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March 26, 1999


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On notes beyond the grave

Kamal Haasan and Shah Rukh Khan in He Ram. Click for bigger pic!
Now here's a film worth keeping an eye on.He Ram, Kamal Haasan's latest venture, boasts an all star cast, with Kamal -- who is responsible for story, screenplay and direction as well -- essaying a character named Saket Ram Iyengar, while Shah Rukh Khan plays a Muslim and Rani Mukherjee plays, what else, a Bengali babe.

Backing up the big three are the likes of Saurabh Shukla who played Kallu Mama in Satya, Hema Malini and lyricist Vali, who, for once, appears on-screen.

Kamal, who fancies his writing skills, had about 10 years ago written a fictitious letter, addressed to a dead man. This film is an expansion of the thoughts contained in that long-ago letter. Asked what it was all about, Kamal told the media, "When you hear the words 'He Ram', what does that remind you of? That is the theme of my film."

He wouldn't elaborate, so we enter the realm of speculation here, and your guess is as good as ours. "He Ram"? Hmmmmmmm -- play word association and what do you get? The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi?

An all-star cast has been lined up on the credits side, with national award winner Sabu Cyril doing the sets and art direction, Sarika Kamal Haasan doing the costumes, famed instrumentalist L Subramaniam providing the music and Thirunavvukarasu handling the camera.

Another anti-Jaya missile

Rajnikanth. Click for bigger pic!
The countdown has begun for Rajnikanth, whose latest offering, Padayappa, is slated for a Tamil New Year's Day release.

We've been providing little info clips on the film right through -- now here's another one. Rajni has consistently used his films as weapons against his arch enemy, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha.. And this one is no exception -- Ramya Krishnan plays a Jayalalitha-clone and needless to add, is the villain of the piece.

That should interest the lady of Poes Garden, whose political problems began the day her over-zealous security staff rubbed Rajnikanth the wrong way.

Meanwhile, Shankar will not release his Mudalvan on Tamil New Year's day as originally scheduled. And thereby hangs a tale -- Rajni was chief guest for the launch of Shankar's latest (which, to refresh your memory, stars Arjun and Manisha Koirala).

And in his speech, Rajni said Shankar was sure to come up with a hit, since he has a consistent record of hitting the jackpot at the box office. And then, laughing, he added, "But Shankar, do me a favour, don't release your film on the same day as my Padayappa. I don't need that kind of competition."

Was that said in jest? No matter -- Shankar has decided to delay the release of his latest, a political thriller, by a few weeks.

Assistant competitors

Mani Rathnam
We've been keeping an eye on the growing number of assistant directors now making the leap into independence. Here is one more in that number -- Ganeshan, who has understudied Mani Rathnam in Bombay, Iruvar and Uyire (the last named familiar to Bollywood fans as Dil Se) is now branching out as an independent director.

Word is that he had an idea for a film, which he took to producer Satyajyoti Thiagarajan (wife of actor-producer Thiagarajan, and mother of Prashanth of Jeans fame). The lady was so impressed by the idea that she promptly decided to back it. Thus, Ganeshan will debut as director with Thithikkum Thee, with Murali in the lead.

Satyajyoti made one proviso before putting down her money. So impressed was she by Ganeshan that she said it had to be double or nothing -- thus, besides the above film, Ganeshan is also bound to do another one, with Prashanth in the lead.

The name of the film? Hold your breath -- it's Pepsi Generation Next!

And since Mani Rathnam's name has come up anyway, an aside -- remember it was here that you first read about Mani's latest? We had told you that the ace director, now through with his terrorism-trilogy, was working on the story and script for a film that will be loosely based on the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, that came within a toucher of bringing the US president to his knees. That script is now ready for production, under Mani's direction -- and rather appropriately, he has chosen to name it, simply, Scandal.

Rai comment

Prakash Rai
Prakash Rai is making rapid strides as one of the most sought after villains on the southside circuit.

But the tall, swarthy star who made his debut in the Prabhu-Ramesh Arvind-Meenakshi Seshadri starrer Duet, has played the good guy in a few films, and been well received.

That reception appears to have encouraged him to set up his own production house -- named Duet, after the film he made his celluloid bow in. And he is now set to produce a cops and robbers thriller, Stalin, starring himself in the eponymous role.

Stalin, to most people, is a name with a Russian connotation -- but in Tamil Nadu, there is only one person you associate with the name, and that is the son of Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, who is leader of of the ruling DMK's youth wing, and mayor of Madras.

Interestingly, in Mani Rathnam's Iruvar, Rai had played a character loosely based on Karunanidhi. And now he is going to be Stalin. Knowing that discretion is the better part of political wisdom, Rai made sure to call on the mayor, and ask his permission before using his name as title for the under-production film.

A go at Guinness

Meanwhile, stand by for a world record. For the first time ever, an attempt is being made to can an entire, full-length, feature film in just 24 hours.

Giridharilal, head of L S Movies and the man behind the idea, said he had been sitting on it for a good 14 years. "It is even more relevant now," Giridharlal told the media at a press briefing. "With cinema acquiring industry status, it has become even more important that we become time and cost effective, and that is why I thought of doing an entire film in 24 hours."

Swayamvaram could well turn into a logistical nightmare before it is safely in the cans, for it features no less than 12 heroes, 10 heroines, and 8 comedians/villains. It will be shot simultaneously by 15 film units, at over 10 sets, with a total of 11 directors (each having his own camera crew and editor) working on the film at the same time. Five music directors have been roped in, and they will work in separate studios, to can the songs and score on the same day the film is being shot.

"The goal is to finish every stage of film-making within the stipulated 24 hour period," says Giridharlal. "Shooting, developing rushes, editing, dubbing, re-recording and final mixing for the master copy will all be done in that time. The script is being divided into 11 parts, and one director will shoot one part, all of them working on the same day, at different sets and venues.

Giridharilal, who has penned the story for the film, is a veteran of 30 years standing, with 13-odd films on his curriculum vitae. His earlier films were under the Hem Nag banner, in partnership with his brother Ramkishan L Nagpal and Giridharlal has been involved, in one way or another, in the production of over a hundred films.

"When we finish this film on deadline," says the ambitious producer, "we would have given the world a maxim -- 'If you can imagine it, you can do it!' "

Chakki to hit Hollywood

Chakravarthy. Click for bigger pic!
And now to Chakravarthy of Satya fame. In that film, of course, Manoj Bajpai had walked away with the acting honours as the tempestuous Bhiku Mhatre, while Chakravarthy's own subdued, understated performance was less noticed.

But he seems to be doing well enough for all that -- the latest on the bearded star being that he has been signed on to do a Hollywood film, under the Los Angeles-based TriStar Bosch banner. It will be directed by Chandra Siddharth while Jeffrey Bradbery provides the music.

To be shot in locales in US and several European countries, the film will feature four to five leading ladies, as yet unselected. And Chakravarthy seems pretty confident of the film's prospects -- he's putting a bit of his money into this one, as co-producer.

-- Rajitha

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