Rajinikanth will be 71 on December 12. On screen, the actor does not appear to be over 40. So how does the ordinary man-looking Superstar continue to look like a superhero on screen, defying the laws of nature? His set back hairline and wrinkled skin, which the actor makes no effort to hide in real life, just don’t do the trick on screen. On screen we still see the Thalaivar with a full head of hair and smooth skin, sprinting energetically, flipping sunglasses as easily as he did in the 90s. How?
Strong as a whip! Rajinikanth in 90s movie stills (Photo: Getty Images)
Actor and film historian Mohan Raman, also a member of the National Film Award jury for best film writing, has an interesting point of view. “If you buy a house with a solid foundation, the painting is just exterior work,” attesting that Rajinikanth may have support, but the actor does the heavy lifting. “How did he do that? Well, the body might be old, but the mind has to be simple and young for that, and Rajinikanth has done it over the years. You can ask a makeup artist to make you look younger, but can you do that to your mind? ” Probe him a little more about “makeup” and “the mind,” and Mohan Raman reveals that “yoga” and “spirituality” are Rajinikanth’s trade secret. “At 70 the body will be different from what it was at 40. Rajini sir knows that. Maybe back then he could sprint 10 km, but now he can only manage 1 km. is therefore configured in such a way that the right photo can be taken within 1 km, ”he adds.
In addition to crediting Rajinikanth himself, Mohan Raman will also credit the “fine art, cinematography and makeup” trinity for making him look like he looks on screen. “Is it important to paint the house red or green? Mohan Raman concludes with the same “solid foundation” analogy he started with.
Costume designer Anu Vardhan, who has worked with Rajinikanth on Kaala and Kabali aside from other great actors in big movies, starts off by saying how much fun it is to work with the Superstar. “I’ve worked in two films with him before. In Kabali the look was all western with costumes, whereas in Kaala it was just the opposite – there were veshtis (dhotis) and he had to look like someone from a rural background It was a pleasure working with him, “she smiles. Poll her in the team of makeup artists who work on Rajini’s looks in the movies – be it prosthetic makeup artists or visual effects experts – and she says, “What? There is nothing like it, it’s his own skin, “she concludes, with a slight bias in her tone.
Rajinikanth during Enthiran’s promotions in 2010. Notice the movie poster behind and you’ll know how determined he is not to wear makeup, even at movie promotion events. (Photo: Getty Images)
Legend has it that early in his career, Rajini was so meticulous about his hair that he wouldn’t let makeup artists touch it. He would just run his fingers through his hair and he would be ready to pull. Apparently, it wasn’t until 1976 for Mooodru Mudichu that he allowed someone to touch his hair with a comb, and in 1977, for Avargal, he finally tried hair gel. Eventually, although the actor remained in good spiritual and physical shape, he needed help in other departments. In an old interview, R Sundaramurti, former makeup artist for Rajinikanth, reveals that until 2005, Rajinikanth’s original hair was styled, with a few natural patches added. Then “specialized wigs were flown or Rajinikanth flown for wig sessions” for his films.
The legend also goes that Rajinikanth did not have any wrinkles before the age of 50. But over the past two decades, the wrinkles he developed were quickly treated with makeup or visual effects, correction or digital enhancement. Like, for example, when Rajinikanth had to look “clear” for Sivaji: The Boss (2007). The skin of a European dancer has been digitally grafted onto Rajinikanth, meticulously in over 9,000 scanned images for all 630 shots. Other than that, makeup artists will attest that Rajinikanth didn’t need any help. It was only “the things around him” that had to be worked on using special effects.
The truth, no matter how much you might want to keep it, is very different. A video, which shows Rajinikanth’s Enthiran look under construction, is nothing short of a sci-fi movie itself. First, there is the 3D scan that builds the actor’s face and body, and the rest is just built digitally. Of course, not all movies have the kind of budget that Enthiran had. In this case, it may be necessary to fall back on prosthetic makeup.
Think of Amitabh Bachchan in 102 and you will know how actors tend to look older than their age on screen. This is, of course, the job of prosthetic makeup. And likewise, the reverse is also possible. Award-winning hair, makeup and prosthetics character creator Preetisheel Singh D’souza who was instrumental in creating Big B’s look reveals the process – and that’s about what you got seen in the video above. “The prosthesis has many parts. You first take the actor’s life model in 3D measurement, after which you sculpt and make molds, passing silicone parts through them. The silicone parts are then applied. on the actor and fused with the actor’s skin so it doesn’t look artificial. So tomorrow if a filmmaker shows up and needs an alien creature, we can do it, ” she says.
“Having said that, it is very difficult to perform prosthetics in India, mainly due to the lack of supplies of FX equipment. So it is always important to stock up whenever possible,” concludes -she.
Rajinikanth offscreen without makeup (R – Photo: Getty Images), Rajinikanth in Darbar, released in 2020 (L)
Renowned visual effects artist and producer Venkatasubramanian when asked about prosthetic makeup and visual effects, used to enhance an actor’s look, said: “Today, the lines are blurring between digital avatars ( CGI) and realism. We are moving towards visual renderings where it is impossible to tell the difference between digital avatars and realism. Tools such as metahuman are available that will blow your mind by achieving looks that are close to the real thing. Digital human forms will ultimately be widely used to keep our heroes of yesteryear alive onscreen for many, many years to come. Rajinikanth looks consistent in all of his movies, and it’s still a combination of CGI, VFX, and makeup. “
Banu, an established artist in Tamil cinema who is currently working with Rajinikanth and worked on her look in Enthiran (2010), Sivaji: The Boss and Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), declined to comment when we contacted her.
Several other people we contacted for comment either gushed at the mere mention of visual effects or denied the insinuation that such tools had ever been used, but unanimously wanted to remain anonymous. We all know what Rajinikanth looks like in person and what he looks like on screen, and how the on-screen and off-screen disparity has only increased over the years. But then it is the Rajinikanth phenomenon. That’s what makes him Thalaivar.
(With contributions from K Janani and Tushar Joshi)
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