Home > Adivasi, Enthiran, God, Happiness, Home, India, Karachi, Pakistan, Rajinikanth, Robot, Southasia > Everybody watch ‘Robot’!

Everybody watch ‘Robot’!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but was held up by a bunch of other stuff – rage against the anti-women crap-fest, otherwise known as marriage laws in Pakistan, for instance. But more on that later. Right now, I’d rather think of happy stuff – such as ‘Robot’. So yes, imagine not one, not two, but THREE Rajinikanths… and that’s just for starters! Intrigued yet? Well, it only gets better.

Admittedly, I’d never seen a Rajinikanth movie before, and imagined him to be some sort of Tamil version of Punjab’s Sultan Rahi or some such. After all, Rajnida, armed only with a knife and surrounded by a bunch of bad guys who are armed to the teeth, could split flying bullets into two with his knife, and send the two pieces flying in separate directions, puncturing two separate villains. Sultan Rahi in Maula Jatt mode, on the other hand, could travel between two mountains by lassoing the adjacent mountain top, clutching his horse between his thighs, and then sliding both his horse and himself, in all his hollering, gandasa-weilding glory, to the other mountain.

But I had underestimated Rajnida, and how! While both men performed incredible on-screen feats – enough to drive hardcore fans to frothing-mouthed fits of insanity – after watching Robot, I was forced to concede, with many apologies to Punjab’s Maula Jatt, that Rajnida wins hands down when it comes to charisma and style and the sheer scale of madness. Rajinikanth is a brilliant actor, and even that is an understatement. With each character that he played in Robot, his entire demeanour and body language changed, forcing one to wonder if it weren’t a different actor altogether. Three hours after the end credits of Robot rolled on-screen, and I had left the cinema, my eyes were still as round as the degs that caterers in Pakistan use to serve biryani at parties.

Hardcore Rajinikanth fans might argue that Robot isn’t really a ‘Rajinikanth film’, seeing as how he isn’t performing his mind-boggling stunts as a human, but an immortal android. I, however, prefer to look at it as a feast of Rajnida’s godliness being validated by science. With every other character merely there to highlight Rajinikanth’s various avatars, Robot (or Enthiran) is undoubtedly the best tribute that could ever be paid to this legend.

One gets a sense of things to come a couple of minutes into the movie when Rajinikanth, as a shaggy-haired, crazy beard-sporting scientist, Dr Vaseegaran (aka Vasee), adds the finishing touch – a pair of shades – to the robot that he has just created (Chitti, also played by Rajinikanth). No ordinary sunglass-wearing, this; even this simple act has been Rajni-fied to perfection. Ashwariya Rai plays his beleaguered girlfriend, Sana, who threatens to dump him, only to be wooed back through a song-dance-routine with lyrics such as ‘Neutron, electron, neeley naenoN meiN bolo kitney haiN!’ (How many neutrons and electrons are there in your blue eyes?)

Madness begins with Vasee trying to acclimatise Chitti to the real world prior to getting him (it?) certified and donating him to the Indian army. This last bit was a dollop of hyper-nationalist nonsense which didn’t really sit well with me. In any case, while the movie doesn’t have any obvious intellectual overtones, it does deal with a number of ‘social issues’ with panache. The need to let widows live a full life, for instance; and that for women to learn self-defence. It also pokes fun at the middleclass fetish for religious symbolism with a scene where, in an attempt to ‘de-weaponise’ a bunch of ghundas, Chitti unleashes his magnetic field (he’s made of metal, remember?), and pulls all the weapons towards himself. The weapons, in their turn, stick to his back such that for a few seconds, he converts into a weird reincarnation of Durga Mata, leaving bystanders in a fit of religious fervour (and the viewer with a bad case of giggles).

The harassment of women is shown in all its ugliness, with Chitti emerging as a knight in [literally] shining armour, and earning a peck on the cheek in return. Meaningless social norms and notions of honour are also highlighted in a scene where Chitti rescues a naked girl from a burning building. The girl refuses to be rescued on account of her lack of clothes. Chitti dismisses her protests with a casual ‘Tou kia hua, meiN ney bhi [kaprey] nahi pehney.’ (‘So what, I’m not wearing clothes either.’) Once outside the burning building, the media pounces on the girl, and footage of her nakedness is aired live, prompting her to kill herself immediately by throwing herself in front of an oncoming lorry, thus regaining her ‘lost honour’.

One problematic bit is the consistent portrayal of Sana as the perennial damsel-in-distress. At one point, ‘soft’, non-violent Vasee is forced to try and rescue her from a fat, drunk fisherman – and this after she is shown to have learned kickboxing, etc. The usage of the term, ‘adivasi’, as a synonym for primitive jungle-dwellers (in the ‘Kilimanjaro, Mohanjodaro’ song) isn’t going to earn them any brownie points either, given that the Adivasi communities of Chattisgarh, etc, are deeply unhappy (and that’s putting it mildly) with the State for a number of transgressions, including, but not limited to, the charge that they are painted in the mainstream as an illiterate, ignorant, ‘backward’ people.

Chaos, meanwhile, slowly creeps into the film. Chitti is first forced to learn to emote like a human, then falls madly in love with Sana, after which he is axed to pieces by an enraged Vasee, and disposed of unceremoniously in the city’s central dumpyard. Despite not having being able to charge his batteries (he’s decimated and in the middle of nowhere, after all), Chitti ‘comes back to life’, so to speak, and is picked up by the evil arms dealer / scientist / Vasee’s boss and mentor, Dr Bohra (Danny Denzongpa) – he who had initially made Chitti fail his certification test and had tried to lure him over to the dark side. While he had earlier rebuffed Dr Bohra’s attempts, this time around, Chitti goes with him willingly enough, and with the help of a ‘Red Chip’, is converted into a murderous monster. The morality of ‘sow what you reap’ is put into practice as ‘Version 2.0’ (nee Chitti) kills his new creator, goes on a robbing rampage around the city, and kidnaps Sana from her mandap, almost killing Vasee in the process.

Vasee is dragged in by the police and the army and ordered to bring down that-which-he-created. Chaos climaxes slowly, with scenes such as one where ‘Version 2.0’ stands opposite what looks like the entire police force of Chennai and a major chunk of the Indian army. He faces them squarely, and spreading his magnetised, robotic arms, pulls all their weapons towards himself. Around 25 LMGs get arranged in a semicircle between his outstretched arms, and in true Rajnida style, Roboda then fires them simultaneously. I think this was the point where my eyes got as big as degs and then, as the climax unfolded, stayed that way. Oh and if you thought three Rajinikanths were mindboggling, by this time in the movie, we actually have thousands of Rajnidas moving around – yes, thousands! As the battle progresses, they become magnetised, stick together, and morph into magnificent shapes and creatures, including a multi-storey cobra-anaconda hybrid that swallows tanks as easily as it crushes helicopters between its mechanical ‘jaws’.

The subsiding of the battle is followed by a couple of minutes of absolutely terrible cheesiness, perhaps to calm Rajnida fans down before they exit the theatre, lest they leave hyper-crazed chaos and destruction in their paths.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, the censor board thought fit to edit out a scene where a woman is giving birth. Now this act of theirs is disgusting and deeply disturbing, regardless of whether they did it because they considered childbirth ‘dirty’ and unfit for viewing, or if they thought the audience would be titillated by it. I can’t think of any other reason, can you? Any group that thinks the process of childbirth is either ‘dirty’ or titillating has more than a few screws loose. ‘Nuff said.

Having said that, I now know for sure: god exists; he is 61 years old, and his name is Rajinikanth. Everybody go watch ‘Robot’!

  1. December 10, 2010 at 23:16

    oh ho… you made me excited definitely watching movie this weekend…

  2. December 6, 2010 at 18:32

    LOL. aren’t you excited.

    • December 6, 2010 at 18:35

      I louwed it!!! It was epic awesomeness! :-D

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