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Appa and I

In many ways, being Rajinikanth’s daughter is a boon. And a bane. Especially, if you’ve indulged in a costly experiment featuring your Superstar dad that didn’t quite work for many.

Like most other star kids, Soundarya Rajinikanth’s entry into tinsel town was rather smooth, but the journey has been anything but that. She forayed into films as a producer in 2010 ( Goa) but soon realised that direction was her calling. A host of announcements ( Sultan and Rana) followed, after which Kochadaiyaan finally happened. The last two years have been hectic on the personal front. She became a mother ( her son Ved Krishna was born exactly a year after “my first baby Kochadaiyaan released”), read voraciously and began work on her next project.

In a no-holds-barred chat on the eve of Father’s Day, she talks about her most special moments with Rajinikanth, directing him, and how she views Kochadaiyaan in hindsight.

It’s been over two years since your film released. What’s been happening with you since then?

It’s been all about motherhood. Kochadaiyaan was released in May 2014 — and my son, Ved Krishna, was born in May 2015. After the movie, it has been all about calming down and relaxing.

What have you learnt from that project?

I learnt so much; the way the industry works, the way people are. It was a tough film to execute — and it was my debut. After the film, both my parents said, ‘Just calm down a bit.’ I had my baby; my son, he just turned one. You’ll hopefully see a lot of me soon.

How do you view the film in hindsight, as a fan of Rajinikanth?

It will always be my baby — every second of that film will always be a part of me. Honestly, there were mixed reactions about the output, which I completely understand. When we kept saying that it was like The Adventures of Tintin and Avatar, we were referring to the technology and not the output.

Why do you think it didn’t click with a majority of the audiences?

I think Indian audiences still want to see real people on screen, rather than just animation. Also, my script was too realistic; there was no element of fantasy in it. Take Avatar, for example, in which they created a new world. Thor created a new planet. I didn’t have something like that in Kochadaiyaan; it became a realistic war drama.

So, given a chance to do it again, what would you do?

I will do it as a live action-cum-CG film. Take Baahubali, for instance; it has everything packed into it. Kochadaiyaan, on the other hand, was a start-to-finish created film… which means that even that soldier you saw in the corner of your screen was specifically created for it. Those took a lot of things and effort. Given a chance, I’ll do it all over again with my father… but yes, I’ll make changes with respect to script and output.

It didn’t help that Rajinikanth followed it up with Lingaa, which didn’t click either…

A lot of things didn’t work out in that and I don’t want to get into it… but to see Appa in a period setting was different. As audiences today are exposed to many kinds of stories, they would like to see him in a film with today’s treatment. I’d also like to see him in a new setting… and that’s what we will get in Kabali.

Was Rajinikanth a doting dad when you were growing up?

He’s the best dad anyone can have and I am grateful for that. But truth be told, we {my sister, Aishwarya, and I} get to see dad more now than while we were growing up. Then, he was super busy — he was doing multi-language films and had seven to eight releases every year. But whenever he had time, he ensured that we had the perfect childhood.

That doesn’t necessarily translate to a normal childhood… you couldn’t just go to the movies and hang out at the beach with him, could you?

There’s one memorable outing I’ll never forget. It was in 2002, and he suddenly wanted to take me and a friend out for a drive. Appa has a trick while going to public places — he goes into crowds and heads out before anyone realises it’s him. So, that evening, he wore a muffler and we went to Marina Beach. We were just walking on the sand when we came across a stall that had cut-outs of movie stars… and you could pose for a photograph with them. Appa asked me if I wanted to take one and I gleefully did — posing next to the cut-out of… Rajinikanth. The guy taking the picture had no clue that the actor was standing right there!

Being a star kid does have its share of pressures?

It’s a blessing; my mother, sister and I are the only people in the world who can have Rajinikanth in our names. But it has a disadvantage — the expectations that people have from us are what the stars have achieved over a period of time. That’s a huge pressure.

Through his films (and songs), he has advised fans on how to lead life. Does he advise you often too?

He comes from the humblest of backgrounds and hasn’t forgotten that. The most important thing he has taught me is to be truthful and honest… in any role I play in life.

What would be the one thing he’s urged you to follow?

I’ve never been much of a reader, but in the last couple of years, I have caught up with many books; especially with my father pushing me towards reading. He’s a voracious reader — he reads Tamil, Kannada and English books. One writer he highly recommends is Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa; he’s a huge fan of his works.

Professionally, what are your current plans?

I’ve already started working on my next script. I’m stepping away from animation, quite consciously. My upcoming film will be a romantic comedy and I’m working closely with my brother-in-law {actor Dhanush} on the script. Hopefully, it will all come together soon.

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The Kabali link

Soundarya has a link to Kabali — she enabled the project. “I know Ranjith from the time he was an assistant to Venkat Prabhu in Goa. I was supposed to produce his debut film, Attakathi, but that didn’t materialise,” she recalls. “One day, Appa mentioned to me that he loved Madras… and it started working on my mind. Later, when I met Ranjith, I casually asked him: Will you make a story for Appa? He froze . He took a few days and then told me the storyline: he opened the pitch saying, ‘Malaysian don’, and that was enough. I conveyed the storyline to Appa, who liked it, and told him it was Ranjith’s line. Today, it is Kabali.”

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 8:49:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Appa-and-I/article14428057.ece

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