Once again, a cinematic innovation has come from what north Indians call "the south". This Pongal, theatres in Chennai saw a two-minute teaser of Sultan--The Warrior with 58-year-old Rajnikant in a 3D animation avatar. The period film of no confirmed era will feature the superstar as a 25-year-old warrior who, of course, does somersaults in the air and delivers punch lines that guarantee Tamil applause. There was a technical difficulty in recreating him as a 25-year-old because there are no good pictures of him when he was of that age. He was still a struggler then and some time away from being excessively photographed.
When Rajnikant first saw the trailer in which he appears boots first, as he has appeared in scores of films, an insider says he clapped and whistled like a boy, asking for an encore. The film is expected to be released in 2009 to mark the 60th year of the actor. "It is a daughter's gift to her father," says director Soundarya Rajinikant, the younger of the superstar's two daughters.
The svelte, fair (she has her mother's complexion), jeans-clad girl says that she will make her father serenade young women to A R Rahman's tunes, demolish villains, flip tobacco products in the air and probably stop arrows in the air too.
At 23, Saundarya is the managing director of Ocher Studios, Chennai, a sprawling animation hub valued at several crores. In time, she plans to make full length animated films on the scale of giants like Pixar and Dreamworks.
If the money bags of Adlabs are backing her with 40 crore rupees, she insists it is not because they know she has the ears of the most saleable actor in India. Instead, she says, it is because of the grades she got at her post graduate multimedia course in Perth.
Kartik, who heads the creative team of animation at Ocher says that earlier Indian attempts at 3D animation, like Sindbad, Pandavas--The Five Warriors , and Krishna , failed because the animation quality was not good enough. "3D animation is an expensive affair and it is not for the faint-hearted," says Kartik. He feels that the whole $150 million spent on Shrek was small change for Hollywood, the $10 million that will go into the making of Sultan will make or break the emerging animation segment.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra feels that it is premature for India to find a loyal animation audience. "For Indians, live action cannot be replaced by cartoon characters on screen." Another trade analyst says, "Soundarya is only being indulged with this kind of money because of her clout as a superstar's daughter. Her real abilities will be tested when the two-hour version hits the screens next summer."
Soundarya herself admits that she spends more sleepless nights now as she works with her 14-member creative team on sifting through the 30-odd layers of bamboo to get Sultan's hair texture right or on giving his kohl-lined eyes the twinkle effect. She also admits that she is fortunate to have a ready captive audience in those 63,000 (and growing) Rajnikant fan clubs across 29 countries.
The film will be released simultaneously in 12 different Indian languages. Japan, Malayasia, Hong Kong and Singapore, which released over 160 prints of Sivaji, are expected to release more of Sultan.
::: Here is a small trailer preview! :::