To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t go in expecting to like Enthiran very much. Somehow, the idea of Shankar making a SciFi movie with Rajni didn’t set my pulse racing the way it might for a whole bunch of other people.
Then I saw the robot that the scientist (Rajni) created in his image and likeness. And the first words it spoke were “Hello, world!”
Can’t be a self-respecting CompSci geek and not give the film a whole lot of brownie points after a line like that, can I? (Enough brownie points to forgive the fact that neural seems to have been misspelt as nueral at one point. Then again, the fact that they actually brought neural networks into the whole thing buys some credit all by itself.)
It actually got better as it went on, believe it or not. Rajni was in absolutely top form as the robot, using a deadpan expression and voice to great effect. Rajni as the scientist had more of a straight role, but the character wasn’t entirely devoid of nuance.
Apart from the mostly lighthearted episodes detailing a robot adapting to the world around it (an absolutely hilarious conversation with a traffic cop is among the highlights), there is also a more serious plotline that discusses some interesting issues. If a robot is designed to be capable of harming human beings (so that it can be employed in wartime, for instance), then who is to say who it might harm? And if one wishes to imbue it with consciousness and morality and feelings, who is to say that it will continue to do your bidding?
Aside: The biblical references in the plot are so obvious, they might as well have called the robot Adam instead of Chitti. Not to mention the fact that a courtroom sequence seems to have been shot in a church.
So anyway, the film is going swimmingly well and I am having the time of my life watching it, when Shankar apparently decides that the film lacks punch and decides to make it into an action movie. I see where he’s coming from — it’s a Rajni Movie with untold millions riding on it — but surely there could’ve been a more economical and character-driven way of doing it? It is in the third act, when the film decides to become an action extravaganza, that everything goes horribly wrong.
Don’t get me wrong — Rajni as a villain is very effective. He does the badass stuff with such relish that it’s a whole lot of fun to watch. But the action sequences themselves are so implausible that they make us stop caring. By the time a score of policemen open fire on a car at close range without hitting anyone, the film has well and truly gone off the rails. You have no idea how frustrating it was to watch this sort of crap, especially given how much good stuff had come before.
I guess what it boils down to is this. When the story focused on the characters, it was compelling. When it became about an army of humans fighting against an army of robots, it became, well, mechanical. The machine lost, in more ways than one.