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January 25, 1999


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Where the Shirodkars score!

Namrata Shirodkar. Click for bigger pic!
The Shirodkar sisters may not be exactly hot property in their native Bollywood -- but down south, they still manage to land prestigious projects -- interestingly, opposite the same hero.

Thus, it is now the turn of Namrata Shirodkar to star opposite Mammootty in Ezhupuntharakan, a tale of a complex family feud between the Tharakan family and the Paliyankara Tharavad, helmed by noted director P G Vishwambaran. Earlier, sister Shilpa had starred opposite the star in the successful Tamil offering Arasiyal, directed by R K Selvamani.

This particular film, with a giant ensemble cast, will also mark the 100th outing for one of Malayalam cinema's best known story/screenplay writers -- Kalloor Dennis, a man with a penchant for turning out immensely popular, and remarkably varied, scripts.

Sanjeev Shankar's cinematography and Vidyasagar's score, are among the credits for this Leo Group production, shot almost entirely in Kochi and Mercara.

And while on Vidyasagar, the popular composer in Tamil (a regular in all Arjun productions) and Telugu came up with two hit scores for the Malayalam industry last year, with Summer in Bethlehem and Pranayavarnangal.

Meanwhile, sister Shilpa will next appear in the Kamal Hassan production Ladies Only (a remake of Magalir Mattum) -- with Randhir Kapoor making a comeback to celluloid in the role of a lecherous boss (the role performed by Nasser in the Tamil original). Heera Rajgopal and Seema Biswas also figure in the cast.

Sons and rivals

Surya. Click for bigger pic!
Director S A Chandrasekhar casts veteran actor Sivakumar's son Surya, alongside old favourite Vijaykanth in his upcoming film Periya Anna.

Which would be of only passing interest -- except for the fact that SAC's son is no less than Vijay the young hearth-throb being seen as heir to the Rajnikanth mantle on the Madras marquee. Apparently the original intention was for Vijay to head the cast -- but the young star had no dates in his diary, even for his father's film. And so Vijay himself suggested Surya's name, as his replacement in his father's film.

This whole Surya-Vijay thing is interesting in its own way. Surya, if you recall, debuted in the Mani Rathnam production Nerukku Ner. And starring alongside him was none other than Vijay. At the time, Surya was seen as competition for the latter -- but since, while the former has struggled on the lower rungs of the starry ladder, Vijay's rise has been meteoric.

Continuing the theme, Vijay has recorded three songs for his father's upcoming film -- to be picturised, now, on Surya! Recently, Vijay sang, onstage, the immensely popular song Ennai Thalaata Varuvayo from the superhit Kaadhalukku Mariyadhai. And did so well enough to earn praise from Hariharan, the singer who playbacked it for the film.

The film under discussion pairs Meena opposite Vijaykanth, while for Surya, the romantic interest is provided by Bombay import Tanuja.

Vijay to wed

Vijay. Click for bigger pic!
And while on romance, Vijay, later this year, will break a lot of teen hearts when he weds Sangeeta the NRI industrialist's daughter he met in London and got engaged to.

Meanwhile, Vijaykanth and SAC go back a long way -- it being the latter who catapulted the 'poor man's Rajnikanth' to prominence with Sattam Oru Iruttarai.

And while on Vijaykanth, his Diwali release Veeram Vilanja Mann will be dubbed in Telugu, with Sai Ramesh handling the dialogues. His earlier film, Captain Prabhakar, in its dubbed version, attracted fans in Andhra Pradesh, and this film seeks to cash in on his popularity there.

Also going for the film is the fact that it co-stars Roja. a hometown girl for AP filmgoers, hailing as she does from Tirupati.

The film has Vijaykanth in a double role, in the story of a tribal fighting the system, and the odds. While Roja will provide the younger Vijaykanth his romantic interest, Khusbhoo is paired opposite Vijaykanth senior -- and she recently went on record to say that this role ranks among her faves.

And still with Vijaykanth, regulars will remember that this column, the other day, mentioned his Pongal release, Kallazhaghar. Another highlight of the film which co-stars Laila is its depiction of the Chithirai Thiruvizha, the biggest attraction on the religious calendar of the temple town of Madurai. The song sequence, shot during the actual Thiruvazha with four cameras capturing millions of devotees, should be by all accounts spectacular.

Rajkumar to sing

Dr Rajkumar.
Shifting to the Kannada marquee, the legendary Dr Rajkumar's home production Tuvvi Tuvvi Tuvvi, a full-length comedy helmed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao with Raghavendra Rajkumar in the lead, is slated for an end-January release.

Meanwhile, Dr Rajkumar joins the likes of S P Balasubramaniam and K J Yesudoss on the playback credits of Mahaedab Idangi. The film is a comeback for director K S L Swami while Vijayabhaskar also returns to baton-wielding after a hiatus.

Based on a novel by Rudramurthy Sastry and shot extensively in the Himalayas, the film has SPB himself in the lead with Khushboo paired opposite, while senior Kannada artistes such as Jayanthi, Vinayaprasad et al appear in guest roles. And oh yes, SPB's son Charan makes his screen bow here.

Wodehouse in Kannada

P G Wodehouse.
P G Wodehouse -- famously described as 'English literature's performing flea' and a perennial favourite of bookworms who love the spice of humour in their romances -- now makes a bow on, of all places, the Kannada marquee.

Preethiyalli Iro Sukha, based on one of Plum's popular romantic comedies, marks the directorial debut of comedian and popular telestar Sihi Kahi Chandru while former stuntman N Narasimhamurthy produces.

Karnataka's Horticulture Minister D T Jayakumar clapped for the muhurat shot, in a park in Basavangudi picturised on lead pair Ramesh and Ruchita. Hamsalekha provides the music.

Meanwhile, still sticking with the Kannada marquee, actor-turned-MP Ambarish, out of action for a while with an ailment, returns to business in a Jaishree Devi production, Habba that also features Vishnuvardhan, Devraj, Radhika and Urvashi in the cast, under D Rajendra Babu's direction.

One big show

One airport -- to wit, Jakkur Airport in Bangalore, four helicopters, forty jeeps, assorted Nissans, a Contessa, and a seven-day shooting schedule masterminded by famed stunt director Vikram Dharma. Ingredients, if you please, of a lavishly mounted climax scene for producer Ramoji Rao's bilingual (Bharat 2000in Kannada, Mechanic Mudanna in Telugu) featuring Dr Rajshekar with Rambha and Urvashi in support.

Gemini on Sun

Gemini Ganesan.
In his heyday, he was the Kaadhal Mannan (King of Romance) on the Tamil marquee. In his twilight, he lived up to his erstwhile billing, marrying -- for the nth time -- recently.

And now Gemini Ganesan -- father of Bollywood icon Rekha -- has started a production company to keep bride Juliana busy.

Sai Productions kicks off with a 26-episode teleserial, Appidiye Agattum, under Kovai Anuradha'sdirection, which will be aired on Sun TV.

And speaking of keeping busy, Ganesan himself -- sporting a Hitler-style moustache -- was seen on the small screen on Pongal day, playing a much-misunderstood industrialist. Of late, too, he has been making a comeback of sorts to the big screen, with a few father roles including, notably, that of Meena's father in Kamal Haasan's Avvai Shanmughi, the take-off on Mrs Doubtfire. That role, if you recall, was reprised by Amrish Puri in the Hindi remake Chachi 420.

Mama's boy

Simran. Click for bigger pic!
Yet another assistant turns independent director. Ezhil, whose credits include stints as assistant to the likes of Robert-Rajashekhar, Panneer and Parthiban, will direct the R B Choudhury production Thullaatha Manamum Thullum.

Vijay plays a cable operator with dreams of becoming a music director, while Simran plays his silent admirer in a love story. The catch is, the film revolves around the 'mother' sentiment so beloved of our film-makers -- yet you don't have any of the regular 'moms' -- Sujathan, Sumitra, Jayachitra whoever -- doing their stuff. So how come? You'll find out, come Republic Day, when the film hits the marquee.

Love and learn

Soundarya. Click for bigger pic!
Producer Kalaipuli Dhanu's Mannavar Chinnavar appears to be a film to watch out for. 'Chevalier' Sivaji Ganesan heads the star cast, with Arjun alongside, in a tale of an unlettered millionaire and his intelligent, but unlettered son who marries the well-educated Soundarya.

The couple's marriage hits turbulence, thanks to this mismatch, and papa Sivaji brings about the favourable ending for his son and daughter-in-law -- and that, in brief, is the storyline.

Sivaji Ganesan.
The film marks the Tamil debut for director Ramachander whose Chitram Palare Chitram ran a good 200 days on the AP marquee.

One-man show

Coming shortly, Ramgopal Verma's experiment in minimalist cinema --Kaun, with just three characters, Manoj Bajpai and Urmila Matondkar among them.

All that was by way of prelude to The Guard -- a Malayalam film that will hit the marquee soon. Comedian and character actor Kalabhavan Mani plays the guard -- and forms the only character in the entire film.

The story revolves around Shankar, a forest guard who survives on fruits and berries, and has only animals for company. Kuttapi, the monkey, shares screen time with Mani, as his constant companion.

Shot extensively in the Parambikulam forests near Pollachi, this experimental film is being directed by Jayaraj of the New Generation Company, under Hakeem's production.

Which is about all for now... Adios for another week.

-- Rajitha

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