Many things “define” a Rajni movie. A “Superstar” movie.
The emphatic “punch” dialogue. The style. The mannerisms. The entrance. The knowing smirk that his every action will be adored by millions.
None of these things can truly be said to exist in ‘Endhiran’.
A question that most often gets asked to me by non-Southie friends is: “Why is Rajnikanth such a beloved megastar in the South?” To expand: Why do people worship him so? More crucially, their questions seem to want to target “Why are his movies such insane blockbusters?” Are the movies really that brilliant? Or is it fanboyism to a different level? “What is it that he has done to warrant such worship?” No matter what I try to explain to them, I always leave with the impression they think that South Indians are an easily carried away group of people.
The answer to at least a few of those questions lies in ‘Endhiran’.
‘Sivaji’ was the superstar his mannerist best. The flick, the chewing gum (instead of the cigarette), the dialogue, the style. It had it all.
On the flip side, ‘Endhiran’ manages to reach a level where the director asks you to decide about what construes life. And possibly even think about the duality of free will.
Am I reading too much into a masala potboiler that cleverly uses and accessorizes science fiction for the masses? Gives them something new to whistle at and enjoy?
Possibly. But an alleged last hurrah for the Superstar persona of Thalaivar deserves all the analysis it can get. It showcases what Rajni is capable of, and why he should be revered as an actor. It has him playing second fiddle to a fairly well-thought out story. Going from emotionless to emotional to villainous to rueful. To be sure, the director Shankar plays to the gallery for all its worth — he milks everything he can from the setup he has going. 1000 Rajnis. Rajni vs Rajni. Ridiculously talented Rajni. Rajni action. And then some. Silicon singams (lions). Ridiculously divine looking Aishwarya Rai. Gigantic robotic snakes. Transformers. Terminators. Star Wars. Matrixian physics. Brilliantly awesome looking Ash. And so on.
And therein lies the key the mystique of Rajni. His performance is jaw-dropping. A double multiplicative role, sure. You keep wondering how a 60-year old finds the energy to do even half of what he does, body doubles and CG be damned. Manages to smooth over the slight rough edges in the script with timing and panache. Keeps you glued to the proceedings on-screen, no matter if your brain rebels against what is going on.
I sound a lot like a Rajni fanboy, I bet.
To me, ‘Endhiran’ plays off everything done in a checkered career. It showcases everything that Rajnikanth does best (yes, even the mannerisms). Shankar has managed to tap back into the Rajni saar we have seen in the 60s and 70s and 80s (thanks to the Mrs, I have actually seen a few of these properly), while building on and expanding on the Thalaivar we have seen in the 90s (these I saw all on my own). The integration of the Rajnikanth multiverse, if you will 😉
I could go on and on about different aspects of the movie. Shankar managing some level of subtlety in the first half (no painted troupe dancers in any of the songs in that first half!). How almost every other character in the movie outside of Ash and Rajni appear randomly out of the background, and even then you don’t really notice them. Hell, even the person you expect to be the main villain isn’t given quite the send-off you’d expect. Ash looks divine when she is allowed to, and those divine looks are required at some crucial points. The literal insanity of the effects (160 crore, after all). How my theory that Shankar is the closest thing we have to James Cameron in India (cliched story, insane budget, megahit movies anyway).. still makes a lot of sense.
None of it matters though. ‘Endhiran’ rules. Rajni-saar rules.