Euphoric screaming fans drowned out the first minute of his speech. They had been waiting for this moment all morning. “I wanted to have a very small function now and a big vetri vizha after the release. I have always been fascinated with stories of kings and queens,” Rajinikanth admitted. “I have everything I want at this point — money and name — so I wanted to try something that’s not been done before. That’s how we started with Rana. But then I was admitted in the hospital... My health was not letting me shoot. K.S. Ravikumar told me he had a story about Rana’s father Kochadaiiyaan. He said ‘Hear it out, if you think it’s good, we will figure out how to get it done.’ Soundarya (Rajinikanth) had worked on Sultan and suggested we could shoot this with performance capture. I watched many English films shot with this technology. English films spend over Rs. 700 crores and years to make films with motion capture. It was a big responsibility for Soundarya. She took it up because of Rahman’s encouragement and producer Murli Manohar’s courage. I’m 100 per cent confident that you will like the film and we will have a bigger vetri vizha ,” he said.
“The first time Soundarya said ‘Action’, I burst out laughing. I had to ask Ravikumar to say ‘Action’ to do the scene seriously,” the superstar recalled. But today, he is a proud father.
The show started immediately after Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone arrived together (and the speakers blasted ‘Lungi Dance’). The stage had the theme of an ancient warship powered by oars and the helm propped up the speaker’s podium. Jeffery Vardon and the Hot Shoe Dance Company, armed with swords and shields, danced to ‘Karma Veeran’ from the Kochadaiiyaan album, after a prayer song by the students of the Ashram school.
The first Tamil trailer of Kochadaiiyaan was then screened in 3D. A making-of-the-film clip was also screened for the benefit of the audience where actors explained how they had to imagine location, costumes and interaction with other actors because they spent most of their time inside an empty studio with cameras strapped to them.
Soundarya Rajinikanth Ashwin admitted that it was extremely challenging for actors to get into character without costumes or location, with body suits and cameras all around them. She thanked Kishore Lulla of Eros for believing in the project, K.S. Ravikumar for teaching her to direct, her mentor Murli Manohar for supporting the team, A.R. Rahman for having faith in her and for being a pillar of strength, Shah Rukh Khan for the love and support, Latha Rajinikanth for being her guru, guide and best friend and her father for being a rock by her side. “You’re my everything. Thank you a million, billion times, for your support and patience,” she told her father.
The Rudra Thaandavam sequence of an animated superstar doing the thaandav dance was then screened and met with whistles. Director K. Balachander, the man who discovered the Superstar, gave the best speech of the evening. He said that when he saw the first nervous shot of Shivaji Rao as the gate opened, he knew. “I knew that history will be born. And that history will have no geographies.”
K.S. Ravikumar said he was happy to be associated with three firsts. “This is the first time this motion capture technology has been used, the first time I have been a full-fledged screenwriter encouraged by the Superstar and the first time a daughter is directing her father.”
Lyricist and poet Vairamuthu had high praise for the Superstar. “His oldest fan is 65 and the youngest is 25 today. He has crossed four milestones in cinema — black and white, colour, 3D and now motion capture.”
Producer A.V.M. Saravanan requested the makers to dub the making of the film in Tamil to create awareness and requested Rajinikanth to do more films.
The actor’s oldest collaborator director SP Muthuraman, who directed 25 of his films, said that he is a role model for the young.
Filmmaker Shankar said that he hoped people would see animation as a genre by itself and that the Superstar was always open to new ideas. “When I narrated a concept for a two-hour live action 3D film with no songs, he said: Super, let’s do it.”
Actor Sarathkumar said, “Soundarya has made me come up with expressions I have never done in the 133 films I have acted. She would say ‘Uncle, slow down the horse and say the dialogue, go faster...’ And there would be no horse. It was like mime. We had to imagine it all.”
Jackie Shroff did a crowd-pleasing act by quipping “Vanakkam, Sowkiyama” while Deepika Padukone congratulated Soundarya for giving her a whole new experience and not just a film.
A.R. Rahman said that Dreamworks had approached him for a film that was going to be shot using motion capture technology in 2010. They said it was slated for a 2015 release. That’s when he realised the challenges of that technology. One year later, he was working on Kochadaiiyaan . “This will create a new industry,” he said.
Finally, it was Shah Rukh Khan’s turn to speak. Sporting a pony-tail and aviators, he said: I met a gentleman on the flight who said he saw Chennai Express and that I should never speak Tamil ever again.”
“I come here for three reasons. First as a fan. When I came to Bombay when I was 24, I saw Rajini sir shooting for a Hindi film and he kept practising throwing the cigarette up though he was getting it right every single time. It was one of the early lessons I had in my life. I come here as a friend. I would like to thank him, Soundarya and Shankar for letting me steal Chitti and put him in Ra. One . And finally, I come here as a seeker of knowledge to learn more about the film that will make us proud. It is going to change cinema in this country.”
The compulsive charmer then sang: “All the Rajini fans. Don't you miss the chance. Do This... Kochadaiiyaan, Kochadaiiyaan, Kochadaiiyaan, Kochadaiiyaan ...”