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Rise of the machines



Rating: 3

October 01, 2010

Cast: Rajnikant, Aishwarya Rai, Danny Denzongpa

Director: Shankar

In a climatic sequence in Robot, thousands of Rajnikants link themselves together to form a huge drill, then a jumbo ball raining bullets, a massive python, and finally a towering giant who bursts from the underground. It’s moments like these when you lean back in your seat and salute director Shankar’s remarkable vision.

Unlike so many bloated sci-fi adventures we’ve seen, particularly in Bollywood, Robot has a clear idea and plot to hook the viewer in place rather than impress with empty special effects. When Vaseegaran, the brilliant scientist played by Rajni, creates an android resembling himself, he intends for it to become a weapon in the Indian army to avoid human lives being risked on the battlefield.

Christened Chitti, the super Robot soon has Vaseegaran’s family and his beautiful girlfriend Sana (played by Aishwarya Rai) eating out of his hand. But not everyone is taken in by the robot. Vaseegaran’s mentor Dr Bora (played by Danny Denzongpa) burns with envy, as he is secretly working on his own army of terrorist robots. He desperately needs the chip that propels Chitti, so he does his best to sabotage the relationship between Vaseegaran and Chitti. Yet he doesn’t have to try too hard – that age-old problem strikes. The girl comes between man and machine, when Chitti develops feelings for Sana.

A robot with feelings, you ask? Well, Shankar executes the idea interestingly. Chitti is taught emotions like happiness and sorrow by his creator, and he scans books describing feelings within nano-seconds. So when Chitti actually starts depicting jealousy pangs or signs of possessiveness, you’re engrossed.

In the first half, it’s difficult to fault Robot, with the fun it packs in. Shankar justifies the ambition of the idea, turning Chitti into a kind of superhero robot run on electrical charge, but with phenomenal strength. The robot can also cook up a mouth-watering buffet in seconds, dance like Prabhudeva, and karate chop ruffians into submission just like Bruce Lee.  In the midst of this, there is also a dash of humor thrown in to lighten the mood occasionally: As Chitti races sideways on a moving train to protect Sana from a band of rapists, he still has a moment to stamp the face of a man ready to unload a mouthful of paan spit.

And yet, to be fair, I must admit that even though I didn’t follow much of the dialogue when I watched an un-subtitled Tamil print of Sivaji three years ago, I found that previous collaboration between Rajnikant and Shankar to be funnier. You miss the comedy in Robot, especially because you see only flashes of it, in scenes like the one where Chitti forces the mosquito that bit Sana to go back and apologize to her.

Robot also lags when it sidetracks into the romance between Vaseegaran and Sana. It’s jarring, as is the film’s never-ending second-half, which mostly involves the scientist trying to rescue Sana from Chitti’s lair.

In the end, it’s the fantastic special effects and an inspired performance from Rajnikant that keeps the film fresh. The effort that Shankar has poured into this dream project is evident from the scale of Robot. Most local sci-fi films tend to ape Hollywood, but Robot never falls into that trap. Shankar stays with the sensibilities of his audiences here, and that’s what sets the special effects apart. Even though you feel a little fatigued by the extended action sequences, every once in a while, you catch yourself smiling at how Chitti swivels his head 360 degrees when he’s racing a car or the comic-book style with which he fires an armful of ammunition.

Rajnikant’s aura is usually bigger than the movies he’s in, yet with Robot, he tailors himself to the double role. It’s hard to imagine another actor in these super-robot shoes. Chitti is absolutely lovable and when he’s led astray, Rajni invests his evil with flair.

Aishwarya looks gorgeous, but her damsel-in-distress act is too wide-eyed and shrill. AR Rahman’s soundtrack is music to the ears, and in the director’s trademark style, the visualization of the songs stand out for their originality – especially the breathtaking Kilimanjaro song shot at the heights of Machu Picchu.

Ultimately, if there’s anything that eats into the fun you have watching this movie, it’s the length. Almost three hours long, Robot gets rusty with too many songs and a handful of unnecessary sequences that play spoilsport. Still, I’m going with three out of five for Shankar’s Robot. If you enjoy spectacle in your cinema, Robot is an adventure waiting for you at the cinemas.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

53 Responses to “Rise of the machines”

  1. C'mon Man says:

    Rs. 1.6 Billion spent on this movie. Spectacular Miracular is the comment of you all who seen the movie for just mere thought of humanoids can replace humans as soldiers so that we can save humans from being war victims and giving bringing it on screen by spending dis much only by doin animatiion. Even for animation of not possible task requires this much money then imagine the money required for several humanoids with the equivalent of human actions. These are all beyond possibilities man. Have anyone of you thought of offering 1 meal for any one session to a poor or offering school books to a good student who is in povertyline. This film making kalanidhi Maran, Rajini and shankar rich by mere hype creations. This film’s theme has no substance. According to me this should been rated 1/5.

  2. praveen says:

    certainly not the best film but definitely a very good honest attempt from s.shankar …………… working wid rajni has its own limitations and shankar does manage a gud film…………

  3. rajesh says:

    ‘C’mon Man’ is an idiot.

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