Jayam Ravi’s Tik Tik Tik was supposed to hit the screens on January 26. After a 48-day Tamil Film Producer Strike and several other unfortunate hurdles, the film is finally hitting the screens this Friday. But director Shakti Soundar Rajan is unfazed. ‘It was an industry strike for the common good. The delay didn’t have an impact both on the public and the exhibitor – they have given us enough screens. The public has given us a warm reception again. The buzz is still there. In fact, we have a better release date,” he says with confidence.
Tik Tik Tik has the distinction of being India’s first space film. With more than 80 minutes of computer graphics, the film has made heads turn with its impressive visuals.
“We decided that there would be no compromise in terms of the visuals. We spared no expense in terms of creating sets or VFX as well,” explains Shakti. He also says that it is a cohesive combination of effective art-direction and visual effect creation. “We made sure that what was possible through art direction and what was possible through CG were done that way. Sets may cost more but certain things have to be created — CG should be the icing on the cake,” he adds.
This meant extensive planning and an all-comprehensive storyboard. Each movement, its direction and the distance had to be precise, in order for CG artists to organically be able to step in. Sets also had to be made to accommodate the extra needs of the crew. For example, sets with removable roofs were made to give way to harnesses. Railway track-like paths were welded and laid during shoot so that last-minute course corrections don’t happen.
“We reconstructed every scene in the film in required zero gravity. We pre-visualised the scenes and fixed how the movement in the scene would be. All this was done one week before the shoot so nothing was subject to change at the last moment.” It was necessary to have the last detail planned out, adds Shakti. “It would be impossible, for our budget, unless we do it this way. This is the only way we could have done it,” he reasons.
And he credits the art director SS Moorthy and the VFX team for their commitment to the project. “While CG is done in a controlled environment, art direction tackles more external elements such as the cost of labour, shooting schedules. It is a big deal and our director SS Murthy deserves credit. He suffered a heart attack while working on this film. He underwent a surgery but came back to work within days. Literal a uyira kuduthu uzhaichirukaru (He has given everything to the project)”, says Tik Tik Tik director.
Did the project seem too ambitious at the beginning? Very much, admits Shakti candidly. “I had the idea when I was working on Naigal Jagirathai but I didn’t pitch it to anybody. But Miruthan’s trade helped. The producers believed in Jayam Ravi and me. Ravi also had absolutely no doubt in terms of the script.”
Interestingly unlike other space films the protagonist Jayam Ravi doesn’t play an astronaut in the film. Rather, he plays a magician who is also an escape artist. The choice was intentional and was made right at the start, discloses Shakti. He says, “When we decided to do this film, I was sure that my protagonist should not be an astronaut. Not all would be able to relate to him. I wanted to ensure that the film reaches everybody and at the same time, I didn’t want to make a masala film.” The objective was to make a pure-genre film with all the fun elements. “For example, Tik Tik Tik has no dance and no romance as well. Nivetha Pethuraj was chosen because she has a black belt in Martial Arts. She knows the language, can act really well, perform action and is humble as well. We have trimmed the unnecessary elements and made a ‘tight’ film — an edge of the seat film,” says Shakti.
The lack of a few commercial elements will not restrict the film’s reach to all kinds of audiences. The director says, “The film is a very factual film. All the technical aspects are there but in the background. You don’t have to understand those to understand the film.” He further adds, “You can’t take a star and make a film for one type of an audience. It has to reach to reach everyone. We aren’t using the star’s market well if that doesn’t happen.” But he says the Hollywood aficionados also won’t have anything to complain. “We made it in a way that when you see the output, there would be no need to mention the budget. I think all categories would be happy with the film whether they watch Hollywood films or not,” signs off Shakti.