Even after four years since its release, Rajinikanth’s sci-fi action drama 2.0 continues to be the second biggest grosser in the history of Tamil cinema. It has been surpassed only by SS Rajamoul’s Baahubali The Conclusion. The film, which was directed by Shankar, minted more than Rs 600 crore at the box office. One of the rare features of 2.0 is that it had a unique villain for a Rajinikanth film.
Superstar movies are known for having some iconic villains like Mark Antony (Raghuvaran) from Baasha, Neelambari (Ramya Krishnan) from Padayappa, and Adiseshan (Suman) from Sivaji. Similarly, 2.0 has Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar as Pakshi Rajan, who turns out to be a supernatural beast that controls birds. Yet, there is a stark difference between villains of other Rajinikanth films and Pakshi Rajan. While the rest were true blue antagonists, Pakshi Rajan, an empathetic ornithologist, treads a grey path. In any other Shankar film, Pakshi Rajan would have become the hero fighting for a cause like Anniyan in Anniyan (2005), Kiccha in Gentleman (1993), and Senapathy in Indian (1996). 2.0 is the only Shankar film, which features a vigilante who is not a hero. In essence, Pakshi Rajan is an empath, who is unable to stand the alleged crimes against birds in the form of cellular communication.
That makes Pakshi Rajan an anti-hero. However, Rajinikanth claimed that Akshay Kumar is the hero of 2.0. Ahead of the film’s release, the Tamil star, in an interview with Zee Tamil, said that, more than him, Akshay toiled a lot during the shooting of 2.0. “Hats off to Akshay Kumar for his hard work and patience. It’s unimaginable. We were shooting in sweltering conditions in Delhi during summer, and his suit had to be pasted with gum throughout the body. His makeup process was extremely demanding, but he had never indicated any disapproval. He worked with great dedication. His performance comes in two to three dimensions and with each character. He has proved his mettle as an actor. His role will definitely be talked about after the release. He is the real hero,” Rajini said.
Akshay Kumar sported three looks in 2.0. He gets introduced as this calm and serene bird-loving Pakshi Rajan, who tries his best to fight corporations and people to stop using mobile phones as it ends up killing birds. When all of his struggles draw a blank, Pakshi Rajan commits suicide by hanging himself from a cellphone tower. But due to his powerful aura, he gets reincarnated into the menacing ‘Crow man’, who wreaks havoc on people. Things don’t end there. The third and ultimate look turns him into an actual monster with wings and an armory made up of the very thing he detests – mobile phones.
The makeup for the two looks took hours, according to Akshay, and one has to only take a look at this video to know what Rajinikanth means by the Bollywood actor’s unimaginable “hard work and patience”:
At the audio launch of 2.0, Akshay Kumar admitted that the whole process was rather painful but it was all worth the effort. “I got to learn a lot of challenging things. Shankar is a scientist, not a director. I did make up for 3 hours and I took one hour to remove the makeup. I just saw myself on the screen, and it was unbelievable. I’m looking forward to seeing the film. I thank Shankar sir. It was worth the pain.”
However, in an interview with Indulge Express, when Akshay was asked about Rajinikanth’s statement that “Akshay is the hero of the film”, Khiladi Kumar beat the superstar in his own game of humility and modesty by saying, “He is only saying that because he’s the most incredibly humble actor in all of India. What do I say when the greatest superstar of all time gives you a compliment like that? I keep folding my hands, telling him, ‘No sir, the world is coming to see you.’”