January 23, 2019 11:31:09 am
The Rajinikanth-starrer Petta, directed by Karthik Subbaraj, is in its third week in theaters. We speak to some of the cast and crew members of the film as they share their experiences.
Kunal Rajan, sound designer:
Usually, in the US, I work for three months on an Indian film, but for Petta, I was asked to complete the sound designing work in a month, and that was crazy. I had a team of eight people who were with me throughout the process, and we had two shifts. Though Petta is a commercial film, it has strong emotions and action sequences.
Karthik Subbaraj wanted the sound to be as close to real life as possible, and that was challenging to achieve. I believe that sound is a character in a film. Also, a film is as much about the sound as it is about the visuals. Karthik is someone who understands all that and gave me a free hand to experiment with the medium. In Petta, there were festival-related sequences like Maha Shivaratri. Sitting in the US, I had to visualise everything and incorporate Indian-ised sound accordingly. In fact, as a sound designer, I had to keep the various sounds in a film at appropriate levels to bring a scene to life.
It’s always a pleasure to work with Karthik Subbaraj because he is one of the very few directors, particularly the new age ones in the south, who understands the importance of sound, which gives expression to a film. Be it his earlier films — Mercury or Pizza, they have had a unique sense of soundscape. Karthik had briefed me clearly about the sound design before we started. So, things were smooth.
Rajini sir was here a couple of years ago during the pre-production work of 2.0, and I met him during that time. But I never thought I would do sound designing for Petta. I am glad it happened.
Malavika Mohanan, actor:
Any actor would have blindly accepted to work with Rajini sir and I am no exception. This is the first time I have been getting so much love from fans all over, and I feel overwhelmed. After the very first day, I lost that feeling of doing a ‘Rajini sir film’, because he made me feel comfortable. I am already a fan of Superstar, and now after Petta, I am in complete awe of him. He is one of the nicest people I have come across in life. We bonded over spirituality on the sets. And we discussed yoga, yogis among other things. I remember being nervous on the starting of the shoot, but he initiated a conversation, and that is quite nice of him. What is more important is that the gentle-manliness was accompanied by rare integrity. For sure, you know it wasn’t fake humility and for a moment I did wonder what a down-to-earth man!
Sheriff Moideen, choreographer:
Many people talk about Rajini sir’s style, charm and persona, but nobody talks about how he dances. Truth be told, he displays flexible body movements and is a good dancer. He can rhythmically sway, bounce or tap to the tune and ultimately it all boils down to style. I think performance is all about how you reflect your personality. And he aces it effortlessly. Is there anyone else with his kind of swag? I tried to understand his body language and choreographed only the movements he could easily do. With him, you can work a lot of hand movements, which generally doesn’t look good on many actors.
Watching Rajini sir dance itself is a delight, and it is a dream come true for me to work with him. I learnt a lot by just observing him dance. He is a meticulous artiste and it just rubs off on you too. Most of the time I compose on the spot at the sets, after a briefing from the director. And the same happened for Petta.
Off the sets, he is equally friendly. He is also full of questions all the time. I got to travel with him for 10 days, and he is extremely observant.
I didn’t even listen to the whole script before signing Petta, but I got myself involved right from the beginning. Each film demands a different look — how we light up scenes, how the camera moves, how we frame the actors, what space we give them to move around, where do we want the audiences to be and so on… As a team, we were clear about what we wanted to do — to celebrate Rajinikanth.
The audiences were talking about seeing the good old Superstar, but it was never about ‘bringing him back’ at all. He is always there. Karthik Subbaraj and I, as fans of Superstar, wanted to present the Rajinikanth we have seen and enjoyed. Rajini sir’s enthusiasm and dedication are beyond his age. You can never see another star of his stature being cooperative with the director. We managed to complete the shoot in 30 days despite having a huge star cast.
Guru Somasundaram, actor:
We all talk about the ‘Rajinikanth magic’, and I believe it truly exists. Because you feel special when he is around you. He also compliments someone when they perform well, and that is not something you expect from a ‘Superstar’. On day one, I had a few dialogues, and when I delivered them, he said I was a natural actor, and that meant a lot to me. He doesn’t really carry the hang-ups of being a big star.
Niharika Bhasin Khan, costume designer:
I would say Rajini sir doesn’t need anything more to make him look the character because he can carry off anything well. When he first saw himself in the mirror with the Petta costumes, his eyes were gleaming. Then, he said, “Niharika, superb!” When I showed him the presentation of his looks, he was thoroughly excited and was all encouraging. Majority of the portions were set in North India, and Karthik Subbaraj had briefed me about the kind of clothes he was looking for. I wanted Rajini sir’s looks to be more sophisticated and stylish, so we went with dark-coloured winter wears that I sourced from Bangkok and Delhi. Honestly, it was wonderful to work with such a gentleman like Rajini sir, who respects his technicians.
Sananth Reddy, actor:
I grew up watching Rajini sir’s films, and a lot of my childhood memories are attached to him. So, when Karthik Subbaraj told me I would be cast in Petta, my happiness knew no bounds. I got to travel with Rajini sir throughout the film, which I never thought I would. Doing a film with the Superstar is any day, a matter of a lifetime pride. He made sure all of us had a good time on the sets. But it took two days for me to keep the fanboy in me aside and get into the action mode.
Karthik Subbaraj is like my brother, but getting to work with him on Petta is a different experience altogether. He wanted me to shed 10 kilos for my role, and I was hitting the gym regularly, and guess my hard work paid off.
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