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Rajinikanth's 'Robot' to end all robots
The 61-year-old actor Rajinikanth single-handedly takes on Bollywood -- and "Iron Man" and "Inception" -- with this phantasmagorical Tamil science fiction film
Rajinikanth. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Robot. In whichever order you may prefer. Across India the Tamil actor is simply worshipped as "Superstar" or "Thalaivar" (leader).
Every Rajinikanth movie release sees thousands of ordinary South Indians bathing his life-size film posters in milk, film-reels being carried like holy idols to the theater projection room.
His every on-screen move and dialogue then cheered, imitated and immortalized.
And it’s no different for "Robot," Rajni’s first film in four years, which released with a thunderclap in Mumbai on October 1.
With crowds swarming to theaters it’s a forgone conclusion that “Robot” will be one of the biggest blockbusters of this year, marking the moment Rajni broke all barriers in Indian cinema.
He annihilates language concerns, scales every Asian film-making ambition and proffers a Tamilian poker-faced sense of sheer ludicrousness that makes Mumbai’s Bollywood feel like film noir.
'Robot/Enthiran': Mind-blowing, multi-language SFX action spectacle
Rajni's latest film releases in three languages simultaneously -- “Enthiran” (Tamil), dubbed “Robot” in Hindi and “Robo” in Telegu.
The most expensive film to be made in Asia at a cost of Rs 162 crore (upwards of USD$36 million), the South Indian production teams up director S. Shankar (“Boys”, “Jeans”, “Gentleman”) and Oscar-winning music composer A.R. Rahman, who come together for the second time with Rajinikanth after scoring big with “Sivaji -- The Boss” in 2007.
This time no expense is spared in an attempt to mount India's best sci-fi flick, which is basically "The Matrix" meets Tollywood. If you can imagine it.
Gargantuan in its canvas, there is nothing subtle about “Robot.”
It's meant to be a loud, action-packed, foot-stomping, mind-bending, visually stunning entertainer. And that is exactly what it is.
Every 10 minutes you have to turn to your neighbor and say, “He DIDN’T just do that?” But he did. And with such a straight face he could be Will Ferrell’s guru.
That’s why it does not matter that a song sequence has been visualized in front of the stunning Machu Pichu in South America with lyrics about Kilimanjaro in Africa or Mohenjodaro in Pakistan. It’s all part of the Rajinikanth-Shankar magic.
A complete suspension of belief that is the quintessence of Indian mass cinema.
Rajinikanth plays a hundred roles
The plot revolves around a scientist Dr. Vasigaran (Rajinikanth) who has toiled for 10 years and finally built an android-humanoid robot called Chitthi (Rajinikanth in a double role).
The robot is a super-hero with retractable wheels on the soles of his feet.
Chitthi can leap, Chitthi can fight, Chitthi can speak in 30 languages, is a master-chef, a painter, a mine-sweeper, a surgeon delivering babies, a make-up artist, a henna artist and a super-fighting machine who can talk to mosquitoes and take on dengue.
But he lacks emotions.
To make his creation viable Dr. Vasigaran reprograms emotions into Chitthi. All hell breaks loose when Chitthi falls in love with Sana who is Vasigaran’s love, played by Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan simmering on-screen like a dancing peacock with some new-age styling.
The classic Bollywood villain -- actor Danny Denzongpa -- plays a rival scientist who wants to use the technology behind Chitthi for terrorism. Chitthi who only wants Sana is now manipulated by Danny, who puts an evil program chip into Chitthi.
Chitthi seeks revenge, clones his evil self into hundreds of avatar-robots, and destroys everything in his path to kidnap and then imprison Sana.
Rajinikanth’s Dr. Vasigaran is a brilliantly subdued and serious foil to his evil avatar as Chitthi, who is OTT and frighteningly funny, a bit like Heath Ledger’s Joker, but with Rajinikanth’s villainous mega laugh -- and that’s no mean advantage.
The climax is a visual effects triumph, where hundreds of Rajinikanths swarm the city and begin destroying it.
For the first time ever, one could say the special effects of a Hindi movie are as good as anything Hollywood can produce. The team behind the CG wizardry is Industrial Light & Magic (“Avatar”, “Star Wars”, “Titanic”) and the action-team has Matrix trilogy pedigree.
The effects are Hollywood in their crispness, but the story telling, humor and milieu is Indian. We’re talking snakes, corrupt cops, medical school, information technology, religious worship, train action sequences throughout R. Rathnavelu’s fantastic cinematography.
“Robot/Enthiran” is an out-and-out Rajni movie, and for the price of one ticket you get to see hundreds of him. Fans, like me, couldn’t ask for a better deal.
Pushing 60 and still humble, flimsy toupee and all
Did I mention Rajinikanth is 61 years old? And kicking butt way better than Harrison Ford in the 2008 Indiana Jones sequel.
You see Rajinikanth doesn’t care about fame. He is the only Indian super-star actor who will appear in public without his wig, joking about his bald head at the "Robot" music launch party in Mumbai.
He shows that he appreciates what make-up can do. His wild on-screen hairstyles are meant to look fake.
Rajinikanth humbly separates the real and the reel with no hang-ups to show for it and smiles and jigs his way to box-office success almost every time.
And that’s why millions love him.
To the masses he is a bus conductor who became a demi-god. They voted for him to hold office in Tamil Nadu politics. And to the uber-cool Bandra-Banjara Hills-Ballygunge types he is the kitschy kaleidoscopic cult hero. What Chuck Norris is to his Facebook fans.
On the day “Robot” released, a popular tweet read: "Rajni's Robot released. Rajni gave the Times of India four stars."
And there’s emails doing the rounds right now with long lists,
"Rajinikanth can kill two stones with one bird."
"Rajinikanth’s tombstone will not say R.I.P but BRB."
“Rajinikanth’s calendar goes straight from March 31 to April 2, no one fools Rajinikanth.”
Way cooler than anything Jack Bauer fans have ever come up with. Want more? Mumbai Ishstyle claims to have complied the whole list.
Global cult following, Japan too
In Japan, land of the kinky, they don’t worship Jack Bauer by dancing and singing along to his theme songs on reality television dance shows do they?
Rajinikanth has even appeared as a co-hero in the Hollywood film “Blood-Stone” at a time when Indian stars were meant for the odd Merchant-Ivory period drama or all bundled in to the “Gandhi” biopic.
Rajinikanth deserves all the glory. He deserves to be the highest paid actor in Asia after Jackie Chan.
Seriously, now. Who can pull off splitting a bullet into two with a blade to kill two enemies at once? Who can launch a sandstorm with his vigorously waving arms? Or throw a cigarette in the air and shoot a bullet to light it then catch the lit cigarette with his mouth?
He’s actually cornered the global market on surreal. New York Magazine even compiled a slide-show for "Sivaji" titled "25 Reasons Why This Indian Dance-Battle-Romance Spectacle Is More Mind Blowing Than Inception."
Though Rajinikanth has appeared in many super-hit Hindi movies like “Hum,” “Andha-Kanoon” and “Chaalbaaz" (all of which were multi-starrers) success as a solo star has always eluded Rajni in Bollywood and other Hindi-speaking regions of India.
A hundred of himself, are going to have the last laugh now.
Watch the trailer.