Shankar’s movies always come with an expiry date(barring a few). After a few years, you notice the faults or the lameness or both. When you watch them for the first time, you experience the initial high moments and come out of the theater satisfied with the grand scheme of things that entertained you but view them a couple of times more or watch them few years down the line, you don’t feel the same. They don’t age so well. In my opinion, only Gentleman and Indian(and Boys, to an extent) have stood the test of time.
The post-Baba Rajinikanth films have all been about packaging. They obviously revolve around Rajini but that extra bit of effort is taken to package them well(successful or not) as salable products to avoid the kind of debacle Baba experienced. In that respect, two different approaches were tried. Underplaying Rajini that met with quite some success, and another attempt to showcase Rajini from start to finish with all the emotions – sentiment, romance, comedy and the ultimate superstar – that met with great success. So what can you do different here when the same director had managed to stuff in every aspect of Rajini in just the previous film? You cause Rajini to become self-aware.
No, this is not about Chitti the Robot (Version 2.0, mind you!), like Skynet, becoming self-aware. This is Rajinikanth becoming self-aware. It’s quite a masterful idea to build from. Rajini has kicked the asses of almost all kinds of villains in his long and brilliantly illustrative career. And if you let even one of the villains hurt Rajini for more than a few seconds, you’ll only see the theater demolished. So what you do? You make Rajini face Rajini. The self-awareness here is about how Rajini the star has tried almost every trick and then realized that the zenith can only be achieved if another Rajini hurts Rajini. And because of Rajini’s epic villainous roles early in his career, it works beautifully in Endhiran, after all these years.
Endhiran pretty much follows Shankar’s tested formula of keeping things light and humorous in the first half and going all out crazy in the second. The first half is laden with funny moments that utilize Rajini’s flair for comedy pretty well. Aishwarya Rai does what she’s asked to do. Shankar is never known for strong or even capable heroine roles and if it’s a Rajini movie, you need not even think about it. But she’s hot and she’s insanely gorgeous. A lot of unwarranted ridicule surrounds her appearances, on screen or off it but they don’t even matter if you can look like a billion bucks, like that. I expected great picturization for Puthiya Manidha but I liked what I saw. It begins with the opening credits and SPB’s commandingly rendered parts are strewn over the development of the Robot. Quite goose-bumpy those sequences.
Just like Sivaji, the pre-interval shot sets up the second half pretty well. But some of the biggest disappointments of the movie stem from the immediate portions after the interval. The mosquito dialog with Chitti is one major irritant. The whole sequence leading to and including Kilimanjaro could have been avoided. But what comes next makes up for it. The last 45 minutes or so is an insanely awesome ride. The villain Rajini makes you root for him because he is the one doing things that Rajini the Superstar is expected to do. It doesn’t matter which side of the law he is in. And when he is making it work so well with memorable throwbacks to his early days of villainous roles and more importantly Alex Pandian, what else can you do?
In a lot of aspects, this is not a quintessential Superstar Rajinikanth movie. You don’t have punch dialogues, no stylish mannerisms except for the DOT! There isn’t a celebrated introductory sequence for Rajini. Hell, in fact he’s sedate and consumed in his robotics in his first scene. In fact, one Rajini is just there mouthing dialogs and even timidly shies away from a fight. But it’s actually good to see how it has worked by switching the persona from positive to negative. This is definitely one ultimate Rajini film that is not a Rajini film.
I am not saying this would join the likes of Indian or Gentleman as one of Shankar’s better films. Impossible to judge now. But I am willing to bet on it. Sivaji gave me that initial Superstar high but sadly didn’t age very well. I believe Endhiran would. Because let’s face it, this movie could have become something potentially bigger in stature and imagination. Thanks to which, a lot of the bigger ideas(credit to Sujatha here?) are just touched upon and left at that. There was a goldmine here(in terms of story/script/acts, not necessarily box office collections) but they had to please all kinds of Rajini fans. But if this what you get for a Tamil film that can finally boast of impressive CGI, dialogues on science and technology that aren’t frown worthy, I would happily take it. Well, why not? This is the film that makes the Superstar self-aware and unabashedly proclaims that only Rajini can kick Rajini’s ass.