Tuesday March 11, 2014

Keeping an aging star’s legacy alive… Kochadaiiyaan-style

Posted by Karthik

Besides the fact that many people seem upset over Kochadaiiyaan’s animation (motion-capture, at that, not to include people who are forgiving about the quality of animation due to assorted reasons like, ‘budget’ and ‘thalaivar’), I think this turn for Rajini – the larger-than-life hero – is very, very interesting.

People have known that stars use dupes for risky stunts… even for more acrobatic stunts (not just risky) because, well, stars are not super heroes in real life. So, they get the help of experts in each field to pump up their own stardom. This is not a secret – people know it all, but which scenes were performed by dupes… that’s something that is usually guarded as part of maintaining the sanctity of the star’s image.

Rajini has never lived his star image offline – he has always looked disheveled and bald in real life, while looking like the hero people adore him, on screen. He’s 60+ now, and obviously not as agile as he was before. He does have an image of an over-the-top, larger-than-life star that is still liked by millions of people, at least in Tamil Nadu. Shankar, in Endhiran, made clever use of that image by incorporating a story that demands Rajini pull off all the over-the-top’ness with an element of believability (it’s a robot, after all). So, they got stunt choreographer Peter Hein’s body with Rajini’s head and dialogs to bring back the star’s agility and he danced and fought villains like a dream.

In Kochadaiiyaan, the idea goes a step ahead – Rajini is all cartoon now and he can virtually perform anything. That rudra thaandavam you see on the trailer… I’m sure people would guess that it is not Rajini dancing it in motion capture costume. It is a dance master (choreographer) who is doing it, with Rajini’s young head superimposed on that body. All those stunts where Rajini jumps up and down – no, not that of a 60+ year old star. It sure is his head, but the body belongs to someone else… or simply, is a piece of animation.

In a way, this is just using modern technology to do what stars have done for ages – technology has replaced the dupes. If we were willing to suspend disbelief when dupes were used, then the same could apply now, for technology-aided dupes too.

But there’s one critical difference.

When dupes were used during Rajini’s peak, it perhaps told people that he was doing it to avoid risking his life. Technically, he was fit and able bodied enough to pull it off himself, but he’s using his clout and money to retain his energy. Why bother when you can get someone else to do it for you? Now? People know he’s 60+ and cannot pull off anything but the trademark dialogs and facial expressions. There is no particular joy in seeing a 60+ year old grandfather trying to stress his life and soul out by dancing and fighting – it looks good on screen only when the face is young. Would that awareness – of his age and what he can pull off now – diminish the Rajini magic? Shankar’s attempt was very, very inventive – it was not a cartoon film, but there were enough special effects to prop the Rajini legacy. In cartoon, everything is make-believe. So, would the Rajini legacy be seen as make-believe? Or, would people continue to be charmed by the Rajini mania even when they clearly know that it is actually drawn by some computer/hand?


There is a parallel to this in Kannada cinema. A fan recently launched a new comic series called Detective Sahasa Simha, based on the late Kannada actor Vishnuvardhan. It was the fan’s way of keeping Vishnuvardhan’s legacy alive even when the star in question is no more. But, obviously, the things Vishnuvardhan does and says in the comic are not his own; it is by someone else doing it on his behalf.

Much like the cartoon version of Rajini.

I’m very curious to see how generous (I wanted to use the word ‘gullible’, but I do understand that’s not quite the word to describe this emotion from fans) Rajini’s fans are, in accepting a cartoon version of Rajinikanth. If they do, that perhaps opens a wonderful Pandora’s Box of the star minting money (aided by good scripts, of course) even in his sleep, while scores of animators invent his movies in computer studios far away from his bedroom.


Kochadaiiyaan trailer:

Related read: 10 observations on Kochadaiiyaan’s teaser¬†and Why the Kochadaiiyaan!

PS: On second thoughts, there is indeed a global precendent for what Soundarya is trying here – Jackie Chan! The man has a cartoon series running on TV! That’s perhaps the first attempt in keeping an ageing star’s legacy alove, though Jackie himself indulges in a film or two year after year, though with continued middling success.



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