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March 10, 1999


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Chettiars in love

Aishwarya Rai. Click for bigger pic!
Yeah, right, this week we were supposed to be doing the second part of that review of recent releases, examining trends, and such. But then, some of the news we got proved too good to resist, so the review can wait, here's a preview of some interesting stuff going on the floors down south:

Rajiv Menon is busy with his next offering -- Kandu Konden Kandu Konden, to be produced by Kalaipuli Dhanu. And it's got the heck of a star cast -- Tabu, Aishwarya, Baby Shyamalee, Ajit, Abbas, Mammootty...

Storywise, Tabu and Aishwarya will play sisters. Their youngest sibling is Baby Shyamalee (not all that much of a baby any more, actually - and if you are looking for a fix on the child star, she is the younger sister of 'Baby' Shalini who, now grown to adulthood, had those huge hits last year with Aniyathipravuand Kalioonjal, the former remade in Tamil, as Kaadhalukku Mariyadhai, to equally resounding success). Shyamalee will also be familiar to Tamil cinegoers as the eponymous character in the Mani Rathnam film Anjali.

The film, shot in Karaikudi for the most part, revolves around a Chettiar family. The Chettiars of Tamil Nadu are renowned for their wealth, and this one is no exception. It is fun and games for the family till they move to the city, and fall on bad times. And around the same time, find love. Ajit and Abbas play the romantic leads for the two Bollywood beauties, with Mammootty playing a friend of the family.

For Aishwarya, this will be her third Tamil outing after Mani Rathnam's Iruvar and Shankar's Jeans. Tabu, for her part, made her mark with Kaadhal Desam, and has also appeared in the various language versions of Priyadarshan's Malayalam original, Kaalapani, besides appearing on the Madras marquee in Unaiye Kalyanam Pannikiren opposite Nagarjuna -- again, dubbed from the Telugu original.

The music is by A R Rehman -- who, so the story goes, went off to London and composed the music from there. And by way of trivia, the film also has Anita Rathnam -- classical dancer of repute and member of the TVS industrial clan -- playing sister in law to Ash.

Priyan strikes again

Pooja Batra. Click for bigger pic!
Taking shape, in Ooty's famed Fernhill Palace, is another biggie, this time helmed by Priyadarshan, with Pooja Batra and Mammootty in the lead - Priyan, for once, opting for Mammootty over his friend and favourite lead star, Mohanlal.

The story revolves around the scion of a famed royal house -- a man born to command, whose autocratic temperament is honed to a further edge when he joins the military. Into his life comes this bright bubble of a girl, full of joie de vivre, sparkling like champagne and just as heady.

The rest of the story -- a light romantic comedy - is about how the two disparate characters strike sparks off each other, and how life, love and marriage changes them.

Pooja is no stranger to Priyan, having starred in his Virasat opposite Anil Kapoor. Virasat, in fact, earned her big raves -- though Tabu was the lead heroine, it was Pooja's cameo that really stole the show in that film. Earlier, she had debuted with a one-song appearance in the Shockadikkuthu Sona ditty in Aasai, where her dancing partner was Prabhu Deva's brother, Raju Sundaram.

The Pooja-Priyadarshan combine also came up with a huge hit last year, with Chandralekha which had Mohanlal and Srinivasan sharing the lead credits. This film, incidentally, is being made in Hindi with Tabu joining the star cast.

And down goes Mahima too

Mahima Chaudhary. Click for bigger pic!
So let's see, that is three Bollywood belles in big southside productions. Here's a fourth -- Mahima Chaudhary of Pardes fame will star opposite Srikkanth in Manasilo Mada -- a Telugu remake of the Prashant-Simran Tamil hit Kannethirey Thondrinaal.

Also due to appear in Telugu shortly is Preethi -- remember her? The Chuimui si lagthi ho girl, from the Milind Ingle music video? She made her celluloid bow with Mazhavil, a slick romance-cum-murder tale remade from the original Kannada film.

She will appear in two Telugu films, the first pairing her opposite Nagarjuna, the second with Pawan Kalyan, brother of Chiranjeevi. Kalyan has already chalked up a success with Toli Prema, which pairs him opposite Keerthi Reddy. The Tamil version of that film, Ananda Mazhai, is also doing reasonably good business.

While on Keerthi Reddy, her Ninaivu Irukkum Varai is a hit - which should have Prabhu Deva celebrating. The rubber-limbed dancing star, who pairs opposite Keerthi in the film, has been hunting for a hit for a long while now.

In this film, he plays a slum-dweller, the kind who is hired to dance in front of funeral processions. Prabhu Deva's dancing skills are common knowledge - this film reveals the lesser known side of Prabhu Deva, giving his histrionic ability free scope.

With the fans taking Prabhu Deva the actor to their hearts, he can now look for another good run with his next release, Time.

Awaiting his moment

Vineeth. Click for bigger pic!
Vineeth is the perennial 'best man' -- the guy in waiting. Waiting for a hit, that is, while stars with arguably less than his ability run away with the box office honours.

Though he is busy in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu, he hasn't had a real hit since the Abbas-Tabu co-starrer Kaadhal Desam. Maravaathey Kanmaniye will be a wait and see for him.

Negative image

Prakash Rai. Click for bigger pic!
Prakash Rai, Tamil cinema's favourite bad boy, now turns hero in Telugu. But hang on, it is a negative hero, if such a thing were possible.

He is the hero, in the sense that he is the central character of the film -- and negative, in the sense that he plays a quiet kind of guy whom life turns into a killer -- a remake, this, of Guru Paarvai, the Tamil original.

Rai played the lead character in the Tamil version as well, and came up a winner. Opposite him, providing grist to his killing mill, is a bevy of girls led by Raasi, Sanghavi, Sneha, Vidya et al.

And while on negative films, there's Priyamudan, which if you recall shot Vijay to the limelight. The film is now being remade in Telugu, with Naveen and Keerthi Reddy playing the lead roles in a tale of obsessive love. S A Rajkumar, a busy baton-wielder in Telugu cinema these days, provides the music. Rajkumar, incidentally, had a big hit recently with the score for Thullatha Manamum Thullum, which if you recall we had reviewed in the previous edition of this column.

Kamal takes his time

Kamal Haasan. Click for bigger pic!
Now what's with Kamal Haasan?

Marudhanayagam, launched with great fanfare by none other than Queen Elizabeth, is proving to have an elephantine gestation period. His Ladies Only, which, among other things, marks the return to celluloid of Randhir Kapoor, is another of those eggs that seem to take forever to hatch.

Not that the star is idling away his time, though, Kamal is doing a quickie -- Londonil Kameshwaran, in which he could probably reprise the Palghat Brahmin role that was one of the personae he donned in the yesteryears comedy Michael Madana Kamarajan.

He's also directing himself in another quickie, He Ram -- one of the high points of which is that lyricist Vali makes a celluloid appearance, playing his uncle.

Sober Suman

Suman. Click for bigger pic!
We've had, in recent times, stories as disparate as Othello and Hamlet providing inspiration to desi film-makers, not to forget a romantic comedy penned by the late P G Wodehouse. Now it is the turn of a Russian film to spark Indian creativity.

Suman, who saw The Thief at the International Film Festival in Hyderabad recently, was so taken by the movie, and its protagonist, that he is producing and starring in the Indian version. The one time action hero of Telugu cinema has mellowed after playing the character of Lord Balaji, reigning deity of Tirupathi, in the Nagarjuna-starrer Annamayya.

The role won Suman a state acting award, and since then, the star who has seen more than his share of garish clothes, songs and stunts has shown a marked penchant for more meaningful roles.

Amitabh vs Amitabh

Vijay Shanti. Click for bigger pic!
Bharat Ratna will see Vijay Shanthi coming back after a bit of a lull, playing a military officer in this big budget film being made in three languages. Avinash and Vinodkumar make up the other lead stars in the film which has been shot in locales ranging from Kulu Manali and Jaisalmer, not to mention the Indo-Pak border.

They call her Lady Amitabh, actually, for her tendency to do 'tough guy' roles. And interestingly, she is also doing a role that pairs her with, who else, Amitabh himself.

The bear run

Meanwhile, you know how film-makers keep touting their next film as being 'different' - okay, here's one that is way out whacky. Kalabhavan Mani, who has become the most sought after comedian on the Malayalam marquee, plays a bear (you'll remember, from an earlier episode of this column, that he is also slated to appear in an experimental film set in a forest, wherein he is the only human character).

This particular film, titled, The Karadi, has a premise that provokes laughter. Briefly put, Mani is one of the guards in the state zoo, and his special responsibility is the bears. Shortly after he joins work, one of the bears goes missing. Mani has a dilemma -- there are three more days to go for him to complete his first six months in office, and only after that period will he be confirmed in his job.

So, to hide the fact that the bear is missing, Mani gets hold of a costume and becomes a bear. All's well till fellow comedian Indrans appears as the local vet. After examining the pseudo-bear, Indrans wisely decides that said animal is ready to mate, and the zoo authorities promptly insert a female bear into the cage...

We'll leave you to imagine the rest. Meanwhile, till next time, adios...

-- Rajitha

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