The plot bends and curves in all the usual ways, leaving little room for surprise or intrigue. This is kindergarten storytelling, and director Soundarya Rajnikanth (the actor’s daughter) throws in noisy set pieces and elaborately staged musical numbers to hold your attention when the narrative doesn’t. A tandaav performed by Rajni Sr is nicely done, as is a seaborne action scene involving galloping horses and life-saving dolphins. But it all gets pretty tiresome pretty soon, and even AR Rahman’s rousing score can’t save the day. The problem with Kochadaiiyaan is clear. The focus here isn’t on telling a compelling story, but on celebrating the legend with these larger-than-life incarnations. As a result, the film will likely appeal to all hardcore fans of Thalaivar, but may leave most others cold.
Kochadaiiyaan, starring 64-year-old Tamil superstar Rajnikanth, isn’t likely to be mentioned in the same breath as James Cameron’s Avatar or Steven Spielberg’s Tintin film, although it was achieved using the same performance capture technology. The animation in Kochadaiiyaan is embarrassingly amateurish, but any comparison to those Hollywood blockbusters would be unfair, given that the budget of an Indian animation film is a mere fraction of what American studios spend on their products. Moreover, both Cameron and Spielberg perfected the technology over many years before embarking on their respective films.
What plagues Kochadaiiyaan then isn’t merely how it looks, but what it’s about. This mythological tale about an ancient warrior, Rana Rannvijay (Rajnikanth), the brave senapati of Kalingapuri who has unfinished business with the king of Kotaipattinam, is a typical saga of vengeance and honor. Rajnikanth himself also stars as Rana’s father Kochadaiiyaan in flashbacks, and Deepika Padukone is Rana’s childhood sweetheart Princess Vadhana, the daughter of Kotaipattinam’s king.
Whatever one makes of it, one must give both Rajnikanth and Soundarya props for effort. If the film doesn’t work, it’s not for lack of trying. I’m going with two out of five for Kochadaiiyaan. This one’s strictly for fans.