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August 17, 1998


Clinic All Clear-Rahul Dravid

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Starry Sush


Sushmita Sen. Click for bigger pic!
If Sushmita Sen has one hit to her credit, it is Rakshakan -- the film produced by K T Kunjumon and co-starring Nagarjuna.

And again, it was the South that was scheduled to try and break her ongoing bad phase. Thus, she was offered two prestigious films in Tamil, and nodded a queenly okay.

Everything was ready -- script, shooting schedules, the works. And then Sush learnt that her co-star, in one film, was none other than Prashanth, Aishwarya Rai's romantic interest in Shankar's latest release, Jeans.

Never mind that Jeans, after a storm of initial criticism, is now running away to superhit status -- Sush wasn't having any of it. What irked the lady, apparently, was the fact that Prashanth, in interview after interview, had been raving about Ash. 'Her eyes are liquid poetry', 'She condenses in her the beauty of the 14 worlds', 'I am blessed to have got the chance to costar with Aishwarya' -- these and similar soundbites are what Miss Universe recalled about Miss World.

Arguing that since Prashanth is so besotted with the former Miss World let him continue to act with her, our ex-Miss Universe categorically demanded that he be dropped from the film.

The result? Prashanth remains in the lead. And it is Sush who is out -- of not just one film, but both.

A lesson in there somewhere?

A R Rahman.

Rhythm, directed by Vasanth who made hits like Keladi Kanmani, Nee Paadhi Naan Paadhi, Aasai, and the recent Nerukku Ner (the last two films for Mani Ratnam's Madras Talkies banner) stars Arjun (Gentleman) and Meena. Vasanth, who is a movie buff, has even named his second son Ritwik after the legendary director, Ritwik Ghatak. Vasanth's wife is cinematographer Jeeva's sister. Music for Rhythm has been scored by A R Rahman, their first time together -- and the buzz is that it is a brilliant score.

Supposedly, it was Rahman who came up with the title of the film as well -- figures, given that ARR is known for his complex rhythm structures. Does that signal a musical? We'll know, come the Festival of Lights.

Ah Taj!

ATaj Mahal on the shores of the Bay of Bengal? Yeah, right -- this one built not by Shah Jehan for his beloved Mumtaz, but by art director Ananthasai for the under-production film Anandamazhai.

Interestingly, before making this set -- which he has situated in Mahabalipuram -- the architect had not seen the original, on the banks of the Yamuna.

The film is being helmed by director Karunakaran, who earlier assisted Kadhir, whose credits include the Vineet-Abbas-Tabu starrer Kaadhal Desam.

Anandamazhai's talking points will include the Tamil debut of a certain Pavan Kalyan -- Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi's younger brother. In Telugu land, they call the Big C 'Cyclone Chiranjeevi' -- presumably for the way his films storm the box office. We reckon Pavan -- a gentle breeze, if you translate his name from the Hindi -- will want to emulate his elder brother, and whip up a bit of a storm on the Mollywood marquee.

The female interest in the film is Bangalore belle Keerthi Reddy. Remember her? The svelte city girl from Dubai who flashes back into her earlier lifetime as a princess, in the film Devadai, directed by Nasser.

Family Plot

We've been looking at how films, down south, is becoming something of a family business -- so here's another add-on to earlier items in that vein.

T Rajendar -- the hirsute guy with a penchant for responding in perfect rhyme to even an innocent question about the weather -- is now working on a film called Monisha.

For which, hold your breath, the man writes story, screenplay and dialogue, directs, and also handles the camera. Talk about a one-man army!

Then there is wife Usha, who designs costumes for the film. And son Silambarasan, who has earlier made his celluloid bow, now adds to the growing number of young composers, taking the baton for a few of the songs.

Between them, the TR family appear to have covered all the bases, huh?

Rajni returns!

What's special about August 15?

Nope, not the Independence Day thing, this is a film column, remember?

August 15, 1975, was the day on which Apoorva Raagangal, directed by K Balachander, hit the Tamil marquee.

Appearing in an almost-cameo was a gent name of Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, an erstwhile Bangalore bus conductor. That he went on, under the screen name of Rajnikanth, to surpass even superstardom on the Tamil screen is the stuff of history.

This year, August 15 brought the launch of his latest movie, Padayappa. Music is by Deva, who also composed for his earlier films like Arunachalam, Annamalai and Basha.

The buzz going round was that Rajni wanted Ash Rai as co-star. Ash, elsewhere, had indicated that she would like to work with Rajni, but for now, it's not clear what happened to this proposal.

Then Simran's name cropped up. Then came word that Soundarya, who was Rajni's love interest in Arunachalam, is set to do a repeat.

As has been his recent trend, Rajni is due to come up with yet another film with political undertones -- word going around being that in Padayappa, the dusky superstar will be coming down pretty heavily on political machinations, the bomb culture that has rocked TN in recent times, and caste- and religion-based confrontations.

Be interesting to monitor his dialogues closely in this one. If you recall, it was through his film dialogues that he first indicated his growing interest in politics; through his on-screen lines, again, that he first declared war on then chief minister J Jayalalitha. With word on the grapevine being that his honeymoon with the ruling DMK is petering out, it will be interesting to see what line he takes in his latest outing -- if only because it provides a precursor to the line he will take in real life.

And oh yes, before we forget. Rajni's usual practise has been to let others produce his films, and keep for himself -- besides reportedly the highest remuneration in Indian filmdom -- one distribution territory, as his slice of the cake.

This time, there's a change -- Rajni will produce the film himself, or rather, wife Latha will. And the proceeds will, the movie icon says, go towards upgrading the school the Rajnikanth trust runs -- called, simply, Ashram -- and tacking on a college to it as well.

Onam fever

Mamootty and Mohanlal's Onam album. Click for bigger pic!
Seems to be one of these epidemics going around -- of stars doing their own playback. Mohanlal -- who recently warbled alongside fellow Keralite superstar Mamootty for a special Onam album -- is the latest to succumb to this particular kick.

Thus he -- and Malayalam cinema's reigning princess Manju Warrier -- will do their own singing in an upcoming film helmed by Rajiv Kumar.

Besides directing, Rajiv Kumar is credited with the story, screenplay, dialogues for Kanneyuthi Pottuthottu.

The lyrics are by famed dramatist Kavaalan Narayana Panicker, who shot to national fame in the seventies with the trilogy Shristi, Sthithi and Samharam, plays that fetched him national awards.

Though Mohanlal is the star with the top-billing, it is Manju who is the focus of the story, to be shot in one intensive schedule in the lush Kuttanad region, famed as the rice bowl of Kerala. Peripheral characters are being etched by the likes of Tilakan, Biju Menon, Kalabhavan Mani, Maniyanpillai Raju and Siddiq.

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