Man 1, Machine 0

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.

ps: In the shameless self-promotion category: one reason why I enjoyed the movie so much was that it reminded me of two of my own blog posts. You can read them here and here.



4 thoughts on “Man 1, Machine 0

  1. S says:

    Decided to wait for the highway-robbery prices to let up a little, so instead of FDFS ended up catching the 8:15 showing last night at The Oaks strip mall discount theatre opp De Anza college. Bad decision!

    Cost us 20 bucks a pop still, but the worst was yet to come. There were zero trailers during the 45-minute wait (yeah, can you believe they only started at 9pm? these chota-mota theaters I tell you!) and the 30-minute interval was interspersed with silly ads of the kind I’d never imagined they would wave in my face during a movie I’d paid thru my nose to watch!

    Willy-nilly promotions of city council elections apart, they’d snuck in an extremely lo-budget plug for the boutique theater itself, which comprised of the clerk at the counter doing double duty as ad actor; the spirited high-schooler mouthed such lame lines in rap style as “buy popcorn at blue light, yo yo; we rock oh ho” blah blah blah…and it was all shot on a handycam or something — it was pure torture. And did I mention the audio SUCKED? &%#@*%$ retards!

    Reminded me of the Rahman concert (my first!) that we went to, on Sept 12 at the Oracle Arena. There too, a barrage of lousy ads (jewelry, automobiles, restaurants, satellite TV..) greeted us, before the host FINALLY introduced him thus: “Welcome everyone blah blah blah…now let me introduce someone who needs AB…” and phat goes the audio!! Few seconds later, she comes to, then repeats the whole thing, this time actually allowing us to hear her finish the introduction of “someone who needs ABsolutely no introduction”!

    And as the concert progressed, the audio glitches kept cropping up, most prominently during “Irumbile” (which was the highlight of the show, but alas!)… what shocked and awed me though was that Rahman appeared completely unfazed when he — and I think it was Chinmayi singing that with him — started to do the rap bits and the audio collapsed again! Same thing happened when Hariharan, at this same concert, was singing some seriously high-pitched segments of a ghazal type song and, phat went the audio, again. But he resourcefully grabbed the mike from the guy standing next to him and with a quick “it happens”, proceeded to finish the song. You’ve got to love the composure these consummate professionals so often display!

    Seguing back to Enthiran, composure was exactly the thing I lost in the third act, which, as you rightly put it, was a crapfest! It was indeed frustrating (to say the least), after what they showed us in the first half. (In fact, I began to wonder if something happened to the film reel in transit, i.e. they somehow lost those portions and decided to patch in bits from The Matrix II and The Scorpion King.)

    To its credit, the movie has One solid heart pounding away in its first half; but in the second half, the bits and bytes quickly Zero-in, pounding it into oblivion instead. By the end, I’d entirely stopped caring about who loved whom — they could all go to hell in a hand-basket if that meant my going home quickly to complete my class assignment (where are you, Chitti?! :-P).

    But overall, I thought Sana was delicious, Vaseegara, dismal and Alex Pandian 2.0… dashing as ever!!

  2. Banno says:

    I didn’t comment earlier because I hadn’t seen the film. Though I’m not a CompSci geek, I thought the creation of the robot was very believable. Agree with you. The end went into pyrotechnics, and I lost interest completely.

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