|R G Vijayasarathy studies the aspects that have gone into making Shankar-directed, Rajnikant-starrer Sivaji the greatest hit of all times.|
The verdict is out. The first week's response to the year's much awaited film Sivaji starring Super Star Rajnikant and directed by Shankar has been stupendous and unprecedented throughout the length and breadth of the countries that the film has been released in.
And in India, the trade pundits down south are not surprised over the way the film is creating a feverish hysteria among film fans. But the mad rush and the serpentine queue in front of the theatres releasing the film in many metros and urban centres of the country has really surprised many who had thought that only Bollywood represented the ethos of the Indian film industry.
And the reactions of fans, particularly many of whom may not understand Tamil but are still enjoying the film, may well give jitters to Bollywood film makers. They are already worried about the poor response to the multi star film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom which fell flat in front of Sivaji.
Coming to the reactions of the large number of people who have watched Sivaji, there are two distinctive features of the film that every one is talking about. Every fan is going gaga over the Mottai Sivaji and the White Sivaji.
And people connected to the film industry have also been curious to know how the ageing actor of dark complexion was made to look totally different in the Oru Kudai song sequence. Fans also want to know who conceived the idea of the Mottai Sivaji, the second attraction of the film.
According to Anand, who has worked behind the camera for this film, this attempt may well go as the first of its kind in the history of world cinema. He says that the film unit tried skin grafting, which was a unique experiment in the field of cinema.
K V Anand, whose awesome work in Sivaji has come in for special praise, credits the film's director Shankar for this innovative method which was used for the song shot for nearly 16 days in the Billbas museum in Spain.
Director Shankar who is known for many technical novelties in the film had not even informed the film's producers M S Guhan and Sharavanan about it till it took a final shape. The song is a rap number with its theme as 'style' and the lyrics of the song hailed the Super Star's different patterns of style.
The technical work took almost one year to complete and 25 technicians worked to accomplish this creative work. Even to get the first perfect shot it nearly took six months, says creative director V S M Mohan, who was assigned the job of enhancing the technical content of the film.
Directed Shankar who mooted this idea in the beginning managed to make it a reality by getting the assistance of a techno firm The Indian Arts. An English girl was also used in this experiment.
About the new looks, Shankar says that they tried many experiments and only selected the best. "Rajni Sir looks dashing and debonair, as he plays a middle aged man in his late 30s. For that, I needed a different look.
"So before the shoot, I thought like an ordinary filmgoer in Tamil Nadu, the way they want me to project the superstar. I went through hundreds of his photos from his previous movies and selected two pictures for the new look, and then decided on the wigs that suited him.
"Along with Bhanu the wig and hair designer and cameraman K V Anand I decided on the look and style. Rajni Sir co-operated by doing a make-up test. Which superstar in India will patiently sit through trying out a new look? He is a genuinely humble and simple man; I have never met a star like him. Later the measurements were sent to New York, where they made the wigs that were used in the film.
"As far as the look and colour tone of the film is concerned, I have given it a colourful look as it is a family entertainer with comedy, romance, songs, sentiment and action," said Shankar in an interview before the release of the film.
For Rajni fans, his presence in the film is the key factor that motivates them to see the film again and again.
The movie boasts of a high level of technical accomplishment in the creation of grand sets (like the music shop set created by country's top art director Thota Tharaani) and many other big sets in the song sequences.
For the Sahana song written by Vairamuththu, Thota has created a Swarovski style glittering glass dome set depicting four seasons. The song was shot in Ramoji Studio in Hyderabad. Another major highlight of the film is the pulsating stunt sequences choreographed by Peter Heynes.
The last 20 minutes of Sivaji is certainly being spoken about by most of the fans and also critics where Rajni appears in a different look.
Though Rajni's biggest style statement is his hair and his hair style has been copied by millions of his fans around the world, there are few sequences in Sivaji where he appears bald.
But the fact is Rajni looks more stylish in these sequences. Rajni shaved off his head many years after he did for the film Raghavendra directed by S P Muththuraman.
Rajnikant is a great devotee of Lord Raghavendra and he did the film with a sense of dedication and commitment.
His desire to go natural and shave his head did get critical acclaim, but the film didn't meet the expectations of his fans who always want to see Rajni as Style Mannan.
But in Sivaji, the Mottai Rajni is all of styles and the actor has adopted a totally different pattern of dialogue delivery in these critical sequences of the film.
The music of the film India's Mozart A R Rahman is also attracting huge audience to the theatres. Though the initial reaction to the music composition at the time of the release was not outstanding, the response to each of the song in the theatre speaks volumes about Rahman's creativity.
Rahman worked for the film despite his busy international schedules and gave perfect tunes. The melody in the Sahana Song, and the fast beat numbers are well appreciated. Rahman did the entire background score of the film in Prague.
The film's high technical standards will definitely be spoken about for many years to come and it may well lead to further more innovations on the screen.
Already Kamal Hassan's next film Dasaavathaaram directed by K S Ravikumar which is all set to release in a few months is already being spoken as another technical wizardry with its new type of make up innovation that is being used for the first time in the world of cinema. In this film, Kamal Hassan appears in ten different roles.
In the words of Shankar...
Shankar is away in Germany to see the international response to his new film ever since Sivaji was released. However, he has given some media interviews before the release of the film which gives insight into the making of the film.
Shankar is considered as India's most technically-accomplished director who makes films with socially-relevant issues.
In Sivaji, he has taken the issue of social and financial evils like black money and corruption. Sivaji collections may well surpass his earlier block busters like Kamal Hassan's Indian, Vikram starrer Anniyan, Kadalan and Gentleman.
"Sivaji has taken nearly 22 months of my hard work and dedication to make it as a final product. From the day the story idea was born and for it to be conceptualised into a full length feature film, a lot of efforts have gone into the making of this film. The film has given me immense satisfaction, and I think it is my best work," says Shankar.
"It was difficult for me to blend Rajni Sir's larger-than-life image to my style of film making. It was a tough act to follow.
"I was very particular that the image of the superstar should not overtake the character of Sivaji, a NRI having great dreams of starting a University to help the poor people. I really needed a strong story which can well blend with his image", he adds.
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