Medical student Sana (Aishwarya Rai) has a problem. It's her boyfriend Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajnikanth), who she is having trouble spending any time with, not because she doesn't want to, but because he is so busy with his work at the laboratory where he is making leaps and bounds with technology to create an android which could pass for human. With the help of his occasionally bumbling assistants, the time is growing near for him to unveil his work, a robot which looks just like him but which has remarkable physical prowess and mental ability. But can he - or should he - give the machine a soul?
Enthiran became a brief internet sensation around the time of its release when the trailer and clips were leaked, leaving people who had never seen a Bollywood (or Kollywood, in this case) movie dumbfounded at its entertainment value, and wondering why if you were making an android you'd make it look like a rather portly middle aged gentleman. They were of course unaware of the superstar status of the man billed as, well, Superstar Rajni in the credits within South Asia, for his fans would accept him in any role as long as he was the hero, which made Enthiran unusual in that he played the villain here; in addition to the hero, which could have been viewed as having his cake and eating it.
Not that the robot, named Chitti by the doctor's mother, starts out that way, as he begins his existence as a literal-minded servant to his creator who he regards as a god for what he has done for him, bringing out a theme of how much a deity owes its creation in guiding it, for one thing the scientist doesn't do is prepare the mechanical man for the outside world, and the further Chitti moves into society the more uncertain his nascent moral compass becomes. It's all very well that he can rescue Sana from a train carriage full of potential rapists in a wild action scene with fighting choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping, or save a baby being born with a potentially life threatening condition, but what if he begins to feel emotions?
Emotions he cannot really deal with as he learns more about relationships and falls in love with Sana. She is flattered but understandably perplexed, for while she appreciates all the android has done for her there's no way she could marry him as for all his faults it's Vasee she is meant to be with, and Chitti has issues with that. Enter the film's real villain, Dr. Bohra (Danny Denzongpa), who is the genius's boss but wants to use the robot for evil, and after he turns down Vasee for any further research in this area since Chitti is judged too inept in too many ways (he saved a girl in the bath from a major fire, and she was so ashamed of her public nakedness that she threw herself under a bus!), the problems mount up.
Though many connected this to Hollywood blockbuster I, Robot, director S. Shankar claimed he had planned it for the best part of ten years, and really in spite of the plentiful action sequences we were back in the old reliable Frankenstein formula once again. So Vasee must face up to the repsonsibilities his invention brings, and the troubling implications of acting godlike towards him nudges the plot in a Mary Shelley direction, though considering the leading lady was one of the most desirable Bollywood actresses of all time, audiences could sympathise with Chitti's plight and confusion. In a curious mix of the downright silly (slapstick comedy on an overblown scale, for example) and the contemplative, what most would take away from Enthiran would be those spectacular effects sequences, often more ambitious than convincing, but with a finale where the now corrupt Chitti assembles a robot army and basically smashes up the place in order to win Sana's heart it was goofily enjoyable when it wasn't lightly intellectual. Music by A.R. Rahman - his numbers are more like pop videos.