What happens when you put the best in the world of special effects, the visage of Rajinikant, a director who believes in overriding his stars’ appeal, the unprecedented might of a production and media conglomerate, the plasticity of a gorgeous mannequin-heroine, and the predictability of a music director lost in an identity crisis, to work, together? Robot. Or Enthiran, in Tamil.
The reactions are mixed. For the urban, gaming generation, the special effects, which are on par with the best in the world, and the hype surrounding the film, are enough to go watch the movie a couple of times. For average Rajinikant fans, for whom their hero is a super hero with or without world class special effects, the movie is unwatchable except for the dutiful first attendance.Most of the Tamil film fraternity is hesitant to say anything against the movie, for fear of alienation. After all, it is the powerful Sun Pictures, the peerless Rajinikant and the prolific producer-director Shankar that they will be critical of. A movie director I spoke with was concerned that the phenomenal visibility the movie has garnered so far would establish Enthiran as the benchmark for Tamil cinema abroad. His concern is not unfounded. For many international production houses, Enthiran might be the first Tamil movie they watch. The concern is that while the movie is on par with the best in the world on special effects, production values, locations and its sheer grandeur, it is far from the best that Tamil cinema has to offer. The imagery that Enthiran exudes is far removed from the identity, variety and soul of Tamil cinema.
Brand Rajinikant is in a different league. The expectations from the audience are enormous, though largely predictable. And his fan base isn’t made up of auto drivers alone. I remember seeing the head of a large FMCG firm and his family enjoying Rajinikant-starrer Chandramukhi on first class tickets (not balcony) on day one. While Enthiran delivers on the joys of ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, it fails, contend fans, on delivering the delight of a Rajinikant-starrer. Head honcho concurs. His kids enjoyed the movie much like they loved Terminator, he says. The sad part is that a Rajinikant movie has been reduced to a sci-fi fantasy riding on special effects.
Despite Rajinikant being in the frame, there were some ‘romantic’ scenes in the early part of the movie that were unbearable. It is not often that front row fans step out for a smoke during a Rajinikant flick on the opening weekend. In the case of Enthiran, they did.The angst of fans seems reasonable. One contention is that you replace Rajinikant in Enthiran with another hero with a reasonably large fan following, and it wouldn’t make too much of a difference to the movie itself. To be fair, Rajinikant’s performance is fantastic, with shades of absolute brilliance where the director has allowed him the room. Where the producers and the director have cashed in most on Rajinikant, and wisely so, is on the publicity and marketing front. A movie that cost so much needed the ‘super star’ and his appeal to pull off the marketing blitzkreig and guarantee returns.
The movie’s music launch in Malaysia, which became a repeatedly telecast crowd favorite on the leading Tamil GEC, was only the beginning. The trailer launch was another televised event. Audience reactions from across the world became yet another televised show. Promos are now on (Oct 16) for a show that captures Rajinikant’s world tour to promote the movie post release.Kudos to the producers of Enthiran and the director for making the world take notice of Tamil, and Indian, cinema. In doing so, they reduced my Baasha to a Robot.