2.0: Revisiting Shankar's Enthiran and how Rajinikanth became India's most loved superhero Chitti
A role meant for Kamal Haasan and then, Shah Rukh Khan, went to Rajinikanth and Enthiran still remains the superstar's biggest box office hit.
After wrapping up Nayak (2001), the Hindi version of Muthalvan, Shankar was supposed to begin Robot (Enthiran) with Kamal Haasan and Preity Zinta. Robot was a creative collaboration of Shankar and writer Sujatha who is known for his coming of age sci-fi novels — En Iniya Iyanthira and Meendum Jeano. The maverick filmmaker even completed a photo shoot featuring these two stars but eventually, the project was dropped due to financial constraints.
Six years later in 2007, Shankar approached Shah Rukh Khan and narrated him the script of Robot but again due to creative differences, the project didn’t take off. The success of Sivaji (2007) actually gave the confidence to Shankar that only Rajinikanth has the market to pull off a magnum opus like Robot and approached him to play the lead role.
For those who don’t know, Shankar narrated three scripts to Rajinikanth in his first meet — Sivaji, Enthiran and I. Known for his penchant for commercial entertainers, Rajinikanth preferred Sivaji but later after a long chat, he also gave his nod to Enthiran. Despite having Rajinikanth on board, Shankar faced a set back for Enthiran as the film’s original producers Ayngaran and Eros International backed out of the film citing that the budget exceeded the limit and they were not in a position to fund the film.
Change in the production house
Devastated, Shankar and Rajinikanth met Sun Pictures’ Kalanithi Maran who allocated the budget based on the lifetime collection of their previous hit Sivaji. By that time, Rajinikanth fell in love with Shankar’s passion and hard work. The actor didn’t get his remuneration of Enthiran until the producer locked the pre-release business. Many of you might not know why the title ‘Robot’ was changed to ‘Enthiran’. The ruling Tamil Nadu Government of that time sanctioned entertainment tax exemption (flat 30%) to films with Tamil title, which was a big boost to a biggie like Enthiran so Shankar renamed the film as Enthiran — inspired by his writer Sujatha’s novel En Iniya Iyanthira. Though Shankar and Sujatha jointly wrote Enthiran, the writer’s sudden demise and the delay in the commencement of the film forced the director to rework a few areas of the story so he roped in Madhan Karky, an engineer-turned-lyricist who is also the son of National award winning lyricist Vairamuthu. Karky later wrote the Tamil dialogues for the Baahubali series.
Did you Know? Amitabh was supposed to act in Enthiran
Despite starting the shoot, Shankar and Rajinikanth had difficulty in locking the mannerism of the robot Rajinikanth, both the good and evil Chitti. In an interview, Rajinikanth said: “After a lot of discussions, I told Shankar to remove Kamal Haasan out of his mind and think something different that suits me. Shankar smiled back and told me that he is not a fool to expect Kamal in Rajinikanth and hence, he changed a lot of things suiting my style”. The biggest challenge for Shankar was to finalise the body language of evil Chitti. It was Rajinikanth who told Shankar to allow him to perform in his style, which was later okayed by the director.
If Kamal Haasan and Shah Rukh Khan were approached for Rajinikanth’s role, Shankar wanted Amitabh Bachchan to play Dr.Bohra, the evil scientist in the film. When Amitabh called Rajinikanth to discuss the offer, the latter told him to opt out of the project as the characterisation wasn’t powerful to the Big B’s stature. Eventually, Danny Denzongpa played Dr. Bohra, the mentor of scientist Vaseegaran in the film.
There is another interesting trivia about Aishwarya Rai’s inclusion is that she was Shankar’s original choice to pair opposite Kamal Haasan in the dropped film in 2001 but owing to a busy schedule, she declined the offer. Shankar later approached Aishwarya for Sivaji but again she had to opt out of the film but finally, things fell in place with Enthiran. It is worth mentioning here that Aishwarya Rai’s Jeans with Shankar was a big hit in Tamil and Telugu.
Box office achievements
Upon release, Enthiran was the all-time biggest earner for any Indian film. Worldwide, Enthiran grossed nearly Rs 289 crores and the film owned the record of the highest grosser for almost three years until Dhoom 3 arrived. To be honest, Rajinikanth himself is yet to break the record set by Enthiran in Tamil Nadu, the film grossed Rs 108 crores (approximately) in the state. Enthiran is the only Rs 100 crores grosser in Tamil Nadu and none of his other films surpassed this milestone number. Enthiran is also the career-best earner for Rajinikanth in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — the film grossed Rs 64 crores in these two states. The Hindi version wasn’t marketed well so it only managed to gross Rs 29 crores but the film was even loved by kids when it was aired on the TV. In a recent interview, Karan Johar said that Robot has a huge fan following in North India, especially for Chitti. In India alone, Enthiran grossed nearly Rs 228 crore, which is the highest for any Indian film in 2010. Overseas, Enthiran collected Rs 61 crores and it was a blockbuster all over the world. Although Rajinikanth's Kabali managed to break Enthiran’s record offshore, the former fell short in the domestic market, especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana — the key markets for any South biggie.
Prediction in 2.0
If you are someone who thinks that 2.0 is the sequel of Enthiran, the answer is ‘No’. Shankar says that he has only borrowed three characters — Dr. Vaseegaran, the good robot Chitti and the badass ‘2.0’ from Enthiran. The biggest attraction of the first part is the characterisation of Chitti, the innocent machine which learns all the evil things from the human environment and slowly becomes a massive threat to mankind. Being a commercial director, Shankar utilised the star power of Rajinikanth and gave the ‘superhero’ tag to the good Chitti which helps women in danger, rescues people from fire accident and even successfully pulls off a surgery. The destructive power of Chitti was evident in the film with the upgraded version ‘2.0’.
The film ends in the year 2030 when a school girl finds Chitti in an artificial intelligence museum. The instructor briefs the kid that Chitti is the most advanced android humanoid robot but it was asked to be dismantled for some reason. When the kid asks for the exact reason, Chitti says “Because I started thinking”. Though Enthiran released eight years back, the concept remains fresh and it is the most effective sci-fi superhero flick ever made in Indian cinema.
Now, there is a wild guess on social media suggesting that Amy in ‘2.0’ could be the little girl whom we saw in the climax of Enthiran. But the actress sports bodysuit in promotional posters which means Dr.Vaseegaran creates another advanced robot resembling Amy in 2.0. As we all know, the moment Vaseegaran incorporates human emotions in Chitti, it falls in love with Sana (romantic interest of Vaseegaran) which leads to the major conflict. Now from the promos, it’s evident that the Chitti has romantic portions with the robot Amy in 2.0.
In various interviews, Sudhanshu Pandey has revealed that he plays Dr. Bohra’s son in 2.0 which means there will be a strong revenge angle. Shankar has also said that other than ‘2.0’ and Chitti, there is a surprise look of Rajinikanth in the film. Reports suggest that there is a dwarf version of Chitti in the film, which will be the film’s biggest attractions.
As Rajinikanth himself told in his interview, the story of 2.0 revolves around Akshay Kumar who is the hero and villain of the film. If 2.0 hits the bull’s eye at the box office, Shankar might create series of superhero sci-fi films based on the characters he has sketched so far, which could be India’s proud answer to Marvel's superheroes. In his interaction with Mumbai Mirror, Shankar said: "As an audience, I want our industry to have a superhero franchise like Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman. Chitti is loved by all and I would love to see the character again on screen".
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