I am the biggest Rajinikanth fan: Soundarya R. Ashwin

I am the biggest Rajinikanth fan: Soundarya R. Ashwin

Ahead of the release of Kochadaiiyaan, Soundarya R. Ashwin talks to City Times about what it means to direct her superstar father in her debut film and her plans to sign on Shah Rukh Khan in her next project

By Arti Dani (arti@khaleejtimes.com)

Published: Thu 22 May 2014, 12:11 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:15 PM

Soundarya says the film was more time consuming technically than acting-wise

Soundarya says the film was more time consuming technically than acting-wise

It’s celebration time for Rajinikanth fans as Kochadaiiyaan is finally set to release this weekend after a long delay.

The movie marks the directorial debut of Rajinikanth’s daughter Soundarya R. Ashwin and promises some never before seen action sequences featuring Rajini in an animated avatar.

The Rs1.25 billion project is said to be India’s first motion capture photo-realistic 3D animated movie.

The plot revolves around three kings, played by Rajinikanth, Jackie Shroff and Nassar, with the senior star essaying a dual role - that of father and son.

Here the 29-year-old first time director speaks to City Times about the making of this magnum opus and her dream of working with Shah Rukh Khan.

Now that the film is finally releasing, how is the family taking it?

We are feeling very grateful and are very excited about it. I think it’s like all of us at home have been waiting for this day for so long that it has reached a point when we are just waiting to see how people are going to react to it. We’re excited and anxious - it is a mixed feeling for all of us at home.

Making a motion capture movie is not easy, what inspired you to get into it? Also, we have heard that it was your mother who actually encouraged your inclination towards this field. Can you elaborate on that?

Yes, absolutely. Well I think I have been passionate about animation and technology ever since I was a child. Like you said, it was my parents, but my mom more because we spent more time with her while growing up. Having said that, both my parents encouraged my sister and me to pursue whatever we were passionate about. So they encouraged me to follow my dreams. I studied multimedia in Australia and I have had professional training when it comes to painting and perspective drawing. I think technology has fascinated me for a very long time and then Kochadaiiyaan happened. I can just say it’s a blessing to be directing my father in my first film and also it’s a blessing to bring new technology to the country because from black and white cinema, we are now celebrating India’s 100 years of entertainment and with this film, we have actually come to performance capture movie making. I just feel it is incredible and I am blessed to be given the opportunity to bring this technology with my father into the Indian entertainment media.

Was it tough for Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone to work with this technology since it is something new to India?

Animation is still not understood in India, it needs one film to break the myth that animation is cartoons because it is not. In performance capture technology not only do we capture the body motion of the people; we also capture their facial expression, that’s why we call it performance capture. But since we do not have any set or costume, you can see in the making of Kochadaiiyaan that all the performance capture happens on a floor and people wear body suits and we capture them performing.

For actors it is not a time-consuming job, but it is time-consuming for us technically. Acting is simple because Rajinikanth, Deepika Padukone and Shobhana finish their job quickly. I explained the technology to all the artists, they understood it and trusted me. I shot with Deepika for two days. On day one I shot the talkie portions and on day two I did two songs with her. With my dad, I shot for seven days.

How difficult or easy was it to convince your father to do this film and how was the experience of directing your father, who is a legendary actor?

There’s no doubt about that. My father is the greatest actor of this country. I am the biggest hardcore Rajinikanth fan. My father was convinced about the script and that the script required technology like this, because it has a larger than life quality that you cannot do in live action but can do in performance capture. It was not simple and it was not an immediate nod when I asked him the first time; “Appa, can we do this film immediately?” He did not say okay because I am his daughter. He is extremely concerned and he needs to be sure that his fans will like whatever he does. He wants his fans to enjoy the film. My dad is not pro technology. I think it was all a little new to him, like it was for everybody else, but he agreed to go ahead with Kochadaiiyaan only after he was convinced about the story and that I could handle this new technology. It was definitely not easy for me to convince him.

We have seen pictures of Rajinikanth travelling to the Himalayas and meditating in caves. Can you tell us more about this other side of your father?

Well, both my parents are very spiritual and spirituality is a mindset. It is a lifestyle. Spirituality and religion are two different things. Right from his childhood my father had a call from a higher power. He connects with the higher power in a completely different way and that was the call that brought him from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu to become an actor. He is a Maharashtrian who was born in Karnataka and he did not know a word of Tamil. His journey from bus conductor to superstar is incredible. I don’t think even he can put in words the connection he shares with a higher power.

I think spirituality is something that he has tried and tested, being fascinated with it from his childhood. He loves going to the Himalayas and spending time in the mountains because of the energy there. He gets time for himself. When it comes to Chennai or anywhere in and around India, he does not enjoy much privacy, a fact he has accepted because he is very thankful for all the love that he gets from people. But he cannot lead a normal life here and that is why he enjoys going to the Himalayas for some me-time. My father is very spiritual and my mother is very religious.

Being born into creative family, was it a natural progression for you to get into movies? And do family conversations invariably revolve around movies at the dinner table?

Yes to both the questions. I think any child born, not just in the film industry, I think even in a lawyer’s or doctor’s family, ends up inevitably pursuing what the parents do. The film industry is my family. So I always knew I wanted to do something here and thankfully I always had a creative inclination. I always knew I wanted to be behind the camera, so that was something I wanted to pursue from childhood.

At dinnertime, yes, most of our discussions are about entertainment, but my father is very versatile with other topics as well. My husband is not from the film industry and he is the only person who is a non-film boy in my family. So when my husband is around during dinner, topics do not revolve around cinema but otherwise my mother, father, sister more or less talk about cinema.

Among all Bollywood actors, Shah Rukh Khan seems most passionate about multimedia. Did you get a chance to interact with him on this shared interest?

How do I say this? I have known Shah Rukhji personally for a few years and I had the chance to share this dream with him even before it started. The first thing he said was, “Wow, are you really going to go ahead with something like this?”, I said “Yes Shah Rukhji, I am.” It is not easy to do a film like this, in a country which is unaware of this technology. I had to convince everyone, including my producers. So yes, I discussed the technology with Shah Rukhji. He is very pro technology and I also told him that I have a script for him, which I will go ahead and discuss once Kochadaiiyaan releases.

So will it be time to unwind and relax after the movie releases?

It all depends. I am praying for a good response. If, God willing, that happens, I will relax!

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