Tag Archives: Rajinikanth

Movie Review: Kochadaiiyaan (2014)

Kochadaiiyaan2 Stars (out of 4)

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Note: I watched the Hindi version of the film with English subtitles.

Fantasy is a genre rarely explored in Bollywood, especially films of the sword-and-sorcery variety. Kochadaiiyaan (“The King with a Long, Curly Mane“) fills that void, incorporating grand, mythical elements into an animated historical adventure.

However, the film’s story is undermined by director Soundarya R. Ashwin’s and writer K. S. Ravikumar’s fixation on plot twists. Instead of telling the story in a linear fashion, Ashwin and Ravikumar throw in a twist every half-hour or so, revealing that what appeared to be the truth was a lie. Wait another half-hour, and the truth is again turned on its head.

The twists aren’t well-designed. There’s no feeling of inevitability to them. They confuse more than they illuminate. Instead of inspiring an “Ah ha!” reaction, the only response is, “Huh?”

The story revolves around a strategic military genius named Rana (voiced and played by Rajinikanth in motion capture before being rendered on screen). The plot jumps between Rana’s rise to power in the kingdom of Kalingapuri, his return to his homeland of Kottaipattinam, and his recollections of his father, another great military strategist called Kochadaiiyaan (also played by Rajinikanth).

Sadly, Kochadaiiyaan isn’t a self-contained story, but rather a set-up for a sequel. Its incomplete ending is abrupt and frustrating.

Much was made in the promotion of the film regarding the advanced (for India) technology used in the animation. Had expectations been downplayed, perhaps the quality of the animation wouldn’t seem so disappointing. Even using motion capture, the animation looks no better than an early PlayStation 2-era video game cutscene.

Figure movement is the film’s biggest visual flaw. Fluidity of movement is hit-or-miss when it comes to the human characters, which is a huge problem in the movie’s many dance numbers (though some numbers fare better than others). On a related note, A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack is stirring, but not replete with hit singles.

An even bigger problem with the animation is the jerky movement of the film’s animals. Epic battle scenes become laughable with one glance at the arthritic horses “galloping” into war.

Character renderings also vary in degrees of quality. Rajinikanth is recognizable, his hairstyle changing to suit his multiple characters. Rana’s love interest, Vadhana Devi, looks more like Juhi Chawla than the actress who voiced her, Deepika Padukone.

Director Ashwin’s best use of animation is in giving a grand scale to Kochadaiiyaan‘s environments. Buildings are larger, battlefields more vast, and background characters more plentiful than most live-action film budgets could accommodate.

As for the acting in the film, it’s hard to judge, given the shortcomings of the animation. One tic that grows funnier over time is the characters’ penchant for stating the full name of the kingdom “Kottaipattinam.” I’d love to see a video compilation of every time a character says it, because it would probably include a hundred clips and run about five minutes long.


Opening May 23: Heropanti and Kochadaiiyaan

There’s only one new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area May 23, 2014, but it still faces stiff competition. Heropanti — an action vehicle intended to launch the career of Jackie Shroff’s son, Tiger — opens on Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Heropanti‘s competition comes from Kochadaiiyaan, the long-awaited animated feature starring Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone.

Although the film has been dubbed into multiple languages, the version showing in the Chicago area and across most of the U.S. is in Tamil with English subtitles. Many theaters are carrying the movie in both 2D and 3D, so check the schedule in advance before heading to the theater. Also check the schedules to see if your local theater is one of the several running an early preview showing of Kochadaiiyaan on Thursday night.

On Friday, the following local theaters will carry Kochadaiiyaan: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC Loews Streets of Woodfield 20 in Schaumburg, South Barrington 30, Marcus Addison in Addison, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge. Its listed runtimes range from 1 hr. 50 min. to 2 hrs. 4 min.

Click here for a full list of U.S. theaters carrying Kochadaiiyaan.

The Lunchbox carries over for another week at the Glen Art Theatre in Glen Ellyn.

Also showing locally this weekend is the Telugu film Manam at Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora.

Kochadaiiyaan Postponed

The release of Rajinikanth’s long-awaited animated film Kochadaiiyaan has been postponed from May 9 to May 23. Eros International attributes the delay to post-production problems involving 3D and dubbing the film in multiple languages.

Distributors in the U.S. are understandably upset by the last-minute date shift. The new date also limits opportunities to screen Kochadaiiyaan in 3D since big-ticket Hollywood flicks Godzilla (May 16) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23) will commandeer most of the world’s 3D screens.

Movie Review: Enthiran (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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This review covers the version of Enthiran dubbed into Hindi and retitled Robot (not that the original language matters to me, since I have to read the English subtitles, anyway).

The release of Enthiran, the most expensive Indian movie ever made, comes at an interesting point in India’s relationship with the Western world. Just a week ago, organizers of the Commonwealth Games — which are being held in New Delhi this year — responded to complaints from international athletes about the filthy, unsafe conditions of their accommodations by saying that perhaps the athletes’ standards were too high. And now, Enthiran proves to be more culturally charged than one would expect from an action comedy about a robot.

At its core, Enthiran is a shallow and conventional sci-fi story. A professor, Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) creates a humanoid robot that he hopes to sell to the army. When the robot, Chitti (also played by Rajinikanth), proves too dangerous, Vasee programs the robot with human emotions.

Chitti falls for Vasee’s girlfriend, Sana (Aishwarya Rai), damaging his relationship with his creator. Chitti seeks guidance from Vasee’s mentor, Bora (Danny Denzongpa), who reprograms Chitti for evil.

Overall, the movie is just average. Rai overacts her role, though her performances in the dance numbers are up to her usual high standards. The soundtrack is surprisingly corny and unpolished, given that Oscar-winner A. R. Rahman composed the music. Most of the special effects look cheap, especially the cartoonish depiction of a fetus when Chitti performs a “high-def” ultrasound. Also, there are talking mosquitoes and robot lions.

The majority of the film’s large budget went into the final action sequence, and it shows. It’s an impressive battle, clearly inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster Transformers in terms of scale and destruction. Sure, it’s kind of silly, but it’s an incredibly fun sequence that’s worth experiencing on the big screen.

But Enthiran contains some cultural views on race and gender that are out of step with most of the Western world. American audiences will appreciate the campy value of the story and final action sequence, but will likely be turned off by values that seem racist and sexist.

Enthiran fetishizes violence against women. Sana is threatened with rape on three occasions, and one instance is particularly graphic (especially in a movie which only allows its lead couple to kiss on the cheek). Sana is trapped in a train car with a group of armed men seeking revenge against her and Chitti, pinned to the floor of the car by her arms and legs. As the lead goon leans over her, a dozen men behind him aim their cell phone cameras to capture Sana’s violation. A shot of Sana cowering in fear before Chitti inevitably rescues her would have sufficed without making the potential rape seem titillating.

Even more shocking is a sequence in which Chitti saves a teenage girl from a burning building. The girl, who’s taking a bath, protests being rescued naked, but Chitti deems saving her life more important than her potential embarrassment. When Chitti deposits the girl safely in front of her mother, there is an audible gasp from the throng of onlookers and reporters. The girl’s mother looks at her daughter with disgust, and Vasee, covering the girl with his jacket, berates Chitti for bringing the girl out in such an immodest state. The girl then runs in front of a truck, killing herself.

The scene is disgusting because the human characters react as though, under the circumstances, the girl’s suicide is expected — that she should have been left to die, rather than rescued naked. It reminded me of the deplorable actions of Saudi Arabian religious police in 2002, when they refused to let girls flee a burning school because they weren’t dressed appropriately, resulting in fifteen deaths. Valuing a girl’s perceived dignity as more important that her life is an unacceptable attitude in 2010.

Enthiran is also problematic in the way it equates dark skin with a propensity for evil. When Bora reprograms Chitti, he gives the robot a new external appearance, including dark-colored skin. The skin darkening is an unnecessary symbol of transformation, since Chitti’s also given a distinctive pompadour wig. Also, all three of the characters who threaten to rape Sana during the movie have notably darker complexions than the film’s heroes.

Given how goofy and fun Enthiran is as times, it has the potential to become a cult hit in the United States. But I’m not sure that American audiences will be able to overlook the outmoded ideas toward race and gender. I wish the film’s creator, Shankar, would’ve considered how these issues would be perceived internationally, especially since neither the nude girl’s rescue or evil Chitti’s dark skin are critical plot elements.