For a long time, I have genuinely hated the term Kollywood [named after Kodambakkam – the area in Chennai that abounds with film studios, star residences etc] as a moniker for Tamil film industry; must have been some numb-nut journalist. Not that it was ever as popular a term as Bollywood, scarcely known outside South Indian media. In any case, it’s time Tamil film industry calls itself something else. Even a straightforward Tamil Cinema will do. Stalwarts like Shankar – the director of எந்திரன் – The Robot, exhibit such abundance of talent, ingenuity and originality in execution, that far from being a third
wood world ‘also me‘ industry, Tamil films (can) well and truly punch above its weight!
Enthiran enthralls. It has a near flawless recipe for engaging family entertainment – simple plot, countable key characters, good script, excellent acting, high standards in graphics & stunt scenes and most importantly, a gripping screenplay.
Rajnikant, a master of understated acting, does a neat job – as the platonic researcher, as the munificent Robot, and equally also in its menacing avatar ! For those who have to watch this in Hindi, the majesty of his very likeable voice in rendering Tamil dialogues will be a sore miss. All said and done, this sharp, handsome Maratha has spent far too long a time with Tamilians that his legendary diction and modulation in Tamil is palpably superior to his Hindi ! Aishwarya Rai Bachchan does look more beautiful as a woman than as the lissom model that she was, earlier. Also, it suits to have her so, to pair with Rajnikanth – not the best pairing possible, but not an atrocity either! Danny Denzongpa’s is cast well – though it may seem his role is foreclosed, not the usual villain who breathes last in the penultimate scene, he exudes his screen presence and importance, nonetheless.
Script is refreshingly contemporary. Dialogues pack in only as much science and jargonry as the story demands, without cramming them just for the kicks ! None of those pointless computer screens where Log In and Password fields occupy 80% space in red and green ! The protagonist moves about his job on keyboard and screens as much as he may have, off the camera; no English translations of the fields or messages in Tamil or Hindi. The director offsets this natural predilection to English for matters of science, with a good, sensible dose of Tamil in softer ways – meaningful, crisp dialogues, the writings on paper and wall while anthropomorphizing the Robot, the hand written note on which marriage engagement is sanctified etc. Unlike a Hollywood film, which doesn’t have to tread any delicate balance between English and Non-English languages in Sci-Fi films, Indian movies oriented on science risk being laughed at, if all content is translated (for, most Indians, sadly, now regard their native tongues as inept to handle science!). On the other hand, ubiquitous use of English would disenfranchise normal cinema goers, confining the appeal to multiplex audience only. Shankar does a brilliant job bestriding a neutral ground, mixing the two in sensible proportions.
Though realising believable CGIs are thanks to Hollywood firms engaged for the movie, the fact that those stunning, fast-pitched imagery are products born of director’s innate ideas and his quest for flawless exection, makes one reach out for Shankar, in many frames!
The talent pool this movie has drawn from is incredibly diverse and something Tamil films can be proud to have mastered, over years. Leaving aside the perfunctory import of fair-skinned/coveted Heroines from the North, the list includes Danny Denzongpa, Resool Pookutty (Sound designer, editor mixer of Slumdog Millionaire Oscar fame), Stan Winston Studio, Hollywood, Vance Hartwell (make up artist, who was also involved in The Lord of the Rings – two towers) and many more, as 2/3 part of movie credits reveal.
Stirring the imagination of youngsters in a country is best done by local artists, in my view. Any number of George Lucas, Steven Spielbergs may not inspire the same number of Tamil students of impressionable age, in fostering a fantasy for science and imagination as a Shankar, Kamal Hassan or Amir Khan may do. Movies like these do plant invisible seeds – of future pursuits of excellence in myriad ways, well beyond box office collections. Hats off to Shankar and all who helped him deliver the thoughtful extravaganza.