5 Things You Can Learn about India from Their Action Movies

Part of being a decent human is attempting to understand and empathize with the many different cultures and societies that surround us. And what better way to accomplish that than by watching their most hilariously confusing movies and extrapolating out a set of unfair, ridiculous stereotypes from them? I've already done it once, and I learned a very important lesson: Never go up against a Christian when death is on the line. Now I'm going to apply the same absurdly faulty logic to understanding another huge portion of the world around me: the Indian subcontinent. Sure, it's an impenetrably dense network comprised of a billion people and untold thousands of heterogeneous subcultures, but I figure we can probably get the gist of it from this fucked-up musical about killer robots.

#5. Physics Need Not Apply

First of all, I should clarify that this movie, Enthiran -- a three-hour musical epic halfway between Bicentennial Man and RoboCop -- is a Tamil film. That's a region in Southern India with many of their own unique beliefs and styles, and it's a very different thing than Bollywood. For example, while both Bollywood and Tamil place a lot of filmic importance on music and dance, the latter places equal importance on the kick-to-flight ratio of dudes with shitty mustaches. Seriously, you can't pass the salt in a Tamil movie without accidentally sending somebody's creepy uncle hurtling through a window.

For example, here's one of the disposable slapstick comedy characters getting fist-catapulted across the room in the very first scene:

That's how the movie introduces itself: by launching a series of screaming tech support missiles across the room. And you'd better suspend that disbelief from the ceiling, friend, because Enthiran is going to spend the rest of its run time taking wild, blind swings at it with a bat. Tamil cinema in general thinks that the laws of physics are for frail, weak men who lack enough cushioning bloat to take a good beating, and Enthiran is their God-king. It makes sense: You work as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant all day, you sure as shit don't want to do the dishes when you come home. Well, the hard sciences are a booming industry in India, so when they head out to the movies, the last thing they want to do is understand some bullshit kinetics.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's the main character being Frisbee'd into the roof by a malignant android that looks like a cross between Wayne Newton and Pepe Le Pew:

You know how you can always tell when a tech manual has been outsourced to India because, while it's obvious that they have a firm grasp on the English language, there's some bizarre flourish hidden in every other sentence that simply defies understanding? Well, Enthiran has taught me that the same thing applies to physics: In India, slapping isn't just an insult, but an economic method of travel, probably because somebody fucked up the translation on Newton's Laws of Motion.

#4. Time Holds No Meaning

Enthiran is a hell of a long movie. Like I said, it's a three-hour musical epic, and as we all know, adding the term "musical" to anything makes it at least four relative hours longer. But even the term "epic" is not doing this monumental bastard any sort of justice, because in addition to the unwieldy run time, there isn't a single slack nanosecond in Enthiran. Characters move fast, talk fast and walk fast, and if you want crap like atmosphere or time to process, then you're a disappointment to your grandparents; why can't you be more like Ishwar? He has two doctorates, three jobs and four ulcers, and he just turned 12.

Every shot in Enthiran watches like a blind editor came in and chopped the first and last third off of the scene, regardless of consequence. The movie switches locations before you realized the conversation ended, and new characters pop in for lines, even though you had no idea they were in the room in the first place, or else they leave the scene entirely and the film doesn't bother to show you. The end result is the implication that this entire society has mastered the art of teleportation, but mostly just use it to nag each other across a span of continents.

"W-wait ... what? I was just on a beach. Where the fuck did you come from? WHERE AM I RIGHT NOW!?"

So when I say it's a three-hour epic, you need to understand that means three Tamil hours, which translate to American chronology in roughly the same ratio as dog years. This is 20 hours of movie shoved into 168 frantic minutes. Watching Enthiran is like learning kung fu in The Matrix; there's just no way this much information should be delivered to your brain that quickly. It's unnatural, and there are sure to be repercussions. So if you make it all the way to the end and you find yourself hemorrhaging cerebrally, or that some of your loved ones have long since died, try to take some solace in the knowledge that there was truly no more efficient delivery system for bloated Indian men getting kicked in the groin by the Terminator.

#3. Love Like You've Never Been Hurt, Rape Like Nobody's Watching

There's only one main female character in Enthiran, Sana, and she has two jobs: to be compared (not always favorably) to foodstuffs via song, and to almost get raped. Seriously, every musical number insists she's an overripe kumquat or mayonnaise in chocolate, and for every single one of her actions there is an equal but opposite attempted gangbang. She's nearly assaulted by the Indian Backstreet Boys, a cult that worships boomboxes, a mildly retarded farmer -- even the titular robot character gets in on the action, and the movie makes it explicitly, repeatedly clear that he was not built with a penis. At that point, he's just raping her on principle.

Please don't mistake me here: I am absolutely not saying that rape is anything less than a direly serious matter, I'm just saying that nobody told this movie that. If Enthiran is to be believed, then Indian life is like a perverse Harlan Ellison story:

I have no dick, and I must ...

But it's the scene with the dimwitted farmer that really hammers home how casually rape is doled out in the universe of Enthiran. That guy is on screen for two minutes, tops, and roughly a minute and a half of that time is him being adorably dumb and bashful:

The other 30 seconds is him trying to molest the main character. There's literally no segue there -- the transformation from harmless comic relief to sexual criminal was apparently in one of those scenes the blind editor lopped off, because this character flips from Barney Fife to Nils Bjurman in the nanoseconds between manic jump cuts. Luckily, Sana escapes unscathed with the male lead, and they both enjoy an uproarious laugh about the sexual assault, not 15 seconds after they've escaped it.

"Hahaha, you should've seen the look on your face when he tried to forcibly penetrate you!"

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Robert Brockway

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