When I called Vinci Raj, the designer who made the first two posters of Rajinikanth’s Kaala that were released on Thursday evening, he was travelling 350 km by bus from Bengaluru to Chennai. With Kabali and now Kaala, Raj has in fact, travelled much further, zooming into the big Kollywood league.
It was about a month ago that director Pa.Ranjith approached Raj with the concept for the posters.
“He gave me the freedom to experiment with the look and feel. The idea was not to make the background look good but to evoke the curiosity of the viewer about the movie, raising questions in his mind about what the storyline could possibly be,” says Raj.
The task before Raj was not easy. Kaala as a title has several interpretations and he needed to convey at least a few in the poster.
In Tamil, Kaala or Kaalan means Yama, the God of death. It also conveys black, which perhaps explains the choice of colour of his kurta.
Karikaalan was also the name of a Chola king, known for his wisdom and bravery. Which is why Karikaalan denotes courage and that comes through in the arrogance and swagger that Rajini conveys through his body language. And showing the world of Dharavi behind him is to emphasise that the gangster played by Rajinikanth lords over it.
When the two-day photo shoot for the posters took place in Chennai, Raj, a self-confessed Rajini fan says he had made sure he prepared the perfect lighting with a dummy artist before the Superstar arrived.
“The moment Rajini Sir walked in and posed, he owned the place,” gushes Raj. “He knows his audience and what they expect from him. Subsequently he saw the pictures and was very happy. Ranjith told me he was very pleased with the look and feel of the posters. I am blessed.”
Rewind to 2015 and Raj’s brush with Kabali and Kaala may never have happened. That year, Raj lost his memory for a few weeks after a road accident near Manipal in Karnataka. The one thing the 36-year-old strangely remembered was his craze for Rajinikanth movies, that he grew up watching. Which is why Raj believes that the Kabali offer from Ranjith was like a superior power paving the path for him to recover.
Treatment, the Rajini vazhi, thanee vazhi (The Rajini way, the unique way)
“I was in very bad shape. Even today, I do not remember time and dates very well. But Ranjith, for whose debut film Attakathi I had designed the posters, told me I want you to do Kabali. I got into it only for experiencing the Superstar’s aura first hand,” said Raj last year.
When the Kabali offer came, Raj requested Ranjith for a month to go back to his textbooks to re-learn his programming software lessons. At the end of which, Raj, who works as the creative head at an ad agency in Bengaluru, was set for his first rendezvous with the Superstar at the Kabali photoshoot.
“The intention was to give a realistic feel to Thalaivar, make the viewer relate to the ageing don in Malaysia,” recalled Vinci Raj.
Rajini was happy with the end result, and said “Kabali Vandutaan da” (Kabali has arrived) – his punch dialogue in the movie – when he saw the pictures. Vinci Raj had arrived as well.
Raj, whose films on road safety have won awards, has prepared ten posters for Kaala that will be released at periodic intervals.
It was Ranjith’s idea to include an indie mongrel on the bonnet with Rajinikanth. “If you notice, it does not have a collar. It is not a pet dog but a street animal. I personally do not approve of keeping dogs at home as it indicates human selfishness to keep the animal under control. Here it is part of the area that has been shown and also conveys a sense of power and masculinity,” explains Raj.
The bearded look and the colour tones make the two Kaala posters look similar to Kabali. Raj however, believes it is only because of the imagery of the aged look that Rajini sports.
More than two decades after Baasha, Rajini explores the Mumbai underworld space with Kaala. As he gets set to conquer it, Vinci Raj will be more than happy that he has conquered Rajini territory.