Shakti Soundar Rajan: I like to stretch the possibilities of our cinema
Ahead of Captain's release on September 8, director Shakti Soundar Rajan talks about research, computer graphics, and challenges that make this a unique addition to his diverse filmography
Breaking new ground with every new film may be arduous for most filmmakers, but not for Shakti Soundar Rajan. The director, known for testing popular high-concept Hollywood genres in Tamil, believes he is drawn instinctively towards such inventive cinema. He has already made a zombie film (Miruthan), a space film (Tik Tik Tik) and a live-action animated film (Teddy), and now, he is all set with his next film, the Arya-starrer Captain that features a… minotaur! "I get offbeat, creative ideas that turn them into relatable films. Making films not based on the usual, excites me," Shakti says.
In Captain, the team has supposedly worked on sound effects for over three months to attain the ‘big-screen grandeur’. "With Captain, I want to provide the audience with a unique and immersive viewing experience by exploiting the cinematic experience to the fullest." Tapas Nayak, a well-known sound designer, has worked on the film's audiography. Shakti notes that Tapas created an oral landscape for the film that is designed to amplify the ‘immersive experience’, especially when seen in theatres equipped with Dolby Atmos' surround sound.
In Shakti's previous venture, Teddy, the head of the teddy bear was designed in CG. But for Captain, he has gone an extra mile to design the entire figure of a minotaur in CG. As it is a CG creature, the team shot the real-time scenes with a dupe fighter in place of the creature—which was replaced with a minotaur in post-production. The filmmaker, beaming with pride, reveals that the post-production work, including VFX, was completed at a Saligramam studio. "My frequent collaborator Arun Raj has handled the graphics for this film. With his confidence, we took this visionary leap and can assure you that it will be on par with the best technical standards in India."
While Sakthi's films are sometimes called Tamil replicas of Hollywood concepts, he is keen to clarify that his films don’t just deal with larger-than-life ideas but stand apart for being rooted. "Captain is a sci-fi action film without fantasy elements. Arya plays an army captain, Vetriselvan, and the story is about army personnel taking down a creature. We have established causes and reasons for every aspect. The film also reflects on emotions like love, friendship and more," he says.
The filmmaker also expresses his joy in collaborating with Arya for the second time after Teddy. Thankful for Arya’s support as a producer, the director also appreciates the actor’s ‘sportsman spirit’ in performing underwater sequences. "I had written risky deep-diving scenes and was anxious about cracking it right. All credit to Arya for making it work. Also, this is the first film in which I have got my ensemble dream cast: Aishwarya Lekshmi, Simran, Harish Uthaman, Kavya Shetty, and Gokul Anand, who all play pivotal roles.”
As the film is set against the backdrop of the Indian army, Shakti and the team had to do extensive research work to maintain authenticity. Retired military officer Aryan Jagan was apparently part of the team and advised on the body language of soldiers, as well as offering insights on the portrayal of military communication, decorum, costumes, badges, vehicles, and more. "We did not shoot even one scene without his presence. We also used his inputs to choreograph action sequences as we felt that film stunts may not fit in such a film," Shakti says.
There is a general belief that limited budgets for such VFX-intensive films result in unconvincing results. But Shakti, on the other hand, takes a different stance. "I choose to see the glass as half-full," he argues. "Even a Hollywood filmmaker with a million-dollar budget may have limitations. If you are focussing only on restrictions, your work, small or big, gets difficult. However, I feel that it is a blessing to be in this profession and make good films. So, I try and push the envelope of what's possible.”