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Monday, October 18, 2010

Endhiran Facts, So Curious!!!

With the opening weekend gross alone being Rs 90 crore, he has also proved himself worthy of the tag of being Asia's second highest paid actor at Rs 45 crore. Whether it is shooting down policemen as the evil robot with the memorable Terminator-like line, 'Happy Diwali, folks,' or wooing Aishwarya with copies of A Briefer History of Time and Freakonomics, the hero-of-10-wigs has proved himself irresistible to all psychographics, young and old, MIT alumni and Mylapore maamis, urban sophisticates and rural fanatics.

Part urban legend now with the 99 Rajinikanth jokes (a sample, water boils faster when Rajinikanth stares at it) and part global phenomenon (The Robot has become India's highest grossing opening weekend film in the US at $2.5 million), he has established that he is The Superstar, with a box office collection surpassing India's biggest hit so far, 3 Idiots. A superstar who draws fans to the first day, first show of his film at 3 a.m. in Chennai's Rohini theatre; whose film has had the widest release across 3,000 screens worldwide; whose movie tickets were sold for up to $40 in some US theatres during the opening weekend; and whose releases are greeted with special prayers, milk abhishekams and public tonsuring, Rajinikanth proves that no matter where you are from (a Kannadiga who speaks Marathi) or how you began in life (as a bus conductor), success can be grasped faster than he can utter his "punch" dialogues.

For Sun Pictures, who spent Rs 200 crore on production and marketing, it was a trophy project. Sun Network Chairman Kalanithi Maran wanted a Tamil film for the international audience with an "international" standard, says Hansraj Saxena, COO, Sun Pictures. "After Eros's Ayngaran International pulled out because of the recession and there were no takers for Endhiran, Maran took on the project. He was sure he would get back the money he invested," says Tamil writer Vaasanthi.

Sun's marketing muscle, enveloping the state in surround sound, helped. Sun Pictures is part of the Sun TV network, which owns a dozen newspapers and magazines, 21 TV channels, 43 FM radio stations and controls 30 per cent of movie theatres in Tamil Nadu. Sun Network channels-Sun TV, K TV and Gemini TV-have been running trailers, its magazines like Kungumam, newspaper Dinakaran and the evening daily Tamil Murasu have done cover stories, and even the film's five-minute trailer, released in over 20 per cent theatres in Tamil Nadu, ran housefull at Rs 120 a ticket. Everything was to be done bigger and better, whether it was A.R. Rahman's music, Resul Pookutty's sound or Stan Winston Studio's special effects, making it a milestone in Indian cinema.

What's more, the film was smartly pre-sold. The Hindi theatrical rights were sold to Manohar Prasad's Gemini Film Circuit for Rs 23 crore, Telugu rights to Thota Kanna Rao of Sri Krishna Traders for Rs 27 crore, Kannada and Malayalam for Rs 14 crore, the Tamil overseas rights for Rs 17 crore, the music rights for Rs 10 crore, home video in all languages for Rs 17 crore, and tv rights for Rs 25 crore.

In Tamil Nadu, Sun Pictures retained the distribution rights, while in Chennai it sold them to a trusted lieutenant of dmk leader M. Karunanidhi, T. Nagar District Secretary J. Anbhazhagan, for Rs 27 crore. With a projected Tamil theatrical box office revenue of Rs 88 crore, the film will make more than a tidy profit. With 3,000 screens multiplied by four shows a day and at least 500 seats per show, the number of people who watched The Robot nationwide on opening day was an astounding 15 lakh. Add to all this Rs 20 crore earned by the Sun Network channels from the movie's promotional programmes, with ad costs averaging Rs 35,000 for 10 seconds.

This story is simple enough. It's the war between man and machine. Rajinikanth is Vazikaran, the Cornell and Stanford trained scientist who creates Chitti, a robot who will replace soldiers, by acting and thinking like a human. But he falls in love with Aishwarya, a medical student named Sana, who is already in love with Vazikaran. Naturally there is an evil Green Goblin kind of scientist, Bohra, played by Danny, who wants to exploit this weakness in Chitti's silicon heart.

The last 40 minutes is a real celebration for Rajini fans, as he struts on screen as Chitti, upgraded version 2.0, enjoying his wickedness, morphing from snake to giant man to enormous tower in one breath, intent on creating a new species, Robo sapiens. Industry sources say around Rs 50 crore was spent on the last 40 minutes and Rs 3 crore was spent for Rajinikanth's make-up alone. The sets for the climax cost Rs 5 crore. Beats zari borders and San Francisco skylines anytime.

For all its lightness of spirit and comic book humour, The Robot is also a triumph of technology. Domes light technology has been used to shoot 3D images of Rajinikanth for the first time to match the skin tone lighting for both the human and the Rs 4.8-crore robot. The camera report for the entire movie runs to around 1,600 pages and 40 per cent of the budget of the film has been spent on special effects.

"There are 1,500 CG shots in the film, of which 200 are complicated shots. Twenty-two scenes of the movie have been shot using animatronics and special make-up," says director Shankar, who last worked with Rajinikanth on Sivaji: The Boss. Everything is in excess. Fifty-seven costumes for Aishwarya and 55 for Rajinikanth were designed by Mary E. Vogt; dance moguls like Prabhu Deva, Raju Sundaram and Lawrence Raghavendra choreographed the five songs; and the locations varied from Vienna to Machu Picchu in Peru. Having raised the bar with The Robot, Rajinikanth will now have to do bigger and better. "After Chandramukhi in 2005, he was a superstar not just for Kollywood but also a top actor for the international audience," says software professional Simply Sundar, who also runs a fansite devoted to Rajinikanth. The actor's registered fan base has now crossed two crores, with 50,000 registered fan clubs and 50,000 unregistered.

In keeping with the apolitical nature of Endhiran, Rajinikanth has made it clear that politics is not his next act. He may have gone to meet Bal Thackeray during his Mumbai visit, but all he will publicly say about what is next is that he is planning a holiday. So it seems is Sun Pictures. With no direct productions in the pipeline, it intends to acquire distribution rights of the Rs 38-crore Vijay-starrer Kavalan. Topping the man who can divide by zero or drown a fish, as the jokes go, will not be easy.
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