On Vinayakar Chathurthi, a bonanza awaits Superstar’s fans — the first visuals of Rajinikanth’s magnum opus are out today. His daughter and the film’s director Soundarya Rajinikanth Ashwin gives a glimpse of how the movie took shape
About two years ago, when Superstar was hospitalised and K.S. Ravikumar’s Rana got shelved indefinitely, fans prayed for his health and feared they would not see him in another film in a long time.
This Vinayakar Chathurthi brings good news for Rajini fans — the first visuals, a teaser of Kochadaiiyaan will be out. “There are heroes and superheroes. But there is only one Rajinikanth,” the teaser screams, showing a younger, healthier, photorealistic Rajinikanth walk in style, with dancers behind him and hundreds of extras in the background by a castle.
“It will be a full-fledged commercial entertainer; nothing arty about this period film,” says Soundarya Rajinikanth Ashwin, in an exclusive interview. “It’s sad that when you say animation, people think of cartoons.
Kochadaiiyaan is the first photorealistic 3D film produced in India, through motion capture, performance capture through facial scanning, and intensive research and development of emerging technologies,” she says, showing us visuals of Rajinikanth with wires all over his face and a helmet.
“First, we scanned his face and made a 3D model to get the exact precision of his features, such as the scar on his nose. And then we corrected the 3D model by tightening his skin to make him look 25 years younger. They used that technology in Tron. So you will see a very young ‘appa’ as Rana, like how he looked in Muthu.”
Rana? “Yes, K.S. Ravikumar uncle wrote this as a prequel to Rana; the story of how he became Rana. Kochadaiiyaan is the father character, completely fictional, nothing to do with any Dravidian king. It’s just a name that means the king with the long hair, a lord Siva devotee.”
Superstar was flown to London to the studio at Centroid where they did performance and motion capture of his “takes”. “So I had to explain to the actors — Appa, Deepika, Sarath uncle, Shobhana, Jackie Shroff, Nasser, Aadhi and Rukmini — how they had to perform when they had nothing in front of them. They had to pretend there was an army rushing towards them, holding a pipe in hand for a sword. As difficult as it is for a director, it is even more difficult for an actor,” she explains.
“I was persistent. And you need patience when you are working with this technology because the process is like that. It’s about patience and reworking, and rework is death for us because it means you have to go back to step one. If there are 10 steps in the process, my 140-member team from Chennai did the first six steps. The last four steps are being done out of London and China, mostly China now. A lot of technicians from the U.S. have worked. At some point, we had 800 technicians working on the film at the same time.”
The most challenging part? “Well, many times the Rajini fan in me would come out during the shoot, and sometimes, the protective daughter. It was most difficult to split the roles of director, fan and daughter. It was like having a multiple-personality disorder.”
A Japanese version too!
Resul Pookutty has worked on the sound design and A.R. Rahman has completed the music in London for the orchestral background score. The film will be out in Dolby Atmos in three languages at the same time — Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. “We will also have an English and Japanese version soon,” she says.
“Projects such as this take six or seven years because of just the process. We have managed to get it done in record speed. The film will release by the end of this year. We have already locked the length — it’s about two hours and four minutes, quite long for a film made with this technology,” she adds.
A single composed by A.R. Rahman will be released later this month and the audio launch is being planned for October, around Navaratri.
The biggest triumph for Kochadaiiyaan was bringing back late comedy actor Nagesh to the screen. “Even Imagemetrics who did the performance capture for Avatar was amazed because we brought an actor back to life. We used high-resolution images of Nagesh sir, scanned it and created a 3D model. We, in fact, could get a younger version of him. Since it’s a period setting, we needed somebody vintage like Nagesh sir. We then got actors who spoke exactly like him and those who looked just like him for the performance and motion capture,” Soundarya explains.
“This will open up a new market in the industry. This technology allows us to immortalise actors. For such films, you need experience, budget and time. Avatar Tintin We have broken some rules and managed to create a pipeline that will help us make films such as this within this time and budget.”