If I had a choice,I would have headed off to Enthiran ,wherein I could have experienced Rajinikanth the way he is meant to: in Tamil,surrounded by swooning devotees armed with camphor and coconuts. Alas,I have to make do with Robot ,in which a dubbed-in-Hindi Rajini goes by the unexpected name of Vashikaran,and in which,expectedly and magnificently,sensation triumphs over sense.
As befits a Rajini film made by Shankar,Robot is a spectacle. Rajini plays his version of a mad professor,immersed in the creation of a never-seen-before machine,with no time for his lovely girlfriend Sana (Rai). The robot is,but naturally,a Rajini lookalike. And the stage is set for the primal conflict between good and evil,man and machine,overseen by the towering presence of the one and only Rajinikanth.
To fully enjoy this nearly three-hour extravaganza,you have to be willing and able to buy into the Rajini myth. The one that says that the superstar can do anything and get away with it. And this we can tell you,Rajini makes it easy. He strides on with complete conviction,sweeping all absurdities of script out of the way,and holds you in compact with a wink and a smile. It works,most of the time.
Vashi creates Chitti-the-robot in his own image,just the way the Almighty did man. There are all kinds of throwaway allusions to god and creation,but Shankar treads lightly around the moral and ethical issues that arise out of the films primary focus: Vashi loves Sana,ergo Chitti loves Sana too. Yes,machines too can have feelings. They can be misused by evil people.
Danny plays the bad guy with aplomb. Aishwarya does her job well,fluttering adoringly about our hero in outlandish costumes meant to be futuristic. The rest of the space belongs to Rajini,who treats us to stunts never seen in desi films: theres a great sequence in which he fends off a large gang out to ravage Aishwarya’s modesty in a moving train. The overlong climax has him cloning himself a hundred times over,turning now into a tower,now into a snarling snake. Its a bit of a drag despite the dazzle,but James Cameron could learn a thing or two from Shankar sir in terms of mounting a grand finale.
Both the director and his star dont want you to think too much,so they load the narrative with songs,action sequences,comic strands. Robot may be the most expensively shot Indian film ever,and it may have used Avatar- like advanced technology,but at its heart,it is a Shankar film,with one foot in Mylapore and the other in Machu Picchu,making both ends of the world look the same: sure,there are those funny looking llamas in the background,but theres our familiar Aishwarya right out front,gyrating to AR Rahmans music. That Peruvian landscape doesnt stand a chance,not with Rajini and Ash colonizing it so completely.
You have to overlook some things. The inordinate length which can have you tuning out here and there. A patently Tamilian hood saying the very Punjabi mata rani ki kripa hai and struggling to mean it. Aishwarya chirping,wait for this: hes not my boyfriend,hes my toyfriend. And Rajini cooing: come my baby,gimme a beautiful kiss. You have to smile and wink,right back at the one and only Rajini.