Dir/scr: Shankar Shanmugam. India. 2010. 180mins


Enthiran (Robot), Shankar Shanmugam’s spectacular sci-fi Indian film in Tamil that opened worldwide on October 1, 2010, has scooped an international opening weekend box office of over $6.6 million. Starring Tamil demi-god actor Rajnikant and Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Enthiran has been released overseas in Tamil, dubbed in Hindi as Robot, and in Telugu as Robo, on 2,850 screens worldwide. It certainly raises the bar for mainstream Indian cinema.

A high octane, masala crowd-pleaser, Enthiran skilfully blends special effects with romance, action, comedy, songs and dance. Yet, it relies on emotional connect via a love triangle-and-morality tale. Scientist Dr Vaseegaran (Rajnikant) has no time for girlfriend Sana (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), but when he invests his lookalike robot Chitti with feelings, the latter also falls in love with Sana.

Dr Vaseegaran created Chitti to assist the Indian army, but a rival scientist transforms it into the destructive ‘Chitti 2.0’ who finally, remorsefully self-destructs. Shankar draws from Metropolis, Superman, Terminator and King Kong, yet his narrative remains uniquely Indian. Rajnikant feistily plays his triple roles as Dr Vaseegaran, Chitti and Chitti 2.0. Aishwarya is gorgeous, but has a Barbie-ish role.

Shankar sets up the plot well and gives Chitti complexity. Its special effects and animatronics by Srinivas M Mohan and Legacy Effects are sophisticated and dazzling, as multiple Chittis transform into an outsize ball, then an enormous python and finally a mechanical giant in the climax.

Oscar winner AR Rahman’s music is superb, and fellow Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty’s sound design inventive. Peter Hein and Yuen-Woo Ping’s action ups the ante, as does the ‘Kilimanjaro’ dance in Machu Picchu. With all that masala, Shankar philosophically reflects on what it means to be human: that’s value for money. But by dragging on 180 minutes, it’s too much bang for your buck, which may keep it from traveling widely.

Production company: Sun Pictures
Distribution: Fusion Edge Media (US theatrical), Ayngaran International (worldwide)

Producer: Kalanithi Maran
Executive producer: W. Hansraj Saxena
Dialogue and lyrics: Swanand Kirkire

Cinematography: R Rathnavelu
Editor: Anthony

Music: AR Rahman

Choreography: Prabhu Deva, Raju Sundaram, Remo, Dinesh, Shobi

Animatronics and special make up: Legacy Effects (Stan Winston Studios, US)

Website: www.robotthefilm.com
Main cast: Rajnikant, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa