Screened in one of the "forgettable" places on earth:
The most awaited movie of Superstar “Thaliavar” – Rajanikanth was finally screened in one of the most remote locations of the world – Stavanger, Norway. One wouldn’t dream of having an Indian movie, and that too Tamil movie for two shows (a Sunday morning and afternoon) , and both shows running to packed houses. The seating capacity of the hall is roughly 150 – so in effect 300 Tamilians( includes non-Tamilians, but fans of Tamil movies and Rajani movies) sacrificed all their Sunday rituals and travelled from far and wide in Stavanger to the Sandnes Kino Movie theater in Sandnes. The bus in which me and my friends were travelling was chock a block with Indians. No wonders the Norwegians were appearing to be puzzled and surprised to see so many Indians as a group on a quiet Sunday morning, a time when you could count not more than 25 non – Asians (including the bus, streets, bus stops) in the 30 minute bus journey from Stavanger Sentrum to Sandnes.
The Ultimate Rajanikanth Fan's preparation to watch the movie:
I myself was not in the best of shape to watch a movie. Having caught the wrong virus in the air, have been struggling to keep my two feet up firmly on ground since Friday night. My body had consumed enough of Paracetamols, Antibiotics, “gharelu nuske”( household medicinal fixes) like Cumin seed water, inhalation of steam scented with Vicks Vapourub, mouth rinse with salt water, milk with pepper and turmeric since Saturday on top of a layer of gel like Tiger Balm on my forehead and Vicks on my nose, throat and chest. In effect this is the same preparation i made to go to the movie – come what may. I did not have a Rajani T-shirt or a tattoo on my cheek to contribute to the spirit and enthusiasm of watching the movie, but the shining forehead (thanks to tiger balm) and nose (thanks to Viks) and loads of Vicks on my shoulder more than made up for showing my determination to watch his movie at any cost. In fact, just like Lord Hanuman tore his chest apart and showed a photo of Lord Ram, Laksman and Seeta residing in his heart in the Indian mythology Ramayana – today if my chest was tore open, one could easily find a photograph of Thalaivar just being covered by the clouds of “Vicks Vapourub” on my chest! What began as a anxious doubt if I could last the entire movie without the body giving away, became a worry of the past. I lasted the entire movie inspite of the paracetamol trying to have its way, and that too without sleeping ! My wife would especially be proud of the latter as I have been notorious in sleeping through some movies earlier.
Why one should watch this movie?
Ok enough on the backdrop. About the movie, I don’t wish to re-quote the same reviews that are available in millions of website or on Wikipedia on the movie. I will give my reasons why one should watch this movie:
1. Fantabulous combination of Robots, Human Beings, Comedy, Conflicts:
Director - S Shankar gets it right. The movie does not let down on this aspect throughout the 3 odd hours. The comedy though is done better by Rajani than his 2 side kick assistants. The three different characters or shades Rajani plays - as Vaseegaran – The scientist, the innocent version as Chitti the good robot and finally as Chitti the bad robot in the second half is very impressive. It’s a perfect combination of human touch to machines through emotions.
2. Tribute to Indian Filmmaking experimenting with Animations:
When we can pay hundreds of rupees or a few dollars to watch the Sci-Fi movies from Hollywood (ex: Avatar, ET, Jurassic Park etc.) , why cant we pay the same to watch Indian movies? The graphics of this Rajani movie are in fact on par if not better than any of these Hollywood blockbusters one would have seen in the recent past. Most of the graphics work is outsourced and done by China, Hong Kong and US (the accreditations are pretty interesting and long at the end of the movie). Still the familiar background of India, for these graphics and scenes with emotional and behavioral pattern of people like us puts the acceptability of this movie a notch higher than the Hollywood movies. 40% (INR 64 Crores or INR 64 Million) of the cost of the movie is spent on these special effects and it is indeed breathtaking. The second half in general is indeed very thrilling and mind boggling for the sheer display of imagination from the filmmakers on the ways the Robot can manifest and take humane and dragonian forms.
3. The Director:
Shankar once again shows the class that he is. After all the wonderful movies he has made – including Indian, Anniyan etc. This one is a league apart. The amount of thought put into the movie is indeed unbelievable. Collaborating with so many stakeholders – for the graphics and inter weaving it with the Indian masala and making it successful is an art, not many can master. Though at times the movie could have had some cuttings here and there – like some of the unnecessary songs and comedy from sidekicks – nevertheless those are just small cons of the movie. It is Shankar’s movie throughout. He is the real Hero.
4. The Actors:
Thalaivar – Rajanikanth
A different kind of actor
Rajani – what can one say about him? Absolutely mind boggling and entertaining! Being a die-hard Rajani fan, I unabashedly admit that he may not be amongst the best in terms of acting skills in the Tamil / Indian Film Industry (Kamalhassan (Tamil), Atul Kulkarni (Marathi), Aamir Khan (Hindi) score much better here) . But he has created a genre of his own. A genre defined by screen presence, persona, mannerisms and carrying himself so coolly. No one can beat him in that genre. He is second to none.
The best part about this Rajani movie is that he has taken a challenging role earlier shunned by Shah Rukh, Kamalhassan and other actors. He has played literally “god like” roles in most of his movies (Ex: Muthu, Basha, Padayappa, Sivaji etc) which promise his cult following from shores as distant as Japan, Germany apart from the rest of India (apart from Tamil Nadu). Still at the age of 61, this man seeks to challenge himself and break conventions on his own kind of movies. The creative satisfaction he may have carved for while signing this film, would definitely be his for now for sure – be it his comical flair, humorous touch or the negative shades in the form of the chitti the bad robot (he was famous early in his career only due to the negative shades he potrayed in his films like Moonrum Mudichu).
Space for others:
He has been the director’s dream by downplaying himself and going with the story. The screen presence of Aishwarya Rai is also there for as much time as Rajani and he carries the movie without being bothered by all that.
Man with a message:
Of course a Rajani movie without messages is impossible – so the last few scenes when Chitti the Robot is dismantling itself – he passes on the messages of importance of education and removal of all evil from mankind’s heart. The beginning of the movie also indirectly carries his message. Just before the title of the movie roll over, you see “Cigarette Smoking is injurious to health”, the message that has a background. (The background is that of a controversy created by the movie “Baba” in 2002, in which he had smoked and drunk in the movie in some of the scenes and the same were also reflected in movie posters. This had become a political issue then and Rajani announced that henceforth he won’t propagate drinking and smoking on screen)
Aishwarya Rai Bachhan:
I am not an Aishwarya fan. But after this movie, my heart has melted for the better, and is a step closer to being her fan, which is a paradigm shift in my perceptions on Aishwarya. My perceptions were always marred by the thought that “she is too artificial”. But the fact is she appears “too artificial” because she is so natural. She has matched her breathtaking beauty very nicely to the feminine grace and danced, acted and carried herself very well throughout the movie. Thoroughly professional. She carves out as much strength for her character as did Ramya Krishnan as Neelambari in Padayappa.
Sauve, Intelligent and fit the bill in his role as a scientist and as a bad man. His role could have been made much longer, but nevertheless, refreshing to see Danny back again.
5. The perfect example of India as a cosmopolitically plural society and a “Pro-Outsourcing” country:
Can you beat this?
- Rajanikanth is a Maharashtrian, who has made Tamil language and Tamil Nadu as his over the past 40 years (Ironically, i am a Tamilian with strong lineage to Maharashtra - having born in here and also by the ability to read, write and speak Marathi better than my mother tongue - Tamil). Exactly 40 years back, a linguistically aligned political party in Maharashtra had organized “Lungi Uthao, Pungi Bajao” campaign in which lot of South Indians were made to go back to their home states as they were taking jobs of Maharashtrians. I am sure, this time around, seeing the success and love this Marathi manoos has enjoyed in Tamil Nadu, South Indians like me who have made Maharashtra our home state will no longer face “LUPB” campaigns in future. Rajani also did his bit by visiting the power centers while in Maharashtra and sending the right messages.
- Aishwarya Rai Bachhan and Danny are again non Tamilians who are acting in Tamil movies. No ruckus created by the Tamil Film industry for this.
- Graphics Designing and animation outsourced to Hollywood (read US) and our South East Asian friends like Hong Kong, China etc. INR 64 Mn has gone to these pockets. When there are backlashes against outsourcing/ offshoring (especially against India) in the whole world, India is leading the world in outsourcing things it ain't great at.
- The names of characters too are examples of a movie that embraces multi culturalism. Ex: Dr. Bohra, Sana are not names normally used in Tamil movies.
- Also the locations where the movie is shot - especially songs are outside India (ex: Machhu Picchu mountains in Peru). A boost to the economy of these countries.
6. None of the above reasons appeal to you and you are still headstrong on the perceptions on tamil movies / Rajani movies/ Indian special effect movies and hence don’t want to watch this movie: In that case, I would still recommend you to watch this movie. You will leave the movie hall amazed on breaking perceptions on at least some part of your imaginations. If even this is not convincing enough, you will add “Boom Boom Robo da Robo da” song to your caller tune/ ring tone of your mobile phone or have a chance to see some exotic locations like Machhu Picchu in the song and dance sequences and wild imaginations portrayed through special effects in the movie in the latter half.
Seeing the high benchmarks this movie has set for most of the above reasons, the print media is abuzz that all future movies on Robots/ Artificial Intelligence in India are shelved – the ones from Mr. Shah Rukh Khan, Mr. Hrithik Roshan etc. No wonder, hats off to “Enthiran” and the entire team.
On a lighter note - me and my friends with whom i had gone to watch this movie were just joking around saying that perhaps even for an examination, i would not have prepared myself so well (with medicines, tissues, cumin seed water), as i was for a movie!
Glad I saw the movie! It is time for me to get back to Vicks, Tiger Balm, inhalation of steam and pop in antibiotics and paracetamol and play “Boom Boom Robo da”.