Jayam Ravi: Tik Tik Tik has space shots that aren’t even in Hollywood Films
The actor opens up about ‘India’s first space film’which is getting released this Friday
Your last film with director Shakti Soundar Rajan was dubbed South India’s first zombie film. Now, Tik Tik Tik is being called India’s first space film. Do you guys set out to create such landmark films each time?
(Laughs) It’s not a conscious attempt, no. But there’s an attempt each time to do something very unique. We aren’t thinking in terms of records, just in terms of doing something engaging, something big. Before this film, Shakti had two scripts, one small and another big, as he put it. He wanted me to pick one. I told him to tell me the more challenging one, because these days, we can’t do as many films as we once did. Shakti and I realise that to bring audience to theatres, we need something bigger than reality.
I saw Tik Tik Tik’s poster and was quite heartwarmed by the idea of a Tamil actor playing an astronaut in space.
Thank you. We don’t see such posters in Indian cinema, do we? It was refreshing for us too. I keep doubling up as a viewer and a filmmaker when deciding to do such films. As it’s not a genre native to us, we were also keen that we not forget the Indian connection. That’s why there’s a father-son angle. Hollywood space films are often about one main idea. Here, there’s a lot more.
Indianising has a negative connotation when it comes to films, doesn’t it?
I admit that some clichéd elements were necessary for this film. But hey, emotion is cliché, is it not? It’s all about novelty in presentation. But let me assure you, we don’t sing and dance around in space. (Laughs)
What convinced you to hedge your bets on a space film?
I think Shakti’s conviction and clarity. Right at the outset, he told me that for scenes that had me touching objects in space, we’d put up sets. Where I wasn’t coming in contact, we would use CG. And hence, we put up the set of a spaceship. Stepping inside felt unreal… like you’re inside an actual spaceship.
How did you believe that the CG would be of desirable standards, especially at a time when our audience is exposed to the space films made in Hollywood?
Before the film, Shakti asked me if I’d seen Hollywood films of the 90s. I said I had seen films like Independence Day, Deep Impact, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He promised that the effects would be on par with such films. Anything more was dependent on the studio that did the work for us. Ajax Media, I must say, has given us visuals that are better than what we imagined. I think our film has made full use of their talent.
Space films and zero gravity shots go hand-in-hand. Sandra Bullock’s Gravity, for instance, used strings to shoot such scenes. What about you?
I read that Ron Howard — if I’m right — actually went into space to shoot a scene or two. We obviously couldn’t do that. (Laughs) So, yes, we used strings. Our stunt choreographer, Miracle Michael master, had his task cut out. This was quite unlike anything he’d done — or any stunt choreographer in India had done. The spaceship set was cramped, and so, the stunt team which was outside couldn’t be cued to release and move strings as the shots demanded. We struggled for a day or two before we figured the system out. In fact, I’m proud to say that lights were invented for this film. Cinematographer Venkatesh has done excellent work to shoot inside the spaceship set. All of this required immense patience and hard work.
There’s criticism sometimes when we try to unsuccessfully replicate a genre Hollywood is familiar with.
Yes, but I think the audience is smart enough to know when the team has genuinely tried to do something, as opposed to a team that is doing it for gimmick value. We have proved both with our teaser and trailer that this is no lackadaisical attempt. There’s not a single negative comment for both videos. That’s success enough. The audience, in fact, is rooting for our film. It’s a sincere effort, and that’s why there’s no dance master card in the credits.
There are certain staple shots in a space film — like an individual floating away untethered in space. The trailer of Tik Tik Tik had that shot too.
I hope you won’t think I’m boasting, but there are shots in this film that are in no Hollywood space film. And yes, there are some scenes that you would have already seen, but that’s on account of the constraint of what you can do as a filmmaker when making a space film. I hope the audience won’t think we have copied those ideas.
When doing most films, you have a fair sense of what to expect after having done your bit. Was it nerve-racking to not know how Tik Tik Tik, a VFX heavy film, would shape up?
It’s a good thing that I’m optimistic by nature. While dubbing, Tik Tik Tik felt like a different film entirely. I was in awe at many portions, and I think the audience will be too. It felt like someone else’s film for me — someone else’s good film, I mean. (Laughs)