Watching Kochadaiyaan or for that matter any Rajnikant film is an event in itself. Thalaiva has already been immortalized in various avatars, now it’s time for the Motion Capture Thalaiva! So let’s come straight to the facts. The motion capture technique used is the reason most people would want to watch this film. Those who expect similar results to when the technology was used by James Cameron for Avatar would be disappointed. To be fair, the style and epic nature of the production and Rajnikant more than make up for this.
When James Cameron made Avatar, he actually spent more than 10 years perfecting the technology. Similar is the case with Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tin-Tin. Another director, Robert Zemeckis is also known to be a thespian in this technology, in fact he was involved with making movies like Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol using this technology during its various evolutionary stages. Kochadaiyaan’s CGI feels more like the motion capture used in Polar Express than A Christmas Carol. The details are missing. All the characters look like dolls that have come to life. The body movements and expressions are not precise like you’d find in big budget Hollywood films. But there you have it, it’s the budget that makes this film feel like it belongs in 2004, not 2014. It’s like watching dolls of all the actual actors sounding like themselves, but acting like Katrina Kaif. The eyes are what make everything seem unnatural. They are lifeless and hence you never really connect with most of the characters.
I say most, because, let’s face it, Rajnikant can just get you hooked with his dialogue delivery alone. People who watch the Tamil version are likely to enjoy this film more than those who go for the Telugu or Hindi version. The reason being the songs by A.R. Rahman are what drive the film throughout, apart from Rajni. If it weren’t for the bombastic soundtrack by the Maestro, this film would have fallen flat on its face, Thalaiva or no Thalaiva. Eight outstanding songs (in Tamil, mind you) that are choreographed well on screen make the film more enjoyable given its fairly traditional plotline.
The plot(as if a Rajni film needs one) narrates the story of rivalry between 2 kingdoms, Kottaipatinam ruled by Rishikodagan(Nasser) and Kalingpuri ruled by Raja Mahendra(Jackie Shroff).
Rana(Rajnikant), son of Legendary warrior, Kochadiyaan(Rajnikant) is the trusted Army Chief of Kottaipatinam. He is in love with
Rishikodigan’s daughter, Vadhana(Deepika Padukone). His histrionics in battle make him a favorite of the people in the city which irks the king. Is Rana the traditional good guy who battles for his king no matter what? Whose side is he on? What happened to his father? All these questions are answered in the film although a little haphazardly.
I have to give props to debut director, Soundarya Rajnikant Ashwin. It’s a commendable effort. The ending credits show a montage of behind the scenes footage that show how the film was made, is proof enough as to how much hard work has gone into this entire production. We all have wondered if Indian epics like Mahabharat and Ramayana can also be made on the scale of Lord of the Rings. Kochadaiyaan is the first step towards that dream. It’s wonderful to see traditional Indian dance sequences on an epic scale in a Motion Capture environment. A Rajni film has to have good dialogues, a couple of twists and turns with the hero coming on top from a horrible situation, some insane action sequences, some amazing songs and all the style associated with Thalaiva. They are all in abundance to be found here with many sequences that look good.
In the end it is fair to say that this is a Rajni film through and through with Rahman making his presence felt as well. Die hard fans will enjoy it no matter what (which is enough for the film to be termed a blockbuster), but others also have a lot to enjoy about this film if only they can forgive its out-dated motion capture 3D computer animation. Indian filmmakers should invest more time and effort and money on improving and perfecting this technology which would lead to many amazing films, I am sure.