Five minutes into Soundarya Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiiyaan, Rana – the animated title character played by Superstar Rajinikanth – walks into a king’s court with studied nonchalance, places his hands on his waist and looks around impressively. A few scenes later, he flicks a toy elephant between his hands. With the same studied nonchalance that screams of the Rajinikanth we know; and have come to love.
By adding a number of customary Rajini movie tropes – the introductory number where Rana dances in a group, the swishing of the hands (duly amplified with sound-effects) and those trademark gestures he repeats throughout the film – she manages to turn Kochadaiiyaan into the quintessential Rajini padam. One that moves at an unusually fast pace. There’s even a signature move of the Superstar unsheathing his sword with flourish – and this is when a place like Albert theatre would ring with whistles.
The animation, meanwhile, becomes a part of the backdrop; visible only when it is really good, or really bad. But mostly, it is neither.
Rana – Kochadaiiyaan Ranadheeran – is a warrior with a history, and access to the courts of the two most powerful kings of the time. He plots his way through the intrigue and enmity between the two kingdoms; towards an end that is barely predictable. The screenplay races through the plot in the first half; in a series of barely connected vignettes. There is a duet now, and a duel later; one minute a barely-hatched war plan and the next a full-fledged battle; there is intrigue and love and sentiment and blood and gore all crammed in. And if there is a quibble to be had about the movie, it is the screenplay; that KS Ravikumar could have taken the time to establish the characters.
Having said that though, the movie is cleverly packaged. The debutante director smartly refrains from overusing technology. She stays away from the splashy gimmicks that would’ve brought the animation to the forefront. There’s no overkill. But the technology does struggle, yes. With faces, lips and eyes; and close human contact. Hugs and kisses are especially tricky. In a pivotal scene where a little boy kisses his dad, he approaches him – with music rising to a crescendo – and plants a kiss in the general vicinity of the forehead. There’s a wee tinge of longing then – of what could have been a touching moment if not for the animation.
And that makes it hard to talk about performances as well. But, princess Vadhana is graceful. And Rana, impressive. The body-language is perfect, beautifully captured; and we have no trouble believing that the character on screen was the Padayappa of the 90s. Deepika Padukone looks as pretty as she does in the other movies. But the care shown in capturing the lead pair seems to have gone missing with the supporting cast: Sarathkumar and Jackie Shroff are unrecognizable, and Shobana moves like a robotic toy on stilts.
Also, composer AR Rahman continues his habit of doing barely enough for Rajinikanth movies – Engey Pogutho Vaanam and Medhuvaaga both sound liltingly beautiful on screen, enhanced by SP Balasubramaniam’s pitch perfect rendition, but the background score is a big letdown. Rahman draws a leaf out of the Harris Jayaraj playbook and employs strange chants in the background, and out of his own playbook, uses a bassy, string ensemble in varying degrees of loudness depending on the intensity of the scene.
Finally, there’s the rousing climax; complete with an emphatic Rana appearance and enhanced by a twist to set up a possible sequel. We walk out, and it is a few minutes before we realise we are talking about this Rajinikanth like he was the real Rajinikanth.
And that bodes well for Kochadaiiyaan.
[accordion title=’Shoutout’]Props to Nandini Karky for the subtitling. Understated and simple.[/accordion]
[accordion title=’Shout out’]AR Rahman’s loud background score. Like, really loud. [/accordion]
[accordion title='(Take away the) Poetic License’]Vairamuthu continues to churn out meaningless but deep sounding lyrics.
“Where the sky goes we go too;
The wind has an endless supply of tunes;
let’s blow the conch of victory”
It sounded so deep until we paid some attention to it.