Before the much-anticipated Kochadaiiyaan starring Tamil superstar Rajinikanth began, a video of its trailer launch featuring the legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan lit up the giant screen. He made a declaration that the history of Indian cinema was being rewritten with this epic fantasy film. In his rich baritone, he claimed that this cinematic milestone would make people go: “cinema before Kochadaiiyaan and cinema after Kochadaiiyaan”. It was a lofty promise. And I fear, it may remain just that.
The South Indian matinee idol plays the title role, a fearless warrior in the fictional kingdom of Kottaipatanam. He is their commander-in-chief who is so magnetic that he often overshadows its ruler. The king isn’t happy with that development and betrays his trusted aide by slapping him with false charges of treason — chaos ensues. His two sons witness their father’s gruesome beheading and swear revenge. The plot is jaded and can be found in any Indian folklore, but a throbbing-with-life Rajinikanth could have salvaged the film.
Unfortunately, the much-hyped motion capture technology employed by his director-daughter Soundarya R Ashwin seems to have reduced the giant of a persona to a cartoon. His beady eyes look vacant and make it tough to connect with the megastar. However, the animated version has its fun moments. The cigarette swish was replaced by swordplay with sound-effects and there was some great dialogue that could double up as valuable life lessons. Gems such as: “Money can’t buy you happiness, you need to change with the times and never attack your enemy from the back” were drilled into our heads. But did they have to spend millions of rupees to do all of this? Wouldn’t the revered Rajinikanth — warts and all — manage it better without those futuristic crutches he was give?
Deepika Padukone, who plays princess Vadhana in the war epic, ticks all the boxes of playing arm-candy who can do the occasional action-fuelled fight sequence.
The first half advances at a rapid pace (if you discount the needless insertion of songs for every occasion such as victory, love, loss), but the second half meanders with plots and subplots. Jackie Shroff who plays the king of Kalingpura, the arch-rivals of Kottainpatanam, cuts a formidable figure. There were points in the film where it all looked like an elaborate video-game — making you wonder about director Soundarya’s motives. You may wonder why she didn’t just rely on her father’s legendary charm and screen presence to do the talking.
Having said that, Kochadaiiyaan might have taken a small step towards introducing Avatar-like technology into our lives, but it’s no giant leap. If you have blind faith and (obsessive) love for Rajinikanth and all things animation, you may enjoy this film. For others it may prove a battle to remain glued to your seats.