MUMBAI— Rajinikanth was there both in spirit and on-screen. The 3-D trailer shown to the media of “2.0” proved beyond doubt that we have a product of international standards in technology—at a fraction of their cost! Much less than a week before release (Nov. 29), Karan Johar, who distributes the all-India version through Dharma Productions, Akshay Kumar and writer-director Shankar held a media meet at PVR Juhu to have a chat with the media after showcasing both the trailer and a spectacular song featuring Rajinikanth and Amy Jackson.
Shankar, the whizkid behind “Enthiran” a.k.a. “Robot” (2010) and this sequel, came across as an extremely humble man who answered Karan Johar’s (who doubled up as anchor) and the media’s questions very simply. He stated that he was waiting to see how the audience is going to receive the film and hoped they would enjoy it.
When Johar lauded him for his vision and raved about the budgets (Rs 543 crore including marketing), Shankar replied, “I do not start with technology. It is about whatever my scripts demand, whether it is new technology or old. The setups needed a lot of time and budget, like the Cell-Man and the bird. The challenging part was in designing them and then giving them emotions. Emotions excite audience and are always more important than computer graphics,” he said.
Johar hinted at a core message underlying the film, and Shankar smiled and refused to let on what it was. “I should keep the surprise element. If I put myself in the audience’s place, as I always do, I want them to go to watch my movie, enjoy and be surprised!”
Shankar raved about Akshay Kumar. Calling their collaboration “Really great!” he was amazed by his discipline, performance, and commitment. “It would take him two and a half to four hours to get ready and another 90 minutes to remove his make-up, prosthetics, teeth, and the heavy costume. He had the biggest lens an eye could bear, and with all this, he shot at 40 degrees Celsius in New Delhi. And mind you, with all this torture he had to emote as well!”
With Rajinikanth, he said that the megastar merely became more and more humble and hard-working with age and every film they have done together – “Sivaji - The Boss” (2007), “Robot” and this one.”Everything Rajini-sir does attracts, even the simplest expression, word or sentence. He has so much style!”
Akshay Kumar raved that he had learned a lot “From day one.” When he went to Los Angeles, his whole body was scanned and measured, and he did not even know such things existed. “They have paid me a good sum, but I think I should have paid them!” he smiled.
“I am waiting to watch the film!” he added, echoing even Johar, who said that he too had yet not watched the movie. And though Shankar called his film “A fictional social sci-fi action thriller,” Kumar said, “It’s much more than that, as you will realize when you watch it.”
Kumar’s role, revealed Shankar, was earmarked for Arnold Schwarzenegger! After talks, dates too had been given, but Hollywood contracts were different from Indian ones, and they had to drop the idea. At that point of time, Kumar was to do the Hindi remake of “Kaththi” for Lyca Productions, the producers of “2.0,” and since a “good cast” was needed, someone suggested Akshay Kumar to Shankar. “The role has many shades. I narrated the script to him, and he immediately accepted it!” said the director.
About Rajinikanth, Kumar said that the one word that described Rajinikanth was “Humble.” The superstar said, “When we met some months back on stage, he told me, ‘This is not my movie, it is yours!’ Can you imagine that?”
India-West asked the director when he first thought (and how) about a sequel to “Robot?” He replied, “Everyone wanted a sequel as soon as ‘Robot’ became a hit! But I felt that we cannot make a sequel without the right story. The story should work, and you cannot make a movie for the sake of doing something for a brand that has become a hit. About four or five years back, I suddenly had this thought – of cellphones traveling! There was no reason for it. I wondered, ‘How will they travel? Why will they travel?’ And from there the story slowly evolved.”
(Everyone knows that “2.0” was originally slated to be released almost 18 months ago. The VFX caused inordinate delays until Shankar, and the producers shifted in January 2018 to Double Negative, the company associated with so many biggies, including the films made by Marvel). This correspondent also asked why Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, whose track had a happy ending in “Robot,” was missing from the sequel, as heroines tended to be always left out. “This is a different story from the triangular love story of Part 1,” replied Shankar. “There is a reference to her character, though, but she could not come in here.”
Johar hoped that he would be a part in future of every one of Shankar’s films, just like he had been for “Bahubali.” “I have not contributed even an inch of vision, creativity or execution to these films and it’s a quintessential case of ‘Chance pe dance’ that two of the largest spectacles of Indian cinema have the name of my company and me! So hopefully Dharma and I will go down alongside these films and their makers in history!” Shankar smilingly reminded him that it takes years to become a Karan Johar and that, thanks to him, the film will be watched across the country.
Johar added that the brave moves of South filmmakers and the way they get their emotions, technology, and scale bang-on makes Mumbai filmmakers feel inferior in a positive way. “Real crossover cinema should begin within our country!” he declared. “In Hindi cinema, in the last many years, the only epics have come from Sanjay Leela Bhansali!”
Kumar was then asked if he had got more offers from the South. He quipped, “Let the film release. They have to watch my performance. Only then will they approach me!”