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August 16, 1999


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Pretty piqued

Soundarya with Amitabh Bachchan in Sooryavansham. Click for bigger pic!
Time was, a starring role opposite Amitabh Bachchan was a ticket to paradise. Not any more, though. Ask Soundarya, whose smiles when she was signed on to pair the Big B in Sooryavansham turned a little sour when the film bombed big time at the turnstiles.

That film, in fact, is as strong an indication of Amitabh Bachchan's waning star as any you will get -- in Tamil and Telugu, the film proved to be mega hits for Sharat Kumar and Venkatesh respectively, the Hindi version proving to be the odd bomb in three.

Soundarya, though, has renewed reason to smile -- her starring role as Rajnikanth's wife in the swarthy star's latest superhit, Padayappa. With the film well past the 100-day mark in TN, doing brilliant business in Kerala and AP, and storming even far away centres like Japan, the lass is on a roll.

To cap it off, she recently bagged the Nandi award for best actress for her role in Andhapuram -- in fact, the film also bagged seven other Nandis into the bargain. And now Soundarya is all set to play a snake -- okay, snake goddess -- in director Saiprakash's Kannada venture, Nagadevadha.

Mani to don the greasepaint

Mani Rathnam
Meanwhile, from the Mani Ratnam camp, this -- having started out as a film sans songs, Alai Payudhe, Mani R's latest, is now likely to have its full complement of ditties. Someone, somewhere, apparently got the jitters at the prospect of a Mani Rathnam film sans chartbusting music, and that lacuna is now being plugged.

More to the point, Mani is slated to play an on-screen role in the film. Nope, not the fleeting, blink-and-you-miss-it type of thing the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and, closer to home, Subhash Ghai specialise in -- the word we hear is that Mani will play a character of heft and substance in his latest offering.

The Kargil show

Shivraj Kumar. Click for bigger pic!
The dust is yet to settle in Kargil, and the dream factory is already up and doing. Specifically, Kodlu Ramakrishna has launched Kargil Veera, a film loosely based on the recent Indo-Pak imbroglio. It will have "family sentiment" as an important ingredient, we are told -- so stand by for heroic sons and weepy moms/wives.

Shivraj Kumar plays the starring role, and word is that Anant Nag is being approached to play the role of the Indian prime minister, while Tinnu Anand (who, among other things, had earlier done a Bal Thackeray-type role in Mani Rathnam's Bombay) will play the celluloid version of Nawaz Sharif.

And while on Shivraj Kumar, you might know that the star is slated to appear in the Kannada remake of Darr. Upendra joins him in the credits, though it is not yet known which of the two will reprise the Shah Rukh Khan role and which, the Bobby Deol one.

The film is being made by Sunil Kumar Desai, who for the first time handles a remake after a string of successful originals. And while on remakes, another one on the Kannada floors is Aaj Ki Awaz -- the long-ago Raj Babbar starrer, which will be reprised by a starcast headed by Sai Kumar, Ravichandran and Vinayalakhsmi. The film has, for now, been titled Mahatma -- though considering the dust there was when Kamal Haasan wanted to use that title for a film, odds are that by the time this one hits the marquee, it would have undergone a name change.

Remake mania

Maheshwari. Click for bigger pic!
Still on remakes -- the Malayalam original, Punjabi House, starring Dilip is due for a Telugu lease of remade life. Kodi Ramakrishna directs for producer Gopal Reddy, with Naveen and Sridevi's cousin, Maheshwari, heading the star cast.

Ee Pozhayum Kadannu, another Dilip-starrer (this one in tandem with real-life wife Manju Warrier), will get remade in Tamil with P A Selvaraj directing. The Tamil remake, titled Kanna, Unnai Thedugirain, will star part-time lawyer and actress Suvalakshmi in tandem with debutant Satyan, a lookalike of sometime-villain, sometime-hero, occasional character artiste Satyaraj.

And a passing mention of another star kid rising in the south -- to wit, Vyjayantimala Bali's son Suchendra -- rechristened Praveen Bali -- who debuts as second hero in Kannodu Kaanpathellaam.

The one-off number

Rambha. Click for bigger pic!
Tamil film-makers appear to have hit on a hot trend -- the one song appearance. It's been going on for a while, actually -- Sonali Bendre did a ditty in Bombay, Pooja Batra first hit celluloid with a one-song appearance, and in more recent times, Karishma Kapoor's appearance as a seductive alien in K T Kunjumon's forever-under-production Koodeswaran is eagerly awaited.

Tamil heroines too have been doing the one song round. Rambha recently shook a well-fleshed leg for Kaadhalar Dinam, while Simran's dance with rumoured beau Raju Sundaram in Edhirum Pudhirum proved to be a huge attraction (Simran in fact is due to do another one-song appearance in the Tamil version of Andhapuram).

While on Simran, she is due to pair with Vijay in Udhaya -- following on from the runaway success of their earlier pairing, Thullatha Manamum Thullum. August incidentally is a big month for Vijay -- come the 25th, he will tie the knot with the London-based Sangeeta.

But to revert to the subject of one song appearances, Raju Sundaram has done his share of these, and now it is brother Prabhu Deva's turn.

Prabhu Deva in fact debuted on the screen with a one-song gig, as a skinny teen, in Kadhir's Idhayam (the film also marked Heera Rajagopal's debut), then hit the big time with his nifty bopping in the Chikku Bukku Raiyile number for Shankar's debut film, Gentleman, before going on to parlay his mobile features and rubber-limbed dancing skills into an acting career. Now he is set to do another one dance appearance, in director Vikraman's Vaanathe Pole.

Rai on a roll

Prakash Rai.
Prakash Rai (Raj, if you ask Tamil movie fans) is on a roll. His own production (Rai's banner is Duet, named after the K Balachander film in which he made his debut) Andhapuram won him eight Nandi awards, then went on to gain for him the national award, that too in the special jury category, for acting.

You will recall that earlier, he had got the national honour, as best supporting actor, for his role in the Mani Rathnam film, Iruvar (and while on Mani and national awards, you'll notice that his latest, Dil Se, got Santosh Sivan nother national award for cinematography).

Incidentally, Rai's Andhapuram co-star, Parthiban, also has reason to celebrate.

His Houseful -- a thriller, based on a terrorist operation centred in a movie house -- was a disaster at the box office, but has just won him the national award for best Tamil film.

And to sign off, a quick word from the Kamal Hassan camp -- the Bangalore-based, light-eyed Vasundhara, a Hindustani music addict, has been signed on to play Kamal's wife in the under-production film He Ram.

-- Rajitha

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