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‘Robot’: a perverse review

“500 years down the line, Robots will make a movie called ‘Rajinikanth” – Anonymous.

It is said that there are two kinds of people on earth: those who have seen a Rajinikanth movie, and those who shall see one. ‘Robot’, originally titled ‘Enthiran’ in Tamil, was the latest release from the superstar and it made a whopping 375 Crores over the box office.

This essay, however, is not about the film. Though it recognizes the film as a top entertainer, the essay is least concerned about its artistic and cinematic merits. It can be argued that as a work of art, even by mainstream commercial standards, ‘Robot’ is a poor film. It is in fact little more than a lengthy drama with an assemblage of bland performances, insipid music and totally uninspiring special effects. But if all that can be ignored, as in the case with this review, the film may delight us as a text in itself. This review is interested precisely in the textual aspects of the film, not in its ‘affects’ but its ‘concepts’, which include its politics of representation, its narrative construction and its function in a cultural matrix[1].

Robot, we know, is a very special film. It brings the two most adorable children of Tamil cinema, filmmaker Shankar and superstar Rajinikanth together, and this inevitably calls for an eruption of entertainment. Rajinikanth, we know, is a figure who has already gained a mythical status in the eyes of millions. As a symbol, he stands for many ideas, values and associations and most of them even exceed his own endorsements or intentions. All this calls for a readjustment from our side, for before we may ask what ‘Robot’ is, we may do better by asking ourselves a slightly different question…

What is Rajinikanth?

There can be many answers to this question, but the closest we may get is that Rajinikanth is a Brand. Like all brands, he too stands for a set of signs which extend his own being; of who he is or what he does. One may say that his professional standing as an actor matters little today, compared to what he has come to stand for in the mind of the Indian public. In the public imagination, he embodies unbound fantasy and unlimited fun, to such an extent that they often verge on the realm of absurdity and unreason. Hence we find so many Rajnikanth jokes in circulation, on the web or on our handsets, and it is not surprising that all of them basically have this one underlying theme: ‘impossible is nothing’[2]. These jokes portray him like a genie or a crazy god, someone who is more befitting to the world of animation than of reality.

All this together, makes for Brand Rajinikanth; a brand so big and so popular, that any film that stars him today automatically turns into certain collaboration between the director and this brand. Any intelligent director who casts Rajinikanth today takes into account the brand-functions that come along with it, in order to ensure public acceptance. In this regard, Shankar, the director of the film which we are about to discuss here, has no equals. He is one of the few directors today who makes a film essentially as collaboration with a brand. From penning the script to editing the rushes, he makes his entire film along the line of the public imagination that the brand evokes. There cannot be a greater example than ‘Shivaji: The Boss’ which achieved an unprecedented box office success through its finely crafted collage of fact and fiction around Rajinikanth’s own life.  However, there is also another side to brand Rajinikanth, a side often ignored or misunderstood, which needs to be discussed here before we move on to the review of the film.

The Locus of Superstar

Every brand, symbol, or icon has a social locus. Rajinikath’s charm and popularity are of course felt across all classes and communities, but it primarily centres on the realm of the popular. For the downtrodden, he is the man who can represent their struggle, carry their aspirations and meet their desires on the silver screen. This leads to a pact between the superstar and his followers, resulting in an icon worship that is totally peculiar to South Asian popular culture. This icon worship, which often reaches colossal scales, has forever puzzled people all over the world. Even the mainstream Indian moviegoers find it hard to reckon with its mechanisms. They usually blame it on a ‘volksgeist’, an unregulated consciousness which is the driving force behind all forms of what we term as the popular. Whenever a Rajinikanth film gets released, ‘national’ [read ‘north Indian] media describe the situation with phrases like ‘Rajini fever spreads’, or ‘Rajini Mania hits Chennai’, or ‘Fans go mad over the latest Rajini flick’. As we know, ‘fever’, ‘mania’ and ‘madness’ are all disorders of some kind or the other, and their usage only shows that the mainstream is simply incapable to identify a ‘reason’ behind such situations.

The incapacity to see reason in such situations, unfortunately, lies in the very framework of looking at cinema, as far as the mainstream is concerned. Since its inception mainstream Indian Cinema, centred on Bollywood, has always revolved around the language of emotive realism[3]. Reality plays the regulator to this language; however fantastic or bizarre a sequence may be, it is always shown as a logical outcome of real human relations. Popular cinema has no such obligation towards realism. Here the scale of desire and its fulfilment is hardly negotiated against reality. Understandably, the mainstream brands popular cinema as ‘excessive’, ‘unrestrained’, ‘illogical’ and ‘unreasonable’; thus using the same set of terms which are used to describe the masses as against the classes.

Of course, such a distinction between the mainstream and the popular Cinema in India is unproductive, let alone tenable[4]. However, its overwhelming presence even today shows that the majority of mainstream moviegoers have still not realized the simplest of all truths; that Cinema is not answerable to reality. They are there to entertain us and Rajinikanth, above all, is an ace entertainer. Now whether the means he is shown employing in his films to entertain people is adequately faithful to realism or not, is an absolutely trivial question to ask. What matters, is that he embodies the spirit of popular entertainment; that he performs miracles on screen and makes the impossible possible. His success lies specifically in breaching the boundaries of forms, which is why his films are often compared to animations, fairytales, epics etc, incidentally all forms outside cinema. Specifying and categorizing these forms, a typical modernist initiative, have always resulted in failure. Animations on Rajinikanth have bombed, comics have flopped, all for the simple reason…what is the need for such specific forms if Rajinikanth can perform them in person!

The Stakes in Collaboration

This last point is very important to our reading of the movie ‘Robot’. Collaborations, of all forms or kinds, demand an understanding of the mutual stakes which both sides are having. A figure like Rajinikanth, whose screen image embodies all the alleged peculiarities of popular cinema; excessive, unrealistic and illogical; does bring with it a burden of representation. His locus, that is, the realm of subaltern entertainment, becomes a consideration a priori in this regard. On the other hand, Shankar, who belongs to the other side of this collaboration, has his own stakes; the most important of them being the audience he made this film for. Shankar’s chosen audience spanned the entire nation, and most importantly, the same north Indian mainstream moviegoers who we mentioned earlier. This is what made the collaboration most interesting; it called for a clash of territorial interests, arising out of the conflicted relation between mainstream and popular cinema in India.

The conflict presented itself not only in big forms but also in minute details. As we know, the figure of the superstar, the hero, has distinct attributes and character in the two cinemas in question here. The mainstream usually scoffs upon this distinction by dismissing the popular on grounds of ‘reason’[5]. In Kantian terms, the popular hero is yet to ‘come to light, to reason’; he is just the one who is chosen to represent and reflect the mass. To the mainstream, this neatly fits the image of Rajinikanth, thereby raising the stakes of Shankar to serious proportions. It became a big question of how this collaboration would be realized, and how would it address its audience of conflicted traditions, hopefully without compromising one to the interest of the other.

The Split in the Figure

Robot presented its hero, our superstar, in two avatars. We first come across Dr. Vasigaran, an ace scientist who works at an artificial intelligence lab in Chennai. Dr Vasi bears Carnegie Mellon and Stanford as legit stamps on his CV, and wants to make a perfect Robot which will come of great use for the nation. In fact, throughout the movie, we are presented with various tests and trials that constantly remind us of the scientist’s desire to have the national bodies, institutions such as the police and the army, replaced by robots. This, we are told, is realized so that the nation can avoid casualties and have a free economic growth. Dr. Vasi is a model citizen subject of the nation; he is reason personified, full of integrity and above all, a thinking being. Understandably, he is not the best lover; he cannot make time for his girlfriend, Sana, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. He is intelligent but vulnerable, and lacks each and everything that we associate with brand Rajinikanth.

Now Dr. Vasi invents the most developed, andro- humanoid robot in the history of mankind, called Chitti, also played by Rajinikanth. Chitti has a memory of one zeta-byte, speed of one terra- hertz and a combined creative intelligence of 100 humans. But what make him special are his physical skills; he can do almost everything that is possible, hardly possible and sometimes totally impossible. He can run perpendicularly on a running train, lift cars and shoot with his index finger, in short, everything that is brand Rajinikanth. However, despite his gargantuan intelligence and performative skills, Chitti falls short of human perfection, for he cannot feel, reason or judge things. Over the table of reason, he is nobody; just a pale shadow, an apparition of Dr. Vasi.

If we take the two together, Dr. Vasi and Chitti, we come to a rather interesting realization.  It seems in ‘Robot’, the figure of Rajinikanth is split into two. It is as if the two images of the superstar, the popular hero with his unreasonable antics and the urban protagonist with his reasonable actions, are projected together, in order not to mix up the modernist territories of representation. Thus, Chitti’s antics do not run any risk of raising north Indian eyebrows, for he is not portrayed as a superman here but just as a machine which is endowed with special powers. The reason here lies ‘outside’ the figure, thereby neutralizing and resolving the cultural and social differences around movie-watching.

However, this king Solomon like judgment on part of the filmmaker doesn’t come in ‘Robot’ without a price. It costs the figure of Rajinikanth, the one half of the split, Chitti, two very important things on the representational front. Firstly it costs him the moustache, the marker of the superstar, his human warmth, his winning smile, his identity, all in favour of an expressionless robotic face which is totally bland and uninspiring. Secondly, and this is rather tragic, his sex. As we observe Chitti in the lab, without the polymer skin and his clothes, or in the sequence where he rescues some people from fire, we observe that Chitti doesn’t have a penis. This, of course has no bearing in the beginning part of the film, but as it progresses and events unfold one after the other, we come to see the grave consequences of its absence. We’ll return to this matter in our analysis, of course, but for now, it is just enough to remember that the split in Rajinikanth’s figure in Robot gets marked by the presence and the absence of these.

The Subaltern Itch

As the story unfolds, and Dr. Vasi presents Chitti to his girlfriend Sana as a ‘toy-friend’, we get to see why a robot is needed in today’s world. The world around us, we see, is full of bad people. Dark, ugly people, visibly from the lower sections of the society, populate the neighbourhood and play loud music without any care for anyone’s convenience[6]. Chitti systematically teaches them a lesson; first, by spoiling a loud dance party of a group of repulsive, wannabe hip hoppers and then by breaking the sound system at a local clubhouse full of ruffians. The latter sequence is especially interesting because as soon as he spoils the party, the ruffians come after him with knives, spanners, chains and all sorts of street weapons, and in response, Chitti turns himself into a magnetic field, thereby attracting all those metallic weapons which fly out of their hands and come to his’. Chitti rearranges them in an instant and transforms into some kind of ‘Visvarupa’, a form of Vishnu, to which all these ruffians bow down in admission of defeat.

Thus ‘converting’ the non believers, Chitti goes on a rampage, but the bad subalterns bounce back and attack him and Sana inside a local train. There we see the ‘wannabe hip hoppers’ again, along with other ruffians, who bring bricks and stone weapons in order to avenge the magnet fiasco. This scene effectively shows the alleged pact between the ‘western’, hip hop loving youth, and the dirty, uncivilized subaltern ruffians, implying that they are all the same. The underlying logic behind this pact is of course simple; both are threats to the national fabric. The subalterns are obvious threats to the nation simply because they refuse to follow the norms of citizenship; their actions function outside the realm of civic consciousness. The wannabe westerners, on the other hand, are threats to the economy, their pact with the West make it difficult for the Nation to bring them inside the cycle of its production and consumption. Together, they represent a force that resists reasoning and is hostile towards the nation’s interests.

However, what is worse about this subaltern collective, the ‘other’ of the reasoning citizen subjects, is that they eye the nation’s women. They scan Sana with their dirty eyes; they try to rape her inside the train. It is here Chitti comes to real use; he beats the hell out of them and protects Sana from their corrupting touch. The model citizen, Dr. Vasi, and his urban, independent girlfriend, thus get to make an ideal couple together, dance to the tune of ‘boom boom robo/ zoom zoom robo’ while Chitti straightens the problems around their life. However, this moment of bliss doesn’t stay for long. After establishing the three characters against the background of a bad subaltern world, the story zooms in, and we suddenly find their triangular friendship taking a complex turn in no time.

The Freudian Cage

When Dr. Vasi presents and demonstrates Chitti in a seminar on Science and Technology; a member from the audience asks Chitti whether God exists or not. Chitti replies, “God is imagined as the maker of everything. If my maker, that is Dr. Vasi, exists, then God exists”. This scene defines the relation between Dr. Vasi and Chitti, though they mirror each other in terms of likeness, albeit except for the moustache and the penis, their relation is more of a father and son. The figure of the mother, here fulfilled with Sana, completes the triangle for them. However, no Oedipal drama comes out of this triangle in the first half of the film, since Chitti is a mere machine and stands outside the realm of consciousness. But ominous hints tell us that such a drama does loom large over all three of them.Sana, we observe, finds Chitti incredibly charming and sexy, and on more than one occasion she makes Dr. Vasi jealous by telling him how superior Chitti is from the mere mortals, and how much she loves him. Fortunately for Dr. Vasi, Chitti is totally unaware of all this; when Sana kisses him he simply murmurs, “Why are you wetting my cheek”.[7]

However, all this puts the triangular relation inside an interesting psychological cage with a set of choices concerning themselves. What is more important for a woman, a ‘conscious’, loving man who is a poor provider, or an ‘unconscious’ machine who is a great giver, a total entertainer, and who can protect her from the bad subaltern world. Of course, for Sana, a situation had not arrived yet where she has to make a choice between the two. We also see her happily keeping the roles the two men have in her life distinct from each other. It would have been very interesting had she found a sexual use of Chitti, and in that case the movie would have taken a fascinatingly complex dimension, but then that would have busted the politics of the film altogether. What we rather come across is the picture of a happy family with the father, Dr. Vasi, his son, Chitti, still in a pre phallic state, and the mother,Sana. They fit neatly into a close Freudian cage, playing the roles they have in each other’s life and for the nation at large.

The problem begins when Chitti goes to rescue some people trapped in a building set on fire. He rescues a naked woman and brings her out in the open, for he is programmed to do so primarily in such a situation. It doesn’t dawn on him that the woman has to be covered with some cloth at the same time when he is getting her out of the building, since he is primarily programmed with one track task completions. The woman dies accidentally and for some unexplained reason some people held Chitti responsible for this. Interestingly, this is the only moment in the entire film where a conventional social experience, that is ‘shame’, prevails over a universal human value such as ‘life’. Here the particular and the contextual outweighs the universal truths, squarely affirming the belief that common people are still far away from coming to light and to experience the universal values. This leads Dr. Vasi to make a compromise; he inserts some consciousness into Chitti.  The machine begins to reason, to feel and to experience. The Freudian cage opens with a bang.

The Oedipal Retort

Chitti’s newly acquired self consciousness gets him out of his pre phallic state, and to no one’s surprise he begins to desire his creator’s girl. He demands a kiss from her in the middle of the night, and in order to deflect and discourage him, she asks him to catch a mosquito that just bit her. In a bizarre fairy tale sequence, Chitti finds that mosquito from the garbage heap, reasons with it, brings it back and gets his kiss from her. Next he buys a necklace on her birthday; picks up unnecessary arguments with Dr. Vasi; dances like no one does in Sana’s birthday party and tries to smooch her before Vasi intervenes.

In what is undoubtedly the film’s most touching and original sequence, Chitti argues with Dr. Vasi over their claims on Sana. Vasi tells Chitti that he cannot do this to him, he cannot desire somebody else’ girl, especially when she is the girlfriend of his own maker. Chitti replies saying that Vasi can do this for Chitti, he can indeed sacrifice his love for the sake of his own creation. Vasi goes to hit Chitti, Chitti warns him saying that it will hurt Vasi only. At this moment Sana intervenes and tells Chitti that what he is saying is not possible. It is then that Chitti says he will keep Sana happier than Vasi can, he can provide everything that Sana needs, and after all, Vasi’s skills are nowhere near Chitti’s; Vasi cannot even cook a meal for himself, let alone take care of another person. When Sana replies saying that it’s not a question of competence, Chitti asks, then what is it that he cannot give Sana that Vasi can. Is it Sex, he asks, that only matters, for isn’t there thousands of relationships wherein one person loves and lives with an impotent partner?

This moment, clearly marks the climax of the oedipal relation in this movie, where in a classic Freudian manner, the child faces the horror of castration. The only difference here is that Chitti is ‘already’ castrated, which abruptly puts an end to the possibilities of any negotiation between the father and the child. The only option Chitti is left with is to persuade Sana to enter into a relationship which is non-productive to the State and is essentially confined to two individuals. Such a non-normative relationship is usually seen as a threat to the State, and to no one’s surprise, Sana rejects it outright. A dejected Chitti slowly walks away against the background of a moonlit city.

We see Chitti again, in a demonstration for the Indian army, for which he was made. They ask him to pick up a grenade and do some firing. But ‘Chitti’, this time a conscious, thinking and feeling subject, doesn’t do any of what he is asked to do, for he has effectively lost his sense of purpose. This leads to a humiliation for Dr. Vasi and he angrily chops Chitti, his own creation, into pieces and throws them into a garbage heap. The oedipal story once again meets a bitter end.

The Bad, Bad World

The story could have ended here itself, but Shankar, being the prodigious filmmaker he is, doesn’t leave his audience with unanswered questions. What would happen now,  in the absence of Chitti, when the bad, subaltern world awaits the couple, and moreover, why should Chitti suffer this fate when the only crime he is charged with is that he doesn’t come to a proper use for the nation. These two questions find their answers in the upcoming events. First, we see the couple going for a drive and getting attacked by a subaltern coconut seller who nearly abducts Sana and tries to have sex with her. We see a helpless Dr. Vasi and a terrified Sana lamenting the absence of Chitti in such situations. However, this time Dr. Vasi manages to outwit the coconut seller and rescues his girl, and they temporarily find peace in each other’s arms. They even sing and dance to the lyrics of a bizarre song called ‘Kilimanjaro’ which is rhymed with ‘Mohenjo-Daro’ in the song, although choreographed in none of these places, but in Peru.

The second question, however, takes the story to another direction. The villainous Dr. Vohra, Vasi’s arch-rival, collects Chitti’s remains from the garbage heap and reassembles him, this time adding a new, red chip that generates evil thoughts in Chitti’s mind. For a short while thus, he takes the place of the father for the oedipal Chitti, as he promises to help Chitti get his love, Sana. Alas, the red chip makes Chitti more creative, more powerful and he eventually kills his new father, temporarily freeing himself from the last oedipal cage. Now it comes down to three individuals, and Chitti turns out to be very mean, not only does he disrupts the couple’s marriage and kidnaps Sana, he even builds his own empire, invents hundreds of his look alike robots in order to wreak havoc all over the nation. Banks get robbed, markets get looted, policemen get killed and the citizens suffer for nothing. The sheer scale of this evil and its sublime form tells us, the audience, what may happen when the agency of a subject gets out of the nation’s control. It is tempting to see this sublimated form of evil as the upper caste Indian imagination and fear towards the subaltern collective, but that reading would perhaps be a little too thick.

Once again it comes down to Dr. Vasi, to save the world from his Frankenstein and to rescue his girl from his empire of evil. Meanwhile, we see Chitti working on certain ‘genetic engineering’ in order to create a baby from the union of a human and a robot, a baby which he affectionately titles ‘Robo-sapien’. Had Chitti succeeded in this venture the film would have turned out as Shankar’s most daring work in his entire career, but of course, his politics is of other kinds. He simply cannot let the existing social order go, or loosen its clutches, no matter however repressive or hegemonic it may be. So we see Dr. Vasi tracking Chitti’s location down and going on a rescue cum world saving mission. In a telling scene, Dr. Vasi shaves his moustache and enters this empire as one of the Chitti look-alike. The split in the structure, which we discussed in the beginning of this review, comes to a full circle with this. Rajinikanth, the hero of the common people, known by his trademark smile and moustache, had to sacrifice his marker of identity in the beginning of the film to embody a machine’s role, if not to provide external reasons for his antics to a pan Indian audience. Now following a fatal turn of events, we find him fighting against his own identity, sacrificing it for the greater good of nation. By shaving his moustache he becomes one with the robots and slowly fractures the evil empire from inside. What follows this moment is of less interest, twenty minutes of action with Hong Kong brand special effects bring Chitti’s empire down. Vasi takes the red chip out from Chitti’s body, and he returns to normalcy.

The Final Sacrifice

The film ends on a very sad note. The court of law identifies the evil hand of Dr. Vohra behind the whole fiasco and recognizes Chitti’s ingenuity and innocence. But in conclusion, it states that it’s not safe to have a machine of Chitti’s calibre in the society as any abuse of its powers may bring disastrous consequences to the State and its people. In the last, and a very telling sequence of the film, Chitti abides by this sentence, and offers to help a heartbroken Dr. Vasi in the task assigned to him. We then see Chitti dismantle his body, part by part, with a smile on his face until he finishes himself off. Dr. Vasi and Sana unite as lovers again.

Keeping in mind the trajectory of the film and its representational politics, this last scene really hits the nail into the entire discourse. Chitti, the superman with all his sublime activities, finally sacrifices himself on the altar of reason. He sacrifices himself so that Dr. Vasi can live, reason and survive, because it’s not Chitti but Dr. Vasi who ultimately fits into the nation and its politico-sexual economy. The self-dismantling scene also shows that Chitti himself realizes that the threats he poses to the nation outweighs the help he can extend to it, his sacrifice almost comes as a redemption of letting the nation down with the misuse of the ‘excessive’ power given to him.

But how do we read this sacrifice in the context of popular Cinema and brand Rajinikanth? However symbolic it may appear, the sacrifice of Chitti also stands for a sacrifice within brand Rajinikanth. We had observed earlier how the split in the figure of the superstar at once resolved the debate on reason between popular and mainstream cinema in India. The popular superhero, with his ‘unreasonable’, ‘absurd’ antics could not have found an easy coexistence with the reasonable protagonist in ‘Robot’, and therefore he was pushed into the discourse of extreme machines. Alas, this machine could no longer return to the realm of consciousness; he had to sacrifice himself on the altar of reason so that the other half of the figure lives. Rajinikanth, the folk hero with a winning smile and lovable antics, had to be sacrificed so that his other avatar, the reasoning citizen subject, finds acceptance among a national audience. ‘Robot’ it may be said, marked the moment when the brightest face in the history of popular cinema got appropriated by the mainstream.

In Conclusion:

In conclusion, this essay would like to summarize its twofold argument, one related to the film proper, and another related to the field where it is expressed. The film ‘Robot’, it appears, is but an oedipal drama set against the backdrop of a post enlightenment state. The robot in the film is invented in order to control and sometimes punish the dissenting subjects, namely the subaltern population who are seen as a threat to the fabric of this state. Through trials and errors, from functioning as a fascistic apparatus the robot comes to assume a bout of human consciousness. This leads to a disruption of the existing social order, and it eventually fails the State, turns against it and when defeated, destroys itself in redemption. The message it implies in the process is clear and simple; governance comes from critical consciousness, and the outsiders of a post enlightenment society, the subaltern population, are yet to come to that state of awareness. Since they cannot govern themselves, they must be governed, controlled and regulated, as any freedom given to them can lead to disastrous consequences for the State and its subjects. ‘Robot’ by all means, is a fascist text, one which reveals the system’s innate caste, class and sexual anxieties towards the promise of democracy in our times. That Rajini became a sacrificial lamb to it only shows that such a promise is far from reality…

 

 

[1]As far as the approach of this review is concerned, I wish to state in the very beginning that it somewhat proceeds on a symbolist line. It works with the assumption that as a text ‘Robot’ is perfectly transparent and legible, and its structural construct is analyzable to its finest details. Thus the analysis verges more on the realm of subjective, even creative reading than on objective judgment. We know that while the latter leads to criticism and appraisal, the former usually enables a deeper dive into the psychological and social aspects of a text. This review is just one such dive and is nothing more.

[2] These jokes, however, are not a new phenomenon; they had their precedence in the public humour around Chuck Norris. In Norris’ time, the extreme actions he performed on the silver screen led to a mythology where he was seen as someone who embodies the power of defying the impossible. The jokes of course stemmed from the imagination of ‘extremity’, as the public were still not accustomed to excessive violence on screen. In Rajinikanth, however, the jokes are not only limited to his actions, they are about anything and everything that has to do with impossibility or absurdity.

[3] Here I use the word ‘Realism’ with caution, not in the sense of a formal genre which we credit socialist art and cinema with, but as a variant of the real, in the sense of ‘having been pre-occupied with reality’.

[4] It’s another debate whether representation or logic stands for realism or not. I personally feel if Rajnikanth killing two men with one bullet, splitting it midway with a knife, is ‘illogical’ and ‘unreal’, so should be Sunny Deol’s apparently realistic act of defeating the entire Pakistan with an uprooted tubewell.

[5] At the cost of over simplification, we may say that the hero in the mainstream is usually an embodiment of reason, whose actions stem from a critical consciousness. On the contrary, the hero in popular cinema performs with an unregulated corporeal energy, almost as a vehicle of mass emotions.

[6] There is nothing new or surprising about the portrayal of this collective as far as Shankar’s films are concerned. Those who have seen movies like ‘Aparichit’ would instantly grasp the political undertone in his movies. There we come across a responsible Brahmin who following the ‘Garuda Purana’ goes on a killing rampage in order to ‘clean’ the society from careless lower caste/class people who are supposedly polluting it.

[7] The representation of the symbolic mother, here fulfilled by Sana, is something this essay does not analyze deeply. It is perfectly possible, though, to see how this image is portrayed throughout the narrative, and how it is constructed against the backdrop of a state with its moral and sexual apparatuses. Following the classical archetype, Sana first slips from the moral fabric of the nation by cheating in an exam with Chitti’s help. When she gets caught, she denies her involvement and refuses to recognize Chitti, effectively paving a path for her own misery. Her love hate relationship with Chitti too stands as causality for her future sufferings, and only after she is chastised, she is absorbed back into the national fabric. It is beyond the scope of this review to make a feminist reading of ‘Robot’, but such a reading can really be of great interest and importance.

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