Dilani Rabindran



Kochadaiiyaan, Rajinikanth


Once upon a time, there were universal selling points for a Tamil film, known by the surnames of Rajinikanth, Rahman and Ravikumar. And although anything they touched usually turned to gold, they were never satisfied with the status quo. And so they leapt, right into the world of animated Indian films about royal kingdoms. Much like the proverbial dragon that stands in the way of victory, Kochadaiiyaan has had more than its fair share of production delays, however, most agree that the film will still rule the land when it releases soon and not only because of these particular knights in (silver screen) shining armor. Those who believe in fantasy and fairy tales, or those who have the mystic eye to spot the opportunity for cross-market revenue, can tell that Kochadaiiyaan will be a pioneering film in Indian cinema – one that could change the magical land of movies forever.

My favorite comments online after the trailer was released were the simple “appreciate the attempt”, amidst skeptical comparisons to Hollywood feats like Avatar, and I whole-heartedly agree. As India's first attempt at a motion capture feature film Soundarya and her team has already forged a path worthy of praise and produced a milestone film; what took tons of artists from India, Europe, USA and East Asia to create will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the Indian cinema's largest collaborative efforts. It also seems like a true fantasy to see the homegrown masters who have come together to create this film. With AR Rahman, Resul Pookutty, Rajiv Menon and Neeta Lulla behind the scenes the film is guaranteed to be a queenly feast for the eyes and ears. Naturally this veritable royal court of a crew helped secure arguably the most prominent fusion of Hindi and Tamil mega stars to date, yet another record. From the reigning Super Star to Bollywood's darling Deepika Padukone to veterans Nassar, Shobhana and Jackie Shroff - there are names to please every generation.


And like the piece of the puzzle that fits in just right, it makes sense that one of Tamil cinema’s most creative scribes, K.S. Ravikumar, is the one who crafted the story that brought all these artists together. If what he has written for the medium of animation and genre of folklore is on par with the mass and critical appeal of his past screenplays then we have ourselves the chance for a revolution: an animated film of the fantasy genre to entertain all ages and sweep the mainstream South Indian market similar to how shows like Game of Thrones did in the west for scripted television.


The fantasy genre in Tamil cinema has not found much success lately, even when the technology for creating magical kingdoms for the screen is more accessible. I refuse to believe that the audience is disinterested, when series like Harry Potter do well in every international market, and with the talent we have in our film industry it’s not as though we lack capable filmmakers. The true reason for the lack of films, I believe, is that the few attempts at fantasy to date have been met with poor return on investment, but I think Kochadaiiyaan has the key elements they did not. Ours is an industry that applauds originality but studios aren’t willing to risk millions of dollars just for the sake of being brave. But all it takes is one major success to invoke change, and Kochadaiiyaan looks like it could be that one. Maybe this is the real fantasy launch that South Indian cinema needed to inspire today’s directors to breathe life into fairy tales – a film backed by sheer magnitude, written by someone well versed in entertaining all ages, and chalk full of stars and award-winning technicians to draw in audiences who wouldn’t normally be attracted to “Once Upon a Time’s…”. Perhaps this is also the movie that helps prove not all animation is equivalent to children’s cartoons. As we heard from Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj, “Kochadaiiyaan is the first movie in India to use [such] cutting edge technology… which according to me will engage children and parents alike”.


When other Western entertainment concepts have been adapted in India with great success, maybe the majesty of Kochadaiiyaan will inspire more films like it, or even India’s own version of a successful TV series with witches, wizards, and magical lands. With our love of grandeur and heightened melodrama I feel like we’ve always craved enchantment, even in our non-fantasy films (we certainly crave the happily ever after’s). Also, the potential for cross-market revenue on series akin to shows like Game of Thrones far surpasses those of our everyday action flicks. Just how a fantasy film with the right story can reel in adults, a fantasy film that kids enjoy can cross over into action figurines and video game platforms and offer multiple markets to appeal to consumers; and animated films are often times much more likely to be adapted into TV series. Kochadaiiyaan is already proving these points with its reported mobile game development deals.


This could be the movie that brings new life to the fantasy genre and propels mainstream animated feature films in India, especially with Ravikumar weaving a wide-appealing story and a masterful crew painting it for our imagination. Soon we’ll be able to tell if India is ready for its own ‘magical market’ and if audiences are ready to accept animated avatars of their favorite stars more often.In fantasy and fiction, kings typically lead revolutions and decree changes; they take their people in a new direction or navigate a kingdom through a fluctuating environment. Who’s to say that the animated ‘King with the long curly mane’ won’t do the same when he storms screens in a few short weeks…

Written by Dilani Rabindran | @dilani_r

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