Saturday, October 09, 2010


By the lucky happenstance that I'm right next door to Cambrige, which has a sizable Indian-American population and a theater that caters to them, I was able to see "Endhiran - The Robot" this evening. It's a scifi/action blockbuster from India (specifically the Tamil Nadu region and cinema, which I'm told means makes it not technically a "Bollywood" film.)

The experience was... actually pretty damn awesome and wholly worth seeking out, providing you're familiar-with or at least prepared-for the cultural-eccentricities of Indian popular-cinema; i.e. it's 3 hours long, changes tone between action/comedy/drama/suspense and romance often in the course of a single scene, and stops periodically so that the main cast can perform in a big-scale Music Video not-entirely-related to the plot. But yeah, if you can get into that "groove" it's easy to see why this giant-scale hybrid of Mega Man, Terminator, I Robot, Spider-Man and Frankenstein is the biggest thing in the Eastern World right now.

That said, it DID leave me with a few questions that perhaps some Indian readers (I've got to have some by now) can help me out with?

In case you're wondering, YES, that is a Giant Robot Snake made out of hundreds of Robot Humans all linked together you're seeing in that trailer - and that's not the coolest thing they end up making. The film is a star vehicle for Rajinikanth aka "Superstar Rajini" (that's how he's billed - he even gets his own opening credits seperate from everyone else) the biggest South Indian actor in the world and the highest-paid Asian star outside of Jackie Chan. And when India says "star vehicle," they aren't kidding: Rajini plays a scientist who makes a super-powered robot duplicate of himself, meaning he is both the lead and the co-star... and it gets better: In the third act (re: the third HOUR!) of the story, man and bot have a falling-out when the robot becomes romantically-obsessed with his maker's girlfriend (Aishwarya Rai) and Robot-Rajini restyles himself as a strutting Supervillain with his own duplicate-army... meaning that in the bigger-than-big action finale the Hero, the Villain and the Villain's several-thousand Henchmen are all played by the same actor. (Um... let's not let Mike Meyers find out that you can do that now, okay?)

Alright, so, to the questions:

#1: Granted, I've not been to India, but do people really speak as much English there, casually, as they do in this movie? You only see a few snippets of it in that trailer, but something like 20% (at least) of the spoken dialogue - along with all the road and business signs - in this is in English; especially from the Robots, sundry bad guys and Rai. I knew English-fluency was "preferred" for folks that wanted to enter business and tech fields, but is it that widely spoken in casual conversation? (Forgive my ignorance - I'm an American, the concept of multilingual-fluency as "normal" still amazes us.)

#2: I get that "modesty" is a very important thing in India and Indian entertainment (it's actually kind of a plot-point in the movie re: Robo-Rajini not "getting" modesty) but where exactly is "the line?" Because the food-as-sex-metaphor thing in almost all the song lyrics come off really lurid in the subtitles, and in the dance scenes Rai is rocking some MAJOR corset/cleavage action. Also, I didn't notice any translated cursing in the subs, but everyone says "shit!" in English a lot.

#3: Okay, kinda half-kidding here, but... is "Superstar Rajini" seriosuly considered some kind of "sex-symbol" in Indian popular culture? I mean, I get that he's this incredibly-popular, long-standing cross-media entertainment god, sure... but is there really no "dissonance" intended from having this kinda-doughy, thirty-years-her-senior guy being fawned over by a woman the calibre of Aishwarya Rai? Cuz... if that's actually a "standard" male-hotness-to-female-hotness dynamic in India, I'm thinking I should go there...


Nafees said...

1. Yes, it is perfectly normally f for us to use English so casually. Unless the indians in question are very old, odds are they are dropping English words throughout their conversion. Actually even old do as well, just not as much.

2. hard one to answer, but everything you mentioned is considered borderline acceptable. Cleavage during dance numbers had been normal for some time. swearing, they have said a lot worse in hindi, trust me, alloy of villains seat their heads off in action flickf

3. Its cause he is popular, think patterson from twilight. But then again, google latika's husband, I'm a full blood Indian born in Fiji,I understand the films and my culture in general but not one hundred percent on Indian ratios.

Another one to check out is dhoom 1 & 2, kinda kinda cheesy but enjoyable, and anything with sharook Khan.

Ankhwatcher said...

Indians speak English for the same reason that Irish people do.

Captain Machine said...

I'm going to have to see this