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Secret of Sivaji’s ‘white’ tan

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Actor Rajinikanth in ‘Sivaji’.
Actor Rajinikanth in ‘Sivaji’.

Karthik Subramanian

It was not make-up but computer-generated imagery

CHENNAI: The secret of actor Rajinikanth’s ‘white’ tan in the song sequence “Style” in the ‘Sivaji’ was not the result of any fairness cream or cosmetic touch-up but an entire year of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) work by city-based firm Indian Arts.

The colour tone of one of the U.K.-based dancers in the background of the song was used to turn up the tone of the actor, frame by frame. The post-production for the 6,000 plus frames took a year to complete, as computer graphics artists from Indian Arts toiled to make Rajinikanth the “Vellai Tamizhan”.

At a press conference on Saturday, cinematographer K.V. Anand said there were reports that the effect had been achieved through make-up. “We want the audience to know the kind of effort that we put into that song. In fact, it was one of the first songs we shot. It was shot in May last and the CGI took a year to complete.”

Mr. Anand pointed out that it was one of the original concepts of director Shankar, who is known for his grand ways of shooting songs. “He was thinking about the way people admire Rajinikanth’s dark tan and wanted to show how the superstar would look had he been a European.”

The innovative concept also called for innovative CGI. M.S. Guhan, producer, said several CGI companies were called in to work on the concept. They were given a shot from ‘Chandramukhi’ to show how they could colour up Rajinikanth. What made it interesting was that such an effect has never been tried before.

Once Indian Artist was selected for the job, Mr. Anand immediately knew that the CGI team would require a ‘reference’ for their work. So the team selected one of the dancers flown in from London for the song on location in Spain. So every shot that featured Rajinikanth was re-shot with the dancer and sent to Indian Arts. Mr. Anand explained that it was required because the skin tone would appear differently in indoor and outdoor shots, and a lot would depend on shadows.

The CGI team then ‘whitened’ up the hero. They created a new plug-in in the Digital Fusion CGI-software. When asked what the effect was called, Mr. Guhan jokingly remarked “Shankar Effect”.

The film’s associate producer S.P. Muthuraman said Mr. Shankar was out on an overseas tour with his family and was the one who wanted the team to tell the press the way they shot the song.

“Demand from China”

Producer AVM Saravanan, who remained on the sidelines of the press meet, later told The Hindu in an informal chat that there were demands to dub the movies into other languages, including Malay and Chinese. The production house was not planning anything now and would consider the demands only after consulting Shankar and A.R. Rahman, he added.

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