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Tamil director Shankar is synonymous with grandeur.

The audio launch ceremony of his upcoming film, I, held in Chennai on Monday evening was no different. To call it dazzling would be to put it mildly: the show started with a brilliant musical laser show.

The entire auditorium at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai was in a frenzy when legendary actor Rajinikanth walked in as the Hindi song Lungi Dance from Chennai Express played in the background.

The guest of the evening, Hollywood’s Arnold Schwarzenegger followed. The Terminator star looked pleasantly surprised as the cheers from the crowd rose to a din. The composer of I’s score, A.R. Rahman, was ushered in next.

The who’s who of south Indian cinema was in the crowd as spotlights revealed Lata Rajinikanth with her two daughters, Aishwarya Dhanush and Soundarya Ashwin. Other invitees included Kannada star Puneet Raj Kumar, celebrity couple director Vijay and wife Amala Paul, and Power Star Srinivasan looking bright in a red silk shirt.

Hosted jointly by playback singer Chinmayi and Jigarthanda star Bobby Simha, the evening opened to an audio-visual presentation by the production house, Aascar Films.

Musical night

Leading the musical night was Kolaveri star Anirudh Ravichander who sang Mersalaayitten from the film’s soundtrack. Haricharan Seshadri sang Pookkalae Sattru Oyivedungal, another song from the album. Canadian singer Natalia Di Luccio took music to high-octave levels with Aila Aila, sung along with Haricharan. The music was released online immediately.

The film’s trailer lit up the onstage screen, surprising the audience with Vikram’s different looks, created by New Zealand’s Weta Workshops (recognised for its work on Avatar, Tintin, The Hobbit and Godzilla). The lead pair of the film, Vikram and Amy Jackson, took over the stage in a beauty and the beast-style appearance for the song Ennodu Nee Irundhal, Uyirodu Naan Iruppaen.

Vikram’s werewolf look took all his fans by storm.

“This is the kind of role every actor dreams of and I am blessed to have got this role from Shankar,” said the Anniyan actor. Referring to his animal look, he said that it involved more than three hours of make-up.

“I had to gain as well as lose weight for my characters in the film. For one of the roles, I lost over 30kg. It was very challenging,” he added.

Bodybuilders’ act

I is a romantic thriller directed by Shankar in which Vikram plays a bodybuilder from Tamil Nadu. Bodybuilders from all over India play supporting roles. Naturally, they could not be left out from the show. As the bodybuilders flexed their muscles in tune to music, Schwarzenegger joined them on stage.

“It feels like those good old days,” said the five-time Mr Universe and seven-time Mr Olympia. “[It is] good to know that Shankar gave work to bodybuilders. I want to do my next movie with Shankar,” said Schwarzenegger.

“This is my first visit to India and I am enjoying the glorious country. I will be back again.”

Shankar explained that he chose the title I (after the Tamil letter that sounds like I) as he wanted to use only a single letter for the title. “Like the elegantly written letter, it denotes beauty.”

Music composer Rahman took the stage with a performance on the piano while Sid Sriram sang Ennodu Nee Irandhaal, his beautiful rendition recalling his song Adiye from Kadal.

Rahman delighted his fans with the evergreen Urvasi Urvasi from Kadhalan. After Rahman left the stage, his orchestra kept the crowd entertained with a medley of old Rahman hits.

The lyrics for I were written by Kabilan and Karky. P.C. Sreeram is the cinematographer.

When Chinmayi asked Rajnikanth what he felt about the film, Thalaivaa, as he is fondly called, said: “The trailers indeed evoke great curiosity and I can’t wait to see Shankar’s film.” Praising Vikram’s dedication to the role, he wished him success.

A catwalk show showcased the costumes from I, with Jackson as the showstopper.

A music launch cannot get bigger than this and the more than three-hour wait was worth the effort.