Film: "Kochadaiiyaan"; Cast: Rajnikanth, Deepika Padukone, Shobana, Jackie Shroff; Directed by Soundarya R. Ashwin; Rating: *** 1/2 (3 and a half stars)
So this is what the Dev Anand of the South would look like if he were to really and truly - cross my heart and hope to 'dye' - not age after 40.
Using the technique known as the Motion Capture 3D technique, "Kochadaiiyaan" brings us Rajnikanth looking infinitely trimmer and younger than he actually is. In fact at the end of the film the director, who happens to be the mega-star's daughter,gives us a wide spectrum of out-takes where we see Rajnikanth Sir (full respect, Mr.Superstar) the way he looks like now.
The end-bit is a sad reminder of mortality in a film that addresses itself to enormously epic issues such as heredity, lineage, duty, loyalty and the conflicts within the kingdom assigned to a soldier.
You can't harness civilization without shedding blood. You can't make a film about Rajnkanth the Warrior without retarding age.
It's all like a complicated jigsaw, naughtily and deliberately digitalized wunder-product Awhere the actors whom we know (Deepika Padukone, Jackie Shroff and of course Rajni Sir) seem to come alive with personalities that challenge and mock reality. The actors less-known to North Indian audiences (like Nasser, Sarath Kumar, Shobana) seem far more credible in the Hindi belt.
We don't know them better, you see.
It's really hard to pin down the true merit of "Kochadaiiyaan". It is at once outrageously ambitious and endearingly intimate. It's a tribute to that enduring evergreen quality of Rajnikanth's stardom which time cannot preserve.But the miracles of the computer age surely can.
At heart - and there is plenty of that in this semi-animation ode to an immortal stardom - "Kochadaiiyaan" is a morality fable about two kingdoms at war and the price in blood that the perpetrators of justice must pay in order to preserve the sanctity of civilization. In that sense this film is a kind of unintended homage to the discernibly "idealistic" spirit of Narendra Modi that rules the country.
Rajnikanth plays the roles of multiple warriors - a father and a son, and third role too, that never quite shapes up in this film. But surely will in the sequel. Deepika is the enemy's daughter so madly besotted by Rajnkanth's warrior avatar she dances like a woman possessed.
As an insanely unbridled homage to a superstar's tribute, "Kochadaiiyaan" works very well in spite of the very poor dubbing in Hindi aand A.R. Rahman's repetitive dull and sermonistic songs that lack both zing and freshness. Rajnikanth's tandav towards the end is so riveting you forgive the languid expressions of some of the animated actors who seem to have lost their spirit in translation.
Most of the time The Motion Capture technique works fine, though. It heightens the drama even as it scales down the believability quotient of Rajnikanth's stardom by making him and his stardom look like a frozen fantasy.
There is an absence of fertility, fluidity and fecundity in the presentation. But there is a lot of heart and a heartbreakingly large volume of hard work involved in projecting the iconic star as a combination of a comicbook character and mythological avatar that Rajnikanth Sir wouldn't have been able to pull off in a feature film.
The camera never lies. But it can subvert the truth, whittle it down to a palatable fantasy. That's what "Kochadaiiyaan" does. Yes, Rajnikanth roars again. Never mind if the lion is computer-generated. The superstar returns in a stylish never-before avatar conceived and executed by the star's daughter who is an unabashed fan.
Aren't we all.