The Most Expensive Indian Movie
Vishwaroopam is an upcoming Tamil spy thriller film written, directed and co-produced by Kamal Haasan that features himself in the lead role. The film, also has Pooja Kumar, Rahul Bose, Andrea Jeremiah and Jaideep Ahlawat in supporting roles. The soundtrack is composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, with lyrics byVairamuthu. The film is being made simultaneously in Hindi as Vishwaroop.
Development of the project commenced after the release of Kamal's Manmadhan Ambu, and several of the crew were imported from Hollywood. The direction department was taken over by Kamal Haasan from Selvaraghavan, and reports indicating a comparison with Hollywood films surfaced during the production. The initially estimated budget was around 150 crore (US$29.93 million), making it one of the most expensive Indian films. Due to delays, casting took a relatively long period of time, after Sonakshi Sinha dropped out of the project. The film was shot extensively overseas, in countries including the United States and Canada, while domestic locations included Mumbai and Chennai.
After finishing his Manmadan Ambu (2010), Kamal Haasan stated in November 2010 that he was working on the scriptment of his "pet project" titled Thalaivan Irukkiran, a film about an international community. Termed as a big budget multi-starrer film, it was expected to commence by March 2011, with a Hollywood studio reportedly coming forward to produce it. However, in early 2011, sources claimed that Kamal shelved that project and agreed to star in a Selvaraghavan directorial, being impressed by the one-line story narrated to him. Reports further suggested that the film was based on the 2001 American psychological thriller Hannibal,with Kamal playing a cannibal, The film was named Vishwaroopam, after several titles were considered, by late March and the shooting was planned to begin by mid-April and to be completed within 100 days. It was revealed that the film would be produced in three languages—Tamil, Telugu and Hindi—simultaneously.
On 24 May 2011, it was announced that Selvaraghavan was ousted from the project, as he was busy finishing his project with his brother Dhanush. Kamal Hassan decided to direct the film himself in addition to writing the story, screenplay and dialogues. The producing studio, Telephoto Films, had urged him to take up the project, planning for a release on 7 November 2011, while the estimated budget was around 150 crores, making it one of the costliest productions in India. The film was then disclosed to be a spy thriller on the lines of the Mission Impossible series. The film was being made as a bilingual and simultaneously shot in Tamil and Hindi languages; all the actors had to learn their dialogues in both languages.
By February 2011, newcomer Sonakshi Sinha was approached to play the lead female character, and was confirmed to play Haasan's wife. Her salary for the film was touted to be 2 crore (US$399,000).However, with the film getting delayed, she opted out by July, due to conflicting dates with her Hindi assignments. Following Sinha's exit, other leading Bollywood actresses, including Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, and Sonam Kapoor were considered. Vidya Balan was also approached by the makers, but she declined the offer, owing to her prior commitments. By mid-August, Sameera Reddy was reported to have been roped in for the role, while sources stated that Anushka Shetty was finalized soon after. In early November 2011, New York based model-actress Pooja Kumar was signed in for a role.
Shriya Saran was reported to play the second female lead in the film, with the actress dismissing the news several days later, citing that she had not even heard the script, following which Priya Anand was claimed to have bagged that role.This turned out to be false, with Kamal Haasan citing that he did not know who Priya Anand was. Isha Sharvani was meanwhile selected for a role, with reports suggesting that she would essay the character of Kamal Haasan's sister in the film. However, Sharvani too opted out later, due to "inordinate delay in the start of the shoot". By late August 2011, British model-turned-actress Amy Jackson was reported to have been added to the cast, portraying a foreigner in the film. During mid-October, singer-actress Andrea Jeremiah had been signed on for a pivotal role and paid an advance.
Rahul Bose was finalized to play the antagonist. Later that month, actor-director Shekhar Kapur informed on Twitter that he would perform a cameo role, while Samrat Chakrabarti had also been selected for a supporting role. Jaideep Ahlawat disclosed in an interview that he would play an "out-and-out negative character" in the film. Zarina Wahab told in November 2011 that she shot for a small role in Vishwaroopam. In January 2012, Chitrangada Singh was offered a "very special role", which the actress had to decline, since her dates clashed with Sudhir Mishra's film.
The film's shooting was supposed to take off on 20 April, but became delayed, since the US Consulate had refused Visas to the cast and crew. The team decided to relocate to Canada, postponing filming to June. The shooting began for the film in Chennai in August 2011 and locations filmed at included Kamal Haasan's office in October 2011, when Isha Sharvani was also a part of the shoot. The film briskly progressed in late 2011, with scenes involving Samrat Chakrabarti filmed in November. Sets resembling Afghanistan were created in Chennai, with many foreigners from Russia, Iran and Africa playing American soldiers, while Kamal Haasan wore an Afghan look. In November 2011, the team also pursued schedules in Amman and Petra in Jordan with Rahul Bose's scenes being canned. Kamal Haasan learnt Kathak from Birju Maharaj for an important portion in the film.
Kamal Haasan went to USA on 15 December 2011 for completing a schedule. The main outdoor shoots were shot in New York as the lead character is based there, and the production team also matched New York with the Grand Rapids in Michigan. Re-recording and dubbing work began in Mumbai in late February 2012, with Kamal Haasan arranging a dialogue coach in Tamil and Hindi to get the artistes' dubbing in place, with Atul Tiwari supervising the Hindi dialogues. The climax scenes featuring an aerial fight choreographed by Hollywood stuntman Lee Whittaker was filmed at Chandivali Studio in Andheri, Mumbai in early March 2012 with Kamal Haasan and Rahul Bose. The film was shot in digital format, after attempts to do so in Kamal's previous films had failed. Speaking about it, he said "The fact that cinema is going digital is the biggest technological change today. We have to accept it, as it is happening globally and it will happen in Tamil Nadu too."
Kamal Haasan's partner Gouthami designed the costumes for the film. A research had to be carried out on the American army's hierarchy for the costumes. N. G. Roshan, who had previously worked in notable Malayalam films, took charge of the make-up for the film. The villain had to undergo a heavy use of prosthetic make-up. A scene involving a war explosion had to show an injured jaw for him. Further, the artists appearing as war victims had blood and other forms of injuries applied on their bodies. The Jaika stunt team, that was also involved in Ajith Kumar's Billa II then, worked on the action sequences. Kamal Haasan's younger daughter Akshara Haasan joined the crew as an assistant director. Kunal Rajan was roped in as a sound engineer and the stunt crew for the film were imported in from Thailand.
Initially, Yuvan Shankar Raja was said to compose the film's musical score, as per Selvaraghavan's choice. However, Kamal signed in the musical trio Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy. Lyricist Vairamuthu took charge of the lyrics of the songs in the film, after Kamal Haasan had approached him and narrated the entire plot, to which he immediately agreed to work upon. Noted poet Javed Akhtar has penned lyrics for the Hindi version.
The makers of the film were trying to complete the film so it can be a part of the competitive section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Cannes bent its rules for Kamal Haasan to accommodate his film. A special screening of the film was arranged for Hollywood-based producer Barrie M. Osborne and make-up artist Michael Westmore. Before release, it was reported to have been split into two parts, with each one having a separate release. The first look poster and a teaser of the film were released on May Day 2012 as part of the film's marketing process. The poster consisted of Kamal wearing a green khaki jacket, with a flying pigeon and a skyline of a city consisting of several skyscrapers in the background. Kamal Haasan will share excerpts on Vishwaroop and first look at the 13th Videocon IIFA Weekend in Singapore on 8th June 2012. Also he will share excerpts on Vishwaroopam and first look at 6th Annual Vijay Awards on 16th June 2012.
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