After this video made the rounds on the internet the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in Austin decided they had to get the film.
Of course I had to go. I knew a little about Bollywood movies going into it. My step-sister was once an extra in a Bollywood movie in New York. She told me that there were screaming Indian women all outside the set and she couldn't figure out why they were so excited. They were filming with this actor who looked about like Ray Romano to here, but the fans were acting like it was Brad Pitt. (It was Shahrukh Khan) So I was expecting a different kind of male lead. I was also expecting musical numbers with nothing to do with the plot because that's the Bollywood formula.
The theater was mostly full when I got there 45 minutes early. It was primarily geeky men. I sat down next to four guys with three empty seats at the end of the row. They made me leave because they were saving the seats for more of their guy friends who might be coming. I explained I was all by myself and only needed one seat. But they insisted that I couldn't sit there. I moved up a row between some other groups of men. I counted less than 10 women in the whole theater. This made me suspect that men watched the video above but knew nothing of Bollywood.
The movie started off normal enough. Three men in an implausibly white and open lab space working on a robot with slapstick robot kicks to the groin and other pleasantries. Phone calls and IM messages from a woman are ignored by the boss man. He stands in an archway that illuminates him with lasers and I laughed out loud. He's putting skin on the robot in his own likeness. Only no beard and a wig better looking than his actual hair. Then some other stuff happened, he had a fight with his girlfriend, he talked her out of dumping him, then music starts and the male lead is in a chair with a guitar in the sand next to a blue puddle? I'm pretty sure I said "What the FUCK!" out loud, but it was only us geeks and they were all laughing so hard they didn't care. A trellis appeared over his head. Then Miss World 1994 comes walking over a sand dune in a long gown.
It reminded me of the Old Spice commercial combined with Glee. Only in Glee they just wear one outfit for the whole number. This song started out with the male lead wearing a pink hoodie with a sport jacket over it with Ray Bans. The female lead of course had fabulous flowing gowns and flamboyant jewelry and outrageous makeup. It all changed three times in each song. The costumers did their best with off-the-rack brand name bling for the male lead, with a different pair of designer sunglasses with each outfit. They really let themselves go to town on the female lead though.
Not only do the Glee kids stick with the one outfit, they aren't inexplicably transported to Brazil and Peru. The beach in Brazil I didn't recognize, but I know Machu Pichu when I see it. There were by-God LLAMAS! Which actually weren't as special as the robot lions in the studio number that were obviously two dudes in an outfit like a pantomime horse. You can get a taste of all this on the official website. (WARNING: Automatic music player and sound effects on every mouseover.)
Bollywood requires three of these musical numbers interspersed with the actual movie. They make you wait two and a half hours to get to the action scene above. Meanwhile between the dancing like grouses and lip syncing Indian hip-hop the robot star does increasingly ludicrous stuff. At first he just introduces himself as a robot with a zetabyte of memory. (Which of course I cringed at every time. Zeta is an invalid quantity prefix. The seventh letter in the Greek alphabet? He can store 7 bytes of data? *Correction: Steve Kuck's superior Google Fu found this value spelled zettabyte. It's 1000^7 bytes. Which is a shitload.* Of course I wasn't impressed that the robot had a Pentium processor either, but I'm the only one that laughed the first time he said that. *Even the fanciest Pentium cannot address 2^70 bytes. Only 64 x 2^30, so off by 51 orders of magnitude. A laugh was still valid.*
Apparently the secret to this particular robot -- what the bad guy wanted to steal -- was his memory schema. Yes, for lack of table 'robot_KickAss' with the secret 'weapon (varchar 100)' column the other guy's robots don't know they can swing a white dude on a train to knock down the rest of the pissed off posse. * Clever memory schema actually might explain how he could address that much memory, though, so points to the filmmaker and demerits for me.* So anyway, yeah, the robot gets in fights to save the girl and dives into a river off the train bridge to save her purse because it has her card key in it, then catches up to the train to finish kickin' they asses. This is after he helps her with her medical school test, and then later saves her friend by massaging her baby out of her belly. He could see right inside the woman giving birth with his magic camera/projector eyes. He rendered his vision as a G-rated cartoon and beamed it via WiFi to the lobby television. Making him beloved, of course.
In her excitement the female lead kissed him on the cheek and he swooned. This is how he became evil -- he was now competing with his creator for the girl. Commence embarrassing the creator in front of the army, disassembly of the robot, resurrection by the bad guy who gives the Robot the evil Red Chip (seen above), and subsequent creation of multiples of himself so that we can have the ball made of robots, snake made of robots, and robot made of robots seen above. Yada yada musical number yada.
I also laughed a lot when the English subtitles didn't match the actual English they said onscreen. They mixed English in with their usual speech all the time. They would say, "Shit!" and the subtitles would say something like, "How inconvenient!" I guess deaf people can't handle profanity.
By far the strangest cultural difference to me in this film was the realization that Americans have no shame, but Indians have so much shame they have to kill themselves if a robot sees them naked. The fireproof robot ran into a burning building to rescue people, including a girl in the bathtub. When he carried her to be reunited with her mother there were dozens of cameras firing away. The instant he put her down she ran out in front of a bus and was killed on the spot. (Apparently they don't close the street in front of a high rise on fire in India.) I assumed she was just running away from the cameras and was aiming to grab a tablecloth or something and cover up, but in the film they assumed it was suicide. Huh? I've heard of dying of embarrassment, but I thought it was just an expression! Apparently it is de rigueur in India though (or at least de rigueur in Indian films). Naked pictures = go kill yourself. Only confusion was for me and the robot. It was used as an excuse for why the robot shouldn't be allowed to interact with people -- he couldn't understand that saving that girl would mean she would have to die because she couldn't live with the shame of being seen naked. Between that and the kissing on the cheek thing it's clear Bollywood has a cultural mandate to crank out all these movies. It's not like they could show Black Swan in their theaters. It would make no sense to them. After how that ballerina behaved in her bedroom they would think that was a feel-good ending.