I just got done with Enthiran. Not on the big screen, sadly, but the awesomeness still shines through.
It is simply Perfect. Rather well-made product.
Ash is not irritating , she seems so totally back to her ’90s aura of wonderfulness, the science is not (atleast on the surface and a little deeper) screwed up, the music is actually good when you fit it with the rest of the movie, there is no chummangaati sentiment-putting, the gimmickry totally fits in with the plot, Danny Dengzongpa is scary, the references to past Rajini films and punch dialogues is just right. Then there’s also the total #win Asimov reference, and robots-building-more-new-robots dystopia.
And Rajini is Rajini.
It does have its downsides…. Karunas and Santhanam are wasted – that subplot is one of the worst I’ve seen, while it could have been used for such a lot more. The middle bits are a tad draggy. There’s too much carnage, though that fits in with the scale of the plot. And, well, the whole scientist-working-alone thing should totally not be allowed.
Plus, Rajini’s age is totally totally justified in the movie – he did a PhD and a postdoc, so he’s allowed to be Ancient most people on the verge of graduation are.
But you know what I liked best? They got the universities right – Rajinikanth is supposed to be a PhD from CMU’s Robotics department, and postdoc at Stanford. Yes, not your standard ‘Harward University’ or ‘University of California’. Such attention to detail…. all that was remaining was to add an ‘Advisor: Dr. Raj Reddy’, and ‘Member: STAIR Project’ at the end
You know what I would have liked better? To have Chitti do robot soccer
Dear Mr. Purie,
You quite obviously don’t know me. And while I know you (well, you head India Today), I didn’t much care. Your rag always lost out to The Week in my house, God alone knew why my father subscribed to you…. to me, you were inherently unreadable. I didn’t pay much attention to your antics. Until this morning.
I happened to come across this post not twenty minutes after I woke up. Normally, it takes the better part of an hour for me to ungrog. But Mr. Purie, your scandalous behaviour and the brush-it-off-gently apology got me all fired up in not more than three minutes. While my teammate was happy I showed up early to his meeting for once, I don’t much share his joy. I’m livid, pissed, wild, mad, cross, fuming, steaming at the ears.
Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, plagiarism sucks. Secondly, plagiarism by a huge media house, especially one of the ‘India Today Conclave’ fame, totally totally sucks. Thirdly, a top editor like you not knowing about Thalaivar is BLASPHEMY. And fourthly, WTF excuse was that? Jet-lag?
I was jetlagged three weeks back. Not just your ordinary jetlag. I was coming from eight-regular-hours-of-sleep-IST to Pacific time. Twelve hours away. Twelve whole hours. Total reversal of night and day. Add to this, I had deadlines from my three classes, AND from two bosses, one of who was on Pacific time, and the other on Indian Standard Time. And that apart, Mr. Purie, I flew Economy. Nearly twenty-four hours. Not much legspace. Folks eating smelly food around me. Middle seat. Two stops. Baggage that weighed twice of what I weigh. Which I had to lug over three floors when I got home, no elevator. Not your first-class flight where you’d be served champagne and have ample leg-room, and have Ram Singh carry the luggage when you landed, for the short distance from the terminal to your airconditioned car.
I blogged when I was jetlagged. And blogged when I was both jetlagged and sleep-deprived. Did I plagiarise? NO. A big NO. Why didn’t I? Because I love my blog too much to post unoriginal content here, and pass it off as mine. This place is hallowed, and such injustice will be met with Hara-Kiri.
Also, I have been plagiarized. By Bangalore Mirror. Old story. I vilified them quite some on this blog. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you make them look like Sathya Harishchandra. Because, they posted my stuff without permission, but they did put my blog URL there. And when I complained, they responded. And apologized (though frankly, I’d say that was an apology for an apology). Quite unlike what you’ve done to my fellow blogger Niranjana.
My colleagues were to submit something for review and publication. And by publication, I mean in the proceeds of a conference, not a piddling rag like yours. New results and changes at the last moment made it such that they didn’t have all their references in place. Did they submit it and say ‘Hah, let’s see who finds out’? No, they did not. You might say yours is a mag that touches millions of life, and just HAS to be out by the deadline, but you know what, they had more at stake. They get this opportunity ONCE a year, mind you. And yet did not compromise on principles.
What were you thinking when you blatantly plagiarized? Doesn’t your conscience prick you? When I put my friend’s joke as a status message on gTalk, I add a “(Credit: Abhi/Tuna/Ego/Whoever)” bit towards the end, because it doesn’t feel fair when people ping me and say “Heh, you crack good jokes!”. We all do that. Even on Twitter, where no one would worry where a joke came from, people say “@jokerman says” or “(credit: @jokerman)”. Even the most mundane stuff, like a new word coined – like Kosubat (the electrified racquet used to kill mosquitos) or Homour (jokes about homosexuality).
Why do we do this? It’s our culture. Our honour code. ‘Stupid gits’, you might think. But no, Mr. Purie. It’s not just our morality that has resulted in this culture.We know what it’s like to have our friends copy from us and get higher marks. We know the resentment it breeds. We know what it’s like to pull an all-nighter and then have the folks who were lolling about get higher marks and skew the whole grading curve because they cheated. There’s no end to how much you can cheat. There are plenty of us who can keep coming up with better and better techniques to steal credit, not that the world needs it. We don’t want every sphere of our life descending into that sort of an abyss. Hence this culture and honour code. And you know what? We like this sort of an environment darned very much. We don’t have to worry about our jokes being stolen, so we let ‘er rip. We know our ideas will be attributed, so we put them out there for others to play with. We like this setup very much on the Net.
It might seem very old-fashioned to you, this moral posturing of mine. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you’re the fossil here. Did you really think you could get away with ripping off such a widely circulated article from the Net? Especially at the peak of Thalaivar-craziness? Especially in this age of Facebook and Twitter and gTalk status messages? Heck, it was the title of this Churumuri article, for godsake. For context, more people have read that article than your titchy Letter From The Editor. For context, Mr. Purie, that’s like ripping off Jai Ho and mega-releasing it as your own in the weeks following the Oscar nomination.
And when you say “Not being an acknowledged expert on the delightful southern superstar, I asked Delhi for some inputs.”, I can only say WTF. Any piddling two-bit journo knows enough to write about Rajnikanth, heck even Manu Joseph does. Or they pretend to, which is fine because we Thalaivar-fans don’t expect any insights into the method acting in Netrikan from anyone in the mainstream media. That you, yes YOU of the India Today Conclave fame, and YOU who edits ‘India’s Biggest Newsmagazine’ had no frickin’ clue on what to write about Thalaivar really gets my goat. If you had said this about Amitabh or SRK, there would have been blood on the streets. Blood. Yours. And the rest of your staff’s.
And I don’t get why you asked Delhi for input, especially given that a reasonably well-travelled Amit_123 like you itself had no clue about Thalaivar (No, he’s not just a ‘Southern Superstar’… he’s a South-East Asian Sensation as you would have realized if you had travelled through Japan, Singapore and Malaysia even once), what do you expect from the rest of the Amit_123s and Isha_123s there? I’d've thought the first logical reaction would have been to call Chennai. As we say on the Internet, #FAIL.
And how DARE you change it from SUPERSTAR to Superstar? All the Caps are merited. And we forgave the original author for not putting it in Bold, Underline and Fontsize 42 only because he was not Indian. You on the other hand…. bah!
You know why I’m pissed, Mr. Purie? It’s not just because you ripped something off. It’s your impunity in shrugging it off that gets my blood pressure rising. AND that no one is being fired over this. Or even getting a rap on the knuckle. Not just the Slate thing…. I’m more pissed about Niranjana’s situation. What sort of low-quality mediocre staff you have who can’t even have a few original ideas? And why are you still keeping them? And no rap? What sort of a message are you sending out? That it is okay to lie and cheat?
No remorse? No nothing? Atleast pretend you’re sorry about the whole deal, suspend someone for eyewashing…. do something! Even the smallest political scandal makes sure that atleast one person gets the axe! The fact that you’re not even pretending to be outraged outrages me.
I know Mr. Purie, that this letter might not even reach you, and even if it does, you wouldn’t read it (And if you do, you might plagiarize it… no worries, I now know I can issue a cease-and-desist notice if something like that happens). But I just have to write this because I feel quite outraged on knowing about your heinous act…. If Ponzi mated with Kaavya Viswanathan, and their Indian-Italian spawn then hooked up with Bangalore Mirror AND the folks from here and here, the offspring would be you.
I haven’t yet watched Dasaavathaaram; but I’m simply dying to… the reviews have more than whetted my curiosity. Then there’s one scene that I am very eager to watch. Apparently Kamal Haasan in one of his many roles (for the uninitiated, he plays ten roles in the movie, and no two of them are related by blood, let alone be twins, and they aren’t even doppelgangers. Why then, should one do the work of ten, you ask? Because he can… remember “yeh kitne ka baraabar hai?“?), has throat cancer, and when someone fires a gun at him, the bullet goes through his throat taking the cancer away with it. I want to see for myself how such a scene is handled with style. And if not, I would like to think about what Kamal was thinking right from conceptualizing this shot to actually filming it and canning it, KS Ravikumar notwithstanding.
Now I’m not one of those who dismiss these gimmicks; I don’t mind them too much. Quite unlike most of the general populace who do dismiss these actions for being too populist and reaching out to the lowest common denominator of the audience.
And who send email forwards saying Newton got a heart attack watching a Rajnikanth movie.
In some versions, it is Mithun-da. And there are also endless Chuck Norris facts turned into facts about Superstar. In fact, it is these forwards that make Thalaivar larger than life than his on-screen persona.
And for the veracity behind these claims… I am yet to find a YouTube video showing Rajnikanth or Mithun with two guns and an enemy on the other side of a high wall, when they throw one gun up and shoot it so that it goes off and the enemy is killed. You would imagine when folks can be jobless enough to clip videos of Gaptain Vijaykanth shock the electricity out of a generator, they would atleast upload these legendary videos which everyone talks about in disparaging, superior tones, but no one has viewed.
And these superior, cynical tones from the supposed elite… that’s the reason I’m really surprised as to why Kamal Haasan put in that bit. Because Kamal starting from the ’90s has packaged himself to be sold to the urban elite. He makes ‘thinking’ movies, or so they say, and lives his characters, and you need a classy mind to really appreciate his films, or so it is publicized. Rajnikanth on the other hand, is projected as appealing to the masses (mainly by virtue of the aforementioned gimmicks), not take pains in getting into character, plays the same roles again and again, and delivers hits mainly due to the profusion of his fan clubs.
But when you rewind to fifteen years back or more, you’ll find this is just not the case.
In the initial decades of their careers, you’ll find Rajni did a larger variety of roles, while Kamal simply played the same loverboy character over and over again. Now getting into a debate over who is better is futile, as I’ve seen in the past; but I’ll say this generalization to “actor” and “superstar” are too generic to be taken at face value.
When you take a closer look at Kamal’s recent classy movies, you’ll find that the ones that were hits were mostly comedies, and penned by Crazy Mohan (whose absurdist comedy that was the main feature of his multilayered scripts that appeal at different levels to different people, and who deserves a whole post to himself). Whenever he deviated, his films have been commercial as well as critical failures – Aalavandhan, Hey Ram are examples. A notable exception is Anbe Sivam.. though I would say the story gets predictable, the characters of Kamal and Madhavan are exceedingly endearing, and along with the situations portrayed and simple dialogues, make it worth more than a watch.
But I guess selling Rajni-saar as the darling of the masses is a money-minting exercise, because that packaging chooses not to alienate the masses while not really turning away the ‘classes’, most of who have grown up watching Thalaivar in myriad roles right from their childhood, be it the rip-roaring Thillu Mullu (remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal, with a guest appearance by Kamal), Billa, Johnny, Gayathri or Netrikan. Ask these same people to name earlier films of Kamal that stand out, I’m sure you won’t get much beyond Kalathur Kannama, 16 Vayadhinile (with Rajni playing villain), Sigappu Rojakkal, Moondram Pirai (Sadma), or Raja Paarvai. Rajni sells for this nostagia, as well as for his movies (They really aren’t as bad as they are made out to be… entertainers, yes, but not lame ones). Kamal on the other hand sells for his current repertoire, as well as for his air of being a ‘thinking’ man’s filmmaker/actor, of which the latter has been tried successfully by Aamir Khan (who however is the non-thinking, non-critical, pseud (wo)man’s favorite filmmaker).
Habitual Rajni-bashers choose to ignore his large repertoire of good work, and choose to highlight only his cigarette-flicking (of late, coin-flicking), villain-thrashing ways, all of which have only that much importance in his career as “Aati Kya Khandala” or the train scene in Ghulam had for Aamir Khan.
And these people who scoff at the sheer unbelievability of his plots and scenes are the same people who wouldn’t mind a whirlwind tour of three countries in a 24-hour period from Dan Brown who churns out the same crap book after book, or Chetan Bhagat for who much of the same can be said. Or for that matter, Sidney Sheldon or Jeffrey Archer who can write about Czechs with nubbins and bracelets and get away with it.
Or watch SRK with his little mannerisms, RGV’s implausible plotlines, and applaud.
Or for that matter, even Tarantino and Disney flicks.
One of the main reasons why Rajni films succeed so well is because they are made for a family audience (like the movies Crazy Mohan pens for Kamal). When his scriptwriters lack the finesse of Crazy Mohan in tackling complex issues in such a way that it wouldn’t alienate any age-group, they would rather compromise on the issue. Unlike Kamal, who comes up with an Aalavandhan, about a psycho killer, or a Hey Ram (Which had viewers going Aiyo Rama). Rajnikanth takes great care to portray qualities that are valued in society – respect for elders, honesty, hard work and the like. His films, of course, are well-known for misogyny, but that isn’t his sole preserve.
I, like the average Tamil moviegoer choose to have it both ways – I’ll watch a Thalaivar movie with all the usual ingredients, whistle at the punch-dialogues, and tolerate the few references to him/his character being the superstar/perfectMan. I would enjoy a good Kamal movie by paying attention to his plot, characterization and script, apart from his makeovers, and choose to ignore those forced scenes of intimacy, over-the-top accents, and his general overdoing everything.
For they are doing it all just to entertain us. It is not everyday that they make movies, and their little idiosyncrasies are worth tolerating for the entertainment value of the finished product, and heck, their swelling with self-importance is what makes them larger than life.
PS: I intended to make this a post that doesn’t take itself very seriously… but somewhere down the line, it turned into a biased Doordarshan newsreader’s report, with none of the associated feeling of well-researchedness or newness about it. I suppose the bottomline would be that at the end of the day, Kamal and Rajni both are actors, out to make money and fulfill the expectations of the audience… and everything they do would be better understood if it was viewed first in the light of that.