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August 4, 1998


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The seductive south


Juhi Chawla. Click for bigger pic!
Juhi Chawla has become the latest to succumb to the southern lure.

Actually, aeons ago, when Juhi was "Juhi who, oh, that Miss India?", she had acted in an eminently forgettable film opposite Ravi Chandran -- so forgettable that I can't recall the name, just now...

This time round, Juhi teams up with Malayalam megastars Mammootty and Mohanlal in the upcoming movie Harikrishnas.

Yup, the plural isn't a slip of the keyboard, there are two Harikrishnas in the film, helmed by Fazil who, among other things, has on his resume the fact that he was the first to introduce Shalini when she was a baby, and then re-introduce her as an adult star. Fazil, incidentally, is the director who first introduced Mohanlal to the marquee, in Manjil Virinha Pookal.

For Mammootty and Mohanlal, this will be their first pairing after a gap of eight years. Then, they were the leading men of the Malayalam marquee -- today, both have progressed beyond stardom, experimenting with roles and characters, cutting down on their appearances and concentrating on roles with a difference.

Big man, bigger canvas

K T Kunjumon. Click for bigger pic!
K T Kunjumon's production style is characterised by one word -- grandeur.

Or extravagance. It all depends on who you ask, really.

The man who produced Gentleman and Kaadhalan, and in the process, introduced Shankar to the pantheon of hot shot directors, went on to make Kaadhal Desam -- the film that catapulted Abbas (co-starring Vineet and Tabu) to stardom.

He was also the first to meet Sushmita Sen's asking price and sign her on, though as it turned out, her Hindi starrer Dastak hit the marquee ahead of Kunjumon's Rakshakan (co-starring Nagarjuna).

Now it is Kotiswaran (literally, millionaire -- a theme presumably after the producer's own heart and in keeping with his style). And another occasion to introduce a fresh face -- his son, Ebbie. Apparently, papa wasn't quite ready to launch his son, figuring he was still too young for the rough and tumble of the marquee, but his first choice, Abbas reportedly acted pricey, and Kunjumon was left with little option.

The film marks the southside debut of Karisma Kapoor -- who, following the trail blazed by the likes of Pooja Batra, Sonali Bendre, Sonu Walia and others, appears in one song sequence.

As the script for the sequence has it, the blue-eyed Bollywood belle descends from a spaceship, to entice Ebbie with song and dance -- a futuristic siren!

Reports indicate that her 'alien' costume cost a whopping one million. And the landing zone for the alien craft -- a special set erected in Ramoji Rao's studio in Hyderabad -- cost uncounted millions more.

But then, this is Kunjumon we are talking about here, remember?

Bollywood's choice

Karisma Kapoor in the million-rupee outfit. Click for bigger pic!
While on Karisma, she will parlay her one-song appearance into a full-fledged leading role on the Tamil marquee when she stars opposite Arvind Swamy in an as yet untitled venture.

While on Arvind, the man who attained heart-throb status with Roja, followed by Bombay, seems to have a penchant for figuring opposite Bollywood sirens. Madhu in Roja. Manisha Koirala in Bombay. Sridevi in the Malayalam film Devaragam (directed, incidentally, by Bharatan who passed away last week). Juhi Chawla, in the Hindi film Saat Rang Ke Sapne. Kajol, in Minsara Kanavugal (Sapnay, in Hindi).

That does it for completed films -- but look what the guy who started as a model for a coffee ad has on his anvil: Engineer which pairs him opposite Madhuri Dixit (making her screen bow in Tamil), plus another film that pairs him opposite Karisma. And then there is the under-production film, En Swaasa Katre which pairs him opposite new find Isha Koppikar.

Talk of an affinity for Bombay -- the guy sure has it, in spades.

Put to the test

For the kind attention of college students who are reluctant to enter examination halls: shed those cold feet, you never know what the tension of an examination paper could bring to you.

Ask Jothikrishna. The guy was scratching his head over his Class XII paper when the idea for a climactic scene, which had been eluding him all that while, struck him.

Ergo, that completed the story of Natpukkaga -- the tale of two friends (played by Vijaykumar and Sharat Kumar). The film was made, and is currently number one on the Tamil charts -- not bad for a teenager debuting as scriptwriter.

Of course, it helps that Jothikrishna's father is no less than A M Rathnam, producer of the Kamal Hasan-starrer Indian, which earned for the actor yet another national award.

Rathnam is now busy making Kaadhalar Dinam, a Valentine of a film with Sonali Bendre in the lead opposite the Pune-based Kunal, who will make his debut in a tale of romance that flowers in an Internet chat room.

In passing, if you are into rags to riches tales of the Horatio Alger variety, then try this on for size -- Rathnam, rated among the leading producers today, started out as a make-up man.

So there's hope for the rest of us, yet...

Born into greasepaint

This item expands on Vijaykumar, one of the two leading men mentioned above. The veteran -- who, incidentally, plays a pivotal role in the strikes and related chaos that has been rocking Tamil filmdom of late -- could qualify for the attentions of Kevin Ripley.

Every single member of his family acts. There's Vijaykumar himself -- contemporary of the likes of M G Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan, and still active in good, meaty roles. There's wife Manjula -- the one time heroine of MGR and the Chevalier, and still playing sizeable character roles. And in the last couple of years, son Arunkumar, daughters Vineetha, Preetha and Sridevi have all made their screen bows.

Makes it easy for producers, perhaps. I mean, you can imagine producer and director sitting around, discussing the casting of an upcoming film. "Okay, we need a father, mother, three sisters, and a young boy to play the romantic lead opposite one of them. No problem, call up Vijaykumar and ask him if he will give us bulk rates if we book the entire family!"

That exercise in facetiousness aside, Preetha -- the last member of Clan Vijaykumar to make her debut -- made her marquee bow with two simultaneous releases: Dharma, which has her sharing lead honours with the ageing Vijaykanth, once labelled the poor man's Rajnikanth, and Santipoma? which pairs her opposite Soorya.

Soorya, incidentally, is another in the line of film brats now thronging the marquee, being the son of veteran Shivakumar. His entry was fortuitous -- Ajithwalked out of Mani Ratnam's Nerukku Ner, and Soorya grabbed the chance when it came his way. The film was a hit, and another star was born.

One good thing about being a star son is that you can cut down on some expenses -- Soorya, for instance, hasn't needed acting lessons, his own father being noted, during his glory days, for more than ordinary ability when facing the cameras.


Illayaraja. Click for bigger pic!
And to sign off, a couple of short takes:

Music maestro Ilayaraja, whose lustre remains undimmed despite the influx of the techno-brats led by A R Rahman and his own son Karthik Raja, has done pretty much everything you could think of, in terms of musical creativity. Which perhaps explains why, recently, he went off to worship a different muse: writing.

Vazhithunai (Travelling Companion) is a mini autobiography of sorts, in which the musical genius travels back in time to his childhood days, in his village. The travelling companion referred to in the title is his favourite harmonium, and the book, published by Nightingale, is in -- what else? -- verse.

Ace lensman Ashok Kumar is making a film.Kaama it's called.

Given the title, do you really need telling that the subject is erotica?

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