Sivaji () is a 2007 Tamil political thriller film directed by S. Shankar and produced by AVM Productions. Rajinikanth and Shriya Saran played the lead roles, with Suman, Vivek and Raghuvaran playing other significant roles in the film. A. R. Rahman composed the film's soundtrack and background music, while Thotta Tharani and K. V. Anand were the creative art director and cinematographer respectively.
The film revolves around a well-established software systems architect, Sivaji, who returns home to India after finishing work in the United States. On his return, he dreams of giving back to society with free medical treatment and education. However his plans face a roadblock in the form of the highly affluent and influential businessman, Adiseshan. When corruption also arises, Sivaji is left with no option but to fight the system in his own way.
After post-production delays, it was released worldwide on June 15, 2007 in Tamil, and subsequently released in Telugu as a dubbing version on the same date. The film, which released in many theaters worldwide, was also dubbed in Hindi, which released on January 8, 2010. The industry estimated the budget was about 60 crore and the film grossed 160 crore worldwide. Additionally, satellite rights for Sivaji have been sold for 4 crore to Kalaignar TV, ultimately enjoying phenomenal success across the globe.
The film begins in medias res, with a masked person being brought to the Central Jail in Chennai, India. When asked by a fellow-inmate for the reasons behind his imprisonment, the masked person replies that he is imprisoned for attempting to do good for the people. The unmasked person is revealed to be Sivaji (Rajinikanth). The story then winds into a flashback that shows him returning from the United States as a software systems architect to Chennai. He brings with him earnings of up to 200 crore, with an intention to begin a charity organization called the Sivaji Foundation. This organization has the aim of building hospitals and educational institutions to serve the poor without any charge. However, he faces the obstacles of bureaucracy and corrupt officials. Forced to set aside his principles, Sivaji bribes his way through the system. Though at one stage, unable to deal with spiraling costs, he even mortgages his palatial house and personal property in the process. Adiseshan (Suman), a highly influential businessman, sees Sivaji Foundation as competition to his own business empire. Using his political strings, he repeals the permits issued to the foundation by the government. Sivaji approaches a lawyer, using his own car to pay the lawyer's fee. However in court he is forced to admit he bribed numerous officials. This undermines his case and the judge reiterates the stay order on construction by the Sivaji Foundation.
Meanwhile, Sivaji falls in love with a girl named Tamizhselvi (Shriya). Her family is initially scared and angered by the overbearing nature of Sivaji's family, though they eventually accede to Sivaji's request for Tamizhselvi's hand in marriage after a lot of persuasion. However upon asking for his horoscope; the astrologer predicts impeding doom leading up to Sivaji's death if the two are united. When Tamizhselvi refuses the proposal due to her concern for Sivaji, he calms her fears and manages to convince her to marry him.
Adiseshan mocks Sivaji and gives him a one-rupee coin, challenging him to try to survive with just that. In an ironic plot twist using the very coin, Sivaji sets out to turn around his fortunes and ultimately exact his revenge on Adiseshan. Through just one phone call, paid for with the coin. He estimates that there is about two thousand million INR of illegal, untaxed money within the nation. He then uncovers details about people who have substantial quantities of illegal money and then blackmails each of them, obtaining half of their illegal wealth. Upon transferring the money to bank accounts (owned by friends and contacts) around the world, Sivaji informs the Income Tax Investigation and Vigilance Department about the details of the illegal money held by the tax evaders (including Adiseshan),they are arrested by the IT department and brought to court. Sivaji's associates deposit the money sent across the world as donations to the Sivaji Foundation making the money legitimate and usable by the foundation. Sivaji begins to realize his dream of providing free, good quality education, services and employment to people in every district of Tamil Nadu. His adversaries seek to find out how he converted their illegal money to a usable form by threatening Tamizhselvi with danger to Sivaji's life. Fearing for him, she turns over his notebook PC with all the information regarding the various money transactions to the Income Tax authorities. With presentable evidence, Sivaji is arrested and the scene returns to the beginning of the film with Sivaji in central prison.
Adiseshan loses control when Sivaji refuses to open his laptop and assaults him in custody with a metal rod. In the process it seems Sivaji has died from the sustained injuries. To cover this up, Adiseshan organizes for thugs to shoot up the police van that will carry Sivaji's dead body. Making it look like murder by a third party. Sivaji however was merely faking his death, he was informed of the plans to kill him by a sympathetic police officer prior to the interrogation. Left alone in the room, he electrocutes himself. Dr. Chezhian (Raghuvaran) and Tamizhselvi intercept the police van (informed by Sivaji after he got the police man's own warning) and manage to cart away Sivaji's 'dead' body under the cover of a coach before the thugs could open fire. In Sivaji's stead they plant a dummy. While everyone believes that Sivaji is dead, Dr. Chezhian revives him using a defibrillator. After a few days when everyone wonders about the future of Sivaji Foundation, the revived Sivaji returns to take control over the foundation in a disguise of a friend, M.G. Ravichandran (N.T. Ranga Rao in Telugu, A. Bachchan in Hindi). Though Adhiseshan realizes that it is Sivaji himself, he is unable to prove this to the police due to the tangible evidence of Sivaji's death. Ravichandran promises to avenge Sivaji's death and eventually manages to corner Adhiseshan and challenge him. After their fight, Adiseshan is killed in a stampede. As a conclusion, the audience are informed of the foundation's success and fulfillment of Sivaji's dreams. An epilogue shows India becoming a top country in the future due to the Sivaji's plans.
The key people involved with the film - (from left to right) Actress Shriya Saran, director Shanker, producer AVM Saravanan, actor Rajinikanth and producer M.S. Guhan at the film's beginning. The first filming schedule was at AVM Studios situated in Chennai, India on November 28, 2005. The film's launch was a secret event, with only pivotal members of the cast and crew being called for attendance for the event. Shooting began at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad and the first shot taken was the Vaaji Vaaji song.
About the leading lady for the film, there were initial speculations on who would essay the role. Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherji, Ayesha Takia, Trisha, Nayantara and Jyothika were rumored to bag the role. However, the air was cleared when Shankar and Rajinikanth announced that Shriya Saran would essay the role as Rajinikanth's love interest. The voice of Kanika, an actress, was used as a voice-over for Shriya. Actress Sunaina was signed up to make a special appearance in the film. The scene was later deleted and her role was left uncredited; the same occurred for Vinu Chakravarthy.
Names of Mohanlal, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Nana Patekar and Prakash Raj cropped up for the portrayal of the antagonist's role in the film. In March 2006, Suman was confirmed as the person selected to play the role of Adiseshan. The director, Shankar, realized that Suman lacked the wry smile needed for his character. This conspicuous smile of Adiseshan was made possible with a denture. It was Shankar's idea again to adorn the character with spotless dhoti, shirt, shoes, a Rolex watch and Ray Ban sunglasses. Prior to this, Suman had acted with Rajinikanth in Thee (1981).
In early 2006, a magazine came out with a cast list that included mimicry artists, Cochin Haneefa, Chinni Jayanth and Mayilsamy. The names of support cast for the film was released in a phased manner. By mid-2006, Manivannan, M. S. Baskar, Livingston, Vadivukarasi, Pyramid Natarajan, Uma Padmanabhan, Pattimandram Raja, Vannakam Thamizhuzhagam Revathi, Solomon Pappayya, Muthukaalai, Nellai Siva, Bose Venkat and M'Sia Prabhu were selected for the film.
Sketches by Thotta Tharani for the Sahana song In 2005, Chennai's oldest operative studio, AVM Productions, which was run by M. S. Guhan and M. Saravanan, approached Shankar in making a film under their production house. Utilizing the budget available from AVM, Rajinikanth was signed for the film. After consulting Sivaji Ganesan's family to avoid any issues with the film's name, the project was subsequently announced in August 2005. The film was eventually named Sivaji, after Rajinikanth's name at birth - Sivaji Rao Gaekwad with a tagline, The Boss.
The art director, Thotta Tharani suggested the use of Ramoji Film City to the director. The Vaaji Vaaji song was picturized with an intention to showcase a Babylonian palace. The Sahana song was sort of a challenge to Tharani. After listening to the lyrics of the song which speaks of the four seasons, Tharani thought of using the idea he used in Japan. He made use of acrylic and glass with the former on the floor to allow dance movements. K. V. Anand, the cinematographer, seemed to have a tough time in lighting up these sets made of glass. Once he had the sketches and the idea ready, the technicians at the Film City created the sets. Tharani believed that the coordination with Anand was important. Tharani contributed to similar creations for the music shop where Tamizhselvi worked as a saleswoman, and the scene here being followed up with a fight sequence in an open-air theater. Tharani's sketches and ideas came out in the form of a set of paintings titled, Unsung.
The fair look of Rajinikanth's character in the film was through a year's effort using computer-generated imagery which was performed by a Chennai-based firm. The color tone of one of the British dancers in the background of the Style song was used by these technicians. French hair-stylist Sandrin Veriar Seth designed two different and distinct hair-styles for the regular film and 13 hair-styles for one of the songs. Shankar had already completed filming one song when Manish Malhotra was approached for designing Rajinikanth's wardrobe. He was responsible for not just the regular costumes but also accessories such as shoes and jackets.
Brinda choreographed the Balleilakka song in Wai, a hill station near Pune with hundreds of people for eight days. Shooting problems due to Rajinikanth's following in his native Tamil Nadu prompted them to choose Wai for the song.
Rajinikanth used his political affiliations to screen the film for several politicians. Rajinikanth flew to Hyderabad to showcase the film for the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, on June 14, 2007. At the screening, Rajinikanth told the media that he would invite the Chief Minister, Rajasekhara Reddy, for a special viewing as well. Rajinikanth said that he had screened the film to current and former Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers, Dr. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, respectively, and that India's Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, was also keen to watch the film. A private screening was shown to Amitabh Bachchan, as well.
The film was supposed to be released on the Tamil New Year's day, April 14, 2007. With post-production delays, the film was released worldwide on June 15, 2007. The Indian censor board certified the film on May 17, 2007 with minor screen and dialogue cuts, although the exact details of these cuts were not officially revealed.
Worldwide, the film was estimated to have been released in about 750 screens and opened to near full opening. Sivaji was released in 16 theaters in Chennai and is reported to have collected 13.5 million INR within the first four days, a record of sorts for Tamil films. The film was released in 303 screens in Tamil Nadu, 300 screens in Andhra Pradesh; 12 screens in North India and 145 screens across the rest of the world. The film also debuted well in Kerala and in Bangalore. Despite protests from pro-Kannada groups, the film debuted in 13 theatres. In the national capital, New Delhi, the film debuted on 4 screens in PVR Cinemas. Based on what the distributors claim, there was "overwhelming response to the film", with the number of screens increasing to 12 by the second week. The film made a good debut in the nation's other metros as well such as Mumbai and Kolkata. Even in non-traditional markets for Tamil films like Pune and Baroda, the film made had a good opening. On July 15, 2007, AVM Productions, the producers of the film, announced their decision to dub the film in Hindi because "the response has been phenomenal for the movie". The dubbed version released on January 8, 2010 in India, almost three years after the release of the original version.
Internationally, Sivaji had good screenings in Malaysia with reports of the film causing a riot to break out in three states due to delays and cancellations of the screenings. The film eventually was released in residential suburb by a local minister, it gross 8 million in Malaysia, Sivaji made a debut with 150 screenings of the film in Singapore. In Sri Lanka, the film debuted across 70 theatres with all 700 shows running at near 100% capacity. In the Persian Gulf that contains a sizeably large Indian diaspora, the film opened to a full house. Owing to the enthusiasm, a non-profit organization distributed 1000 tickets to laborers and domestic help across Dubai enabling them to watch the film.
In Canada, the film released in 10 screens in 3 major cities along with special screenings for the Tamil diaspora in the smaller cities. It also became the first Tamil film to be screened for over 100 consecutive days in Toronto at two Cineplex theatres. In United Kingdom, the film debuted on the box-office list at # 9 with earnings of about 14000 per screen - the highest screen average in 2007. It was the first South Indian film to enter UK Top 10. In United States, Sivaji was released in 24 theaters with subsequent additions of 19 and 21 theaters for the Tamil version and Telugu version respectively. The producers of the film claimed that the film was going to be dubbed in Chinese and Japanese by Ayngaran International, the holder of international rights of the film. The response in Cape Town was disappointing, while the box-office collections in Johannesburg and Durban allowed it to become the first Tamil film to feature in the South African box-office top 10. Singapore Airlines bought a 3-month exclusive in-flight screening rights to the film, a first for the airline for any Tamil film.
In the United Kingdom, 13 seconds of the film was cut as the original film showed Rajinikanth throwing a firecracker into his mouth, lighting it and then spitting it out at Pattimanram Raja. This was done to enable the film to have a 12A rating, while the Ayngaran UK DVD release was uncut and was given an 18 rating by the BBFC. It was also the first Tamil film to be genuinely released on a 1080p High Definition Blu-ray disc.
The Hindu, in a review about the story, said that the lead character carrying out a rebellion against corruption was something "not be true to life". It concluded by saying that "the story sags towards the end". It, however, went on to appreciate the performances of the prominent actors, the soundtrack, art direction, photography and the animation from the film. Another review from The Hindu, a month after the film's release, said that the film "... presents an effective diagnosis of entrenched corruption but the rather disturbing remedy it offers is, good old vigilantism." It concluded by saying that, though the film did well at the box-office, the message of rejecting the corrupt system instead of reforming it was troubling. Hindustan Times review said that the director, Shankar, was not creative enough for the film and added this by saying "Sivaji turns out to be a rehash of all his previous jingoistic claptrap efforts". It appreciated the other technical departments and suggested a good response at the box office. The Times of India had a similar review about the story saying that "it had nothing new to offer" but promised it to be entertaining.
One review from Rediff.com summed the film by saying, "No logic, only Rajni's magic". About the story, it says, "Unfortunately, (the) message is lost in the maze of illogical and sometimes absurd sequences". The review, however, praises the performances of Rajinikanth, Shriya and Vivek and the technical crew. A review from an entertainment portal appreciated the performances of the prominent actors and ingenuity of certain portions of the script. It, however, pointed out a couple of unconvincing instances in the script with the review eventually suggesting better screenplay and a complaint on the length of the film. Another such portal thoroughly praised the plot, performances and other departments but ended snubbing the crude graphics at times. A vernacular entertainment portal, referring to Rajinikanth, says that the film is "... an absolute celebration of one man who can make millions feel good about life just by walking in elegance, by stroking his hair, or just by being there on screen. It goes to praise Vivek's comical interludes and adds by saying "though defying superhuman powers, the fights choreographed by Peter Heinz, and the extremely lavish sets created by Thotta Tharani stand out. Camera work of K. V. Anand is first rate throughout, Antony's editing crisp and Sujatha's dialogues are rock solid." A. R. Rahman's score and Shankar's directorial abilities were also lauded in the review.
The film attracted criticism and litigation, including accusations of plagiarism and defamation. Jaya Rajadevan, one of the film's assistant directors, sought an injunction in civil court to stop screening of the film for alleged plagiarism. Rajadevan claimed that he had written the film's story and had discussed it with Shankar's manager in 2005. Although the court sent notices to S. Shankar, among others, the screening of the film was not stopped.
M. Satyamoorthy, on July 9, 2007, also sought to stop screening of the film, alleging that it defamed the Indian National Congress, a political party, as well as its President, Sonia Gandhi, and the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh. Satyamoorthy cited a scene in which portraits of Gandhi and Singh are visible behind Adiseshan's (the villain's) chair, implying he was a member of the Indian National Congress. Satyamoorthy also claimed 500 million INR in damages from the film's producer, director and lead actor to be paid to the Tamil Nadu section of the party.
A month and a half prior to the film's official soundtrack release, three songs from the soundtrack were leaked into the Internet. The songs, however, were only unofficial with low quality, where the official versions were composed slightly different and sung by different artists.
- 2008 National Film Awards
- 2008 Filmfare Awards South
- 2007 Vijay Awards
After some re-recording of the background score in Paraguay, A.R. Rahman had been to London for additional re-recording.
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