able to recover costs.

We can never compare this movie to global cinema. They are way ahead in terms of plot, planning, execution and general audience tastes. May be you should have toned down your expectations!!

Yazhini said...

What? I loved the mosquito scene!

They were going at it for three hours, building a monument out of cliches, soap-opera science and simple mediocrity, while I just sat and watched.

And then, out of nowhere, there are talking mosquitoes! That's what I'd call reassuring. I woke up and realized just what I was struggling to take seriously.

Rajiv said...

Dude seriously the one thing about this article was awesome the last line it says you are a rajni fan because you have written nonsense :)

trameshkumar said...

It is no where near the hollywood movies nor is it near any of the other Shankar movies.I would watch Basha one more time instead of this

Prasad Venkat said...

Essentially what you're saying is that the Tamil 'mass' is dumb and the film industry serves them what they can digest. I don't argue with that. It's hard to say this without coming across as a snob - but I've outgrown Tamil 'mass' movies. Oh boy, I sound apologetic in saying that I don't like bad movies.

Absolutely. Wish there was Goundamani in an adjacent frame with his irreverent remarks.

"Not near any other Shankar movie"? So that's a benchmark?

i_love_india said...

Prasad Venkataramana,

Happens to reach this blog through googling

Taste is a subjective things. IMHO movie is mainly for entertainment. Entertainment varies from person to person.

Do not discriminate anyone based on Gender/Religion/Language/Caste/Race/TASTE

In no way Hollywod/American are better than Indian/Indian movies. Its all subjective.

Grow up Prasad Venkataramana and come out of inferiority complex.

Yazhini said...

@Prasad: How on earth can you discriminate based on taste, eh? For that matter, how on earth can you discriminate? It's all subjective. Bow.

Prasad Venkat said...

Yazhini - What can I say! The guy has never been to a bad restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Prasad: This movie is shit
I_Love_India: Everybody shits, so shit is not bad.
Prasad: I can guess what is inside this guy's head
I_Love_India: You can't hate shit. You cannot look down upon shit.
Prasad: I think I_Love_India should have been included in the comedy cast in this shit movie.
1.India is in danger because of "people" like I_Love_India
2.The movie is for people like I_Love_India who dwell in shit and like it too
3.I_Love_India advises Prasad to grow up while I_Love_India himself does not seem to have any chance of growing up.

"Do not discriminate anyone based on Gender/Religion/Language/Caste/Race/TASTE"
-- And that's exactly what I_Love_India does !!

Mary Vinnarasi

Unknown said...

i have seen the movie after 2 weeks, and as per the tamil movies are concerned the graphics and mass are new...

and the marketing by the SUN network made this move to be said as Pioneer to tamil cinema and more over to Indian Cinema also....

We cant compare this movie to Avatar :)

I like the first half movie dialogues and the after interval the dialogues are really waste...

Vidya said...

Prasad, a super review as usual. Yet to watch the movie and was not keen until I read this review;)Was thinking about the kind of comments the intranet blog here would have brought:))!!

Anonymous said...

Robot is a great movie.

I dont know why you dont like it.

Prasad Venkat said...

/*Robot is a great movie. I dont know why you dont like it.*/
What do you mean by you don't know why? There's a 900 word piece on top of this page explaining why I don't like it. Oh! Now I see why it's a great movie.

Prabhu S said...

Couldn't agree more.

I preferred Rajni of Baasha. Post that film there was nothing that had me engaged.

The article in slate, i think is more of a sarcastic one than in praise of Rajni.

However, I think the article here analyses well the Rajini success. http://tinyurl.com/34lous3

Freehit said...

Crisp, precise and fair review!

This movie ends up pleasing no one: neither the urban crowd nor the cut-out-paal-abishekamist.

Prasad Venkat said...

Oh your poor Poori! Can't write a page!

rrv said...

Great piece. You had me laughing out loud for every line in this review.

P.S. They do mention Asimov's laws somewhere in the movie :-)

Anonymous said...

Please see "The making of endhiran" on Diwali evening. Atleast then you will start to appreciate Thalaivar.

Unna madhiri aalukku ellam oru MS pannitta periya paruppu nu nenaippu.

I can see that you are a brahmin boy !

Ganesh said...

I am also eager to see making of Endhiran.

What makes you think he must be a brahmin ?