At the promo launch of Kochadaiiyaan in Mumbai last weekend, the father-daughter duo of Rajinikanth and Soundarya R Ashwin — also the lead actor and director of the film respectively — made for an endearing sight. While the former beamed with pride at his daughter’s mega directorial debut, the petite 30-year-old seemed happy about sharing professional space and spotlight with her superstar father. This excitement on her part also set the tone for the interview with Soundarya as she spoke about her passion for animation, keeping the content commercial and being the daughter of Thalaivar.
Kochadaiiyaan is a Rajinikanth film, but it’s the technology that you are focusing on while promoting it. Why so?
‘Performance capture technology’ has been around in Hollywood for years but Kochadaiiyaan is introducing it in India. And who better to do so than Rajinikanth? People need to understand that the technique is animation, not cartoon. It will offer an alternate medium of making cinema in India because the grand sets and action, which are impossible live, can be created using animation.
This technology is time consuming. Why did you want to debut with it?
Having grown up in a film family, I knew early on that I wanted to make films. Acting wasn’t my preference, I wanted to direct and produce films. Since I’m passionate about technology, I taught myself the ‘motion capture’ technique of filmmaking. Only I hadn’t expected to debut with a film of such a scale. My sister Aishwarya, on the other hand, prefers live action.
What does the word ‘kochadaiiyaan’ mean?
‘Ko’ in Tamil means kick and ‘chadaiiyaan’ is a man with long hair. ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ is also the name of a sect of Shiva worshippers in the South. So the word means a man with long hair who worships Shiva. It’s also why our hero is a warrior as well as a dancer, like Shiva.
The film has Rajinikanth in a triple role. Is that for maximum impact?
Well, the script of Rana was ready earlier but my dad fell ill and the film was stalled. So we decided to make another film meanwhile. Since we had the framework for Rana, we decided to make a prequel to it. Kochadaiiyaan is Rana’s father. And Rana, who has Deepika Padukone paired opposite him in our film, has a brother, called Sena, also played by Rajinikanth. So the triple role happened; it wasn’t pre-planned.
While making the film, did you keep in mind how the audience likes to see Rajinikanth on screen?
Once the film begins, it’s the story and script that keep the audience hooked. So the film had to have the claps-and whistle-inducing moments. The script is completely commercial, with six songs, Rajini’s trademark punch dialogues and an adrenaline-pumping background score. There’s romance and also the ‘good versus evil’ theme.
On the sets, were you a director, a daughter or a Thalaivar fan?
I am a Rajini fan. I hero-worship him as a father, yes, but I also go to the theatres and climb atop chairs and scream when he makes an entry or delivers a punch dialogue. He’s my dad but he’s also Thalaivar; people set the mood at such times and it’s impossible to not get carried away. It’s difficult to be only one of these three at any given moment.
So how was it directing him?
As a director, I’m very clear what I want from my actors. While it’s one thing to instruct others, even senior actors like Jackie Shroff, the thought of doing the same with my dad is always a nagging one. I don’t care what others think of me, but he’s a man I admire and what happens on the sets is bound to come back home with us.
What’s it that you admire about your father the most?
He lives what he believes in; there are no pretences. He may take on the avatar of a younger man on screen because it’s a world of make-believe, but he appears just as he is off-screen. He’s a humble man and he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings as a bus conductor. That’s what truly makes him Thalaivar.