Watching a Rajinikanth movie is not a cinematic experience that falls strictly within the dictates of a good story, a racy screenplay, great music or whatever else that conventionally makes movies click. The iconic Superstar contributes a certain magic that is hard to explain. It’s more like a mother’s touch to home cooking that simply makes you want more.

With Enthiran, this magic is unabashed and unrelenting from the first frame to the last. Director Shankar not only deviates a great deal from the tried and tested ‘Superstar’ formula by putting the story firmly in the centre, but also presents Rajinikanth in an avatar not seen in a long while.

It’s no secret that he developed his highly-stylised mannerisms to play the antagonist. He excelled in negative roles early on in his career — in classics like Avargal, Moondru Mudichu, Netrikann, and 16 Vayathiniley, but his transition into a mass hero meant toning down all those shenanigans on screen. The audience did get a glimpse of it in Chandramukhi’s ’Vettaiyan Raja’.

But now, in the second half of Enthiran, Shankar unleashes a villain of such megalomaniac proportions that only Rajinikanth could pull off. It ends up being a master-class in theatrical over-expressive villainy that is almost a throwback to the days of M.N.Nambiar and Asokan.

Shankar has managed to successfully walk the tightrope of making the story accessible to the masses and yet not dumbing it down. The narrative of Dr.Vaseegaran, a dedicated robotics scientist, and his humanoid robot Chitti (short for Chittibabu), both vying for the attention of the medical college student Sana (played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), is brought out with some soul. In between all the song and dance sequences over the love triangle, Shankar manages to capture the inner turmoil of a robot coming to terms with the rather complicated human emotions of love, hate and betrayal.

There is a parallel storyline of Dr.Vaseegaran’s running feud with his mentor Dr.Bohra (played by Danny Denzongpa), who is clandestinely interested in getting the technical know-how of Chitti to sell his commando bots to an illegal foreign arms dealer. He keeps sabotaging Vaseegaran’s plans of getting Chitti approved for mass production for use by the Indian Army.

The movie does take time to warm up a bit in the first half in introducing the concepts to the audience. But the struggle between a ‘re-programmed’ Chitti and Vaseegaran gets the pulse racing right through the second half, all culminating in a rambunctious climax that is beyond all expectations. There is also a poignant epilogue.

Nearly every technician involved in the movie has brought in his A-game and seems to have set new benchmarks for Indian cinema in general - cinematographer R. Rathnavelu, editor Anthony, art director Sabu Cyril, stunt choreographer Peter Hein, music director A.R.Rahman, lyricists Vairamuthu, Pa.Vijay and Karky, sound engineer Resul Pookutty and costume designer Manish Malhotra. The association of the world-renowned Stan Winston studio (rechristened two years back as Legacy Effects) for special effects has had a profound impact on the visuals. The effects are on a par with the best in the industry.

Actors tend to get lost in special effects movies. But not so in Enthiran. Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan carry the movie on their shoulders, and considering the fact that much of the acting must have been in front of green screens, one has to say that nothing looks artificial right through. Actors Karunas and Santhanam try to evoke a few guffaws in a comedy track that sadly fails. But that is hardly an issue here.

The song sequences are the centrepiece of the movie. Irumbile oru Idhayam poothatho and the climax song Arima Arima stand out for their execution.

Billed as India’s costliest film ever, Enthiran is also Sun Pictures’ first home production. It hits the bulls-eye as an entertainer.

This article has been re-edited since it was posted first.