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...