The Atlee-Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster film Jawan is Rajesh Thaithara’s biggest project yet. He ‘built’ the Metro train, first featured in the film’s hugely popular teaser, and the Bekarar kar ke humein… song. The civil engineer who fabricates vehicles for Malayalam,Tamil and Telugu films is understandably excited about Jawan. “The work came through Muthuraj sir [production designer of the film T Muthuraj], who did the sets for the film, and with whom I had worked for 2.0,” Rajesh says over the phone.
The 135-foot dummy train was built over 26 days in September 2021, and fabricated in a film studio in Goregaon, Mumbai, with the help of a team of 80 people. “It was intense work, which had to be done quickly as studio floor rents are exorbitant in Mumbai, running into several lakh rupees. We worked on the measurements of the Mumbai Metro, since it was a train there.” The research included travelling on the Metro train and downloading photographs of the coaches and cockpit. “I had some reference images of the Kochi Metro, which I had clicked. I couldn’t use them as both have very different dimensions.”
Building the ‘iron cage’ on a 140-foot studio floor was not the challenge, but making its eight doors that “slide inwards as they close was. Getting the mechanics of the doors right was a task.” The cockpit, and ‘one-and-a-half’ coaches were collapsible, the sides fixed with bolts.
Although he didn’t get to interact with Shah Rukh Khan, he could watch the actor from a distance. “The sequence with the train was shot over nine days during which I had to be on set; that is when I got to see him work from a distance.”
It is an experience he will not forget in a hurry. He hopes that his work in Jawan will translate into more work from Bollywood. “When I went to Mumbai, I had no idea how big Red Chillies Entertainment [the film’s producers] was. We got such VIP treatment. Visibility in Mumbai would be great. It is not easy for somebody from the South [in a field like his] to go there and get a break,” the 47 year-old says.
Jawan is not Rajesh’s first on the sets of a big budget blockbuster. Remember the armoured tank in Rajnikanth’s 2.0 , which the humanoid robot Chitti uses to fight the villain, Pakshi Rajan? Or Chitti’s caravan in the film? These are all products of Rajesh’s imagination and innovation; he used the image of a T72 armoured tank, which he then used as a guide to create four for the film; he also built a ‘rocket launcher’ for it under instructions from the art director T Muthuraj. From illustration to fabrication, that project took him two years.
His other interesting stories include building and shipping an Iraqi armoured tank in 26 pieces via a container lorry from a workshop in Kochi’s Gothuruth village to Ramoji Rao Film City in Hyderabad. It was assembled there for the shooting of the Malayalam film Take Off. “Since it came after 2.0, this was easy,” says Rajesh, who built an amphibious vehicle for Mahesh Narayan’s Malik. He builds vehicles at World Class Designers (WCD), his workshop in Kodungallur.
Vehicles built by him have featured in a slew of Malayalam films such as Vimaanam, Double Barrel, Ulsaha Committee, Kammara Sambhavam, Inspector Dawood Ibrahim, Sakhavu, Loham, Unda, Mikhael, and Aanachandam to name a few. The other Hindi film he has to his credit is the John Abraham-starrer Madras Cafe. Rajesh started his career in films as a driver on the sets of the 2004 Malayalam film Runway. Among his other projects is the Tamil period film Captain Miller starring Dhanush for which he has fabricated ‘vintage’ jeeps, motorbikes, and lorries and the Telugu film Saindhav, starring Daggubati Venkatesh and Arya.