[Cast: Rajinikanth, Deepika Padukone, Nasser, Sarath Kumar, Shobana, Rukmini, Aadhi; Music: A R Rahman; Direction: Soundarya Rajinikanth]

We have seen several high-quality motion-capture animation techniques in the past. Some of them we didn’t even know were executed using the motion-capture technique. Take Gollum for example. That wretched schizophrenic character in The Lord of the Rings is actually created using the motion-capture technique. I bet you didn’t know that the character which refers to itself as ‘we’ was a graphic character, did you? Well, what about the world a motion captured film inhabits? We know the entire fictional universe of Pandora resides only in a computer. But when we watched it we were so awestruck that we would have sworn that Pandora was shot somewhere in New Zealand or Africa.

That’s what successful creative graphics does to you. It makes you believe that Gollum was indeed a real person or that Pandora was shot in real locations. Some films create different illusions. Did you know that more than half of the locations of Harry Potter films were shot using table-top models?

Armed with all this when you venture out to watch a motion-capture film made in Tamil, you do go with reduced expectations. You know that you won’t get to see a character as much flesh and blood as Gollum or the world as richly textured as Pandora or Hogwarts. But then how about creating a world a little bit more detailed than the Call of Duty or the characters a bit more realistic than Grand Theft Auto? Decent expectations would you say?

It’s quite clear that a lot of efforts have been put in to make Rajini look as real as possible, but even that doesn’t measure up. Don’t even get me started on the other characters. Worse, none of them look at you. Their eyes, oh the eyes! We need them to have a clear focus of the eyes to convey the emotion and provide the perspective. In Kochadaiyaan even Rajini’s eyes don’t focus, but look only in approximation. It’s far less focused than even in Grand Theft Auto, which, for a computer game, is far more richly detailed.

To make things worse, a lot of scenes take place in the night. Now, remember, this is a period film which is not supposed to have electricity so already you’re compromising on your graphics quality and detailing in a night shot. And the director should have known that a 3-D glass is supposed to dim the effect further. So, when you make a 3-D film, you either keep as much bright lighting possible, which means plan a lot of day-time scenes or restrict the film into 2-D. When you decide to make a 3-D film with a lot of night scenes, then you need to ensure that the shots are well detailed and not hazy. Doesn’t happen.

The pity is Kochadaiyaan has a very interesting story. A typical story of royal intrigue, war, vengeance and redemption; it has an intricately layered story and screenplay. At least as layered as possible for a Tamil film. Fortunately that’s what keeps you engaged with the film. So much so that, after a point, you decide to neglect the CG disturbance and follow the developments in the story. With enough twists and surprises, the writer ensures that you are not bored. Of course, if you are willing to discount the songs that occur every ten minutes, making you wonder if you’re watching a Sooraj Bharjatya musical. Except a couple, most songs doesn’t help progress the plot so that drags it as well. It must be difficult enough to make a motion capture film in a reduced budget, with having to represent the faces of real actors, but the director makes her life even more difficult by by having to make them dance to a tune! Deepika Padukone’s dance in the duet brings out unintended laughter among the audience. And why is Deepika looking so ugly? Is that how she really looks? And the stunt sequences are so quick, fast with much reduced lighting (or increased dust cloud) that you don’t really get to marvel at it. Contrast that with that famous chase sequence in Tin Tin.

Some of the deficiencies of the first time director were visible in abrupt editing and narrative approaches. Some scenes happen too quickly and some take forever. Some develop quite abruptly too. Thank god she had Rahman to save her with some of the energetic background score that we forgot to notice many of those jump cuts.

Despite all this, the film was quite engaging to watch purely due to the strength of its story and, of course, the presence of Rajinikanth, however virtual that presence could have been. We only wish if this was a live action film. Or if this was made as live action with Rajinikanth’s role alone ‘inserted’ like that of Gollum’s! We likes it sirs, we wants it!