Making of Bigil: How the Vijay, Nayanthara-starrer became the most anticipated sports film of 2019
Tipped to be a sports drama that talks about women empowerment, Bigil marks the third collaboration between Vijay and director Atlee
Having top-billed stars like Thalapathy Vijay and Lady Superstar Nayanthara together in a film is one solid reason to pull in audiences to the theatres. But contrary to the other biggies which we have seen in the recent past, the grand Diwali release in Bigil is much more than a star-driven vehicle. Bigil is easily the biggest film from the Tamil industry since the release of Shankar’s 2.0 last year.
Tipped to be a sports drama that talks about women empowerment, Bigil marks the third collaboration between Vijay and director Atlee, who together delivered two big blockbusters in Theri and Mersal. The film carries massive expectations thanks to the star cast, the technicians involved, the theme, and the scale. Set to hit screens on 25 October worldwide, Firstpost talks to the project's technical team to discuss how the Vijay, Nayanthara-starrer became the most anticipated sports movie of 2019.
Bigil is not only a much-awaited biggie for Vijay’s fans and the general audiences, but for the film’s production house AGS Productions as well, who have billed this as the biggest film yet under their banner. AGS’ creative producer Archana Kalpathi is a self-confessed fan of Vijay, and putting this project together was indeed a dream-come-true opportunity for her. “The level of planning required for Bigil was something that I had never faced before this in my career. In terms of production, my father gave me the responsibility of handling the budget of the film. I am not used to spending so much, so it was a new kind of pressure for me. I did learn a lot; when it came to the proactive processes, the accounting, and the protocol, we implemented swift strategies to handle so many people and teams on set,” she told Firstpost.
“Maintaining confidentiality was also a big challenge. For other films, we would hope and wait that news from the spot would leak out and help us in the publicity. But for Bigil, we had to keep the progress to ourselves,” said Archana, differentiating it from the other hits like Thani Oruvan and Anegan that their production house had bankrolled.
Apart from the massy style and the emotional value that Bigil carries, the central aspect of the film is the women’s football angle that has been brought in by Atlee. The makers initially had plans to shoot those portions at an international stadium, and later looked at the options locally. Ultimately, they picked the idea of constructing an entire stadium set exclusively for the shoot of this film, looking at it as the most feasible and cost-effective option.
Muthuraj, the film’s production designer, elaborates on the same, saying, “A football stadium requires a jam-packed crowd of 80000 people, which is not possible to achieve for a continuous period of the shoot at the budgets we have here. We had to shoot for about 50 days at the stadium, and going to work at a real stadium would involve lots of reworking after the shoot, maintenance, and additional expenses. Therefore, we planned to go ahead with the idea of erecting a set, where we had the freedom to design it according to the requirements of the film, and the VFX process as well. It was the best option.”
“The good thing about creating our own set was that we could fit in our own tracks and trolleys required for the shoot. This way, the cinematography division, too, had more options to capture what exactly happens on the field,” said Muthuraj, who has previously worked in a lot of Vijay’s films, including Puli, Theri and Mersal.
The experience of doing a big-budget project based on the game of football was a fresh one not only for those working on the sets but for those on the edit table as well. Editor Ruben, who shares a great rapport with Bigil’s director Atlee, opens up on his own experience, saying, “Football is not a game that I follow too closely. I just thought that it was about two goals and one ball, but as I did Bigil, I understood the nuances of the game very well. Apart from the ongoing matches, there are lots of emotions in the frame, thanks to the plethora of characters that we have. So we have to manage all that and make sure that the audience connects to it,” he starts. “After the shoot was wrapped up, we had to string together a lot of different parts such as the actual game, the reactions of the audience, the layers that had to be added through the VFX, and much more. Compared to other projects, Bigil took more time as we had to rework on the footage again and again. There are five matches in the film, and each match took 15 sessions for us. We had to even do away with lots of good footage to come up with the best output.”
Bigil wasn’t just another film on the road for Vijay too, who had to put in the extra effort for both his looks and the football skills that he had to acquire for the film. Vijay plays the roles of both the father Rayappan and the son Michael in the movie, with some prosthetic makeup required for the former. Production designer Muthuraj speaks about the same, “We started by scribbling about 20-25 looks for Vijay’s father character in the film. Out of that, we shortlisted ten and reworked on it again. We were not quite happy with what we were arriving at, but when we saw his performance, he fleshed the best possible output. Trust me, the introduction scene of the Rayappan character is my favorite moment in the film.”
Writer Ramanagiri Vasan, who has collaborated with Atlee for both Theri and Mersal, said that having a simplistic feel for a big star like Thalapathy Vijay was the unique aspect of all their films. “That’s what we try to achieve with every film. Even while writing the dialogues, we keep that in mind because that’s what we feel brings out the real ‘mass.’ During the final stages of Bigil’s shoot, Vijay sir himself told us that this film is the cumulative output of many, and not just spearheaded by a single character.”
Archana, too, was blown away by Vijay’s commitment to the role, when it came to playing the game of football. “Vijay sir created a style for himself. He did most of the tricks on his own and learned a lot by interacting with the people on set and the trainers. He’s been here in the industry for so many years, and he’s still open to acquiring a new skill set for the film he’s doing. That makes him so special.”
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