April 6, 1998
South goes Sonali too
Bidding bye to bad Bollywood Sonali slinks southward.
Sonali Bendre. Click for bigger pic!
She's acting opposite a rank newcomer called Kunal, a Puneite with no filmi godfathers, in a film called Kaadhalar Dinam (Valentine's Day).
The producer is A M Rathnam, who produced Indian (Hindustani) earlier, and the director Kadhir also directed Kaadhal Desam, that hit Vineeth-Abbas-Tabu starrer (Dilwalon Ka Duniya abroad).
Rathnam, known to be a generous spender, actually flew down 12 leading models, among them Miss India Rani Jeyraj, Lara Dutta and Laila Rouss, ostensibly for cameo roles, but actually to provide the glamour at the muhurat. Even the financiers didn't complain...
The reluctant daddy
It made S V Shekhar, the leading southern comedian, feel old when he was asked to play Aishwarya Rai's dad in Jeans after S P Balasubramaniam, singer and character actor, couldn't. But since it was a Shankar film, he was all for it.
But Aishwarya took one look at the man who would be dad after the make-up came off and couldn't take it. Much to Shekhar's immediate delight, she blurted, "You look too old to be my father; an elder brother would have been more appropriate."
The comedian felt good for some time till he realised the negative aspect. When what was arguably the world's prettiest woman calls you a brother, it can be a bit of a damper. But then, Shekhar being married, he has no real reason for complaint, right?
Tara 's southern gambit
Hey, we nearly forgot a newcomer who's also heading south -- Tara Deshpande. Yup, the woman who appeared in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, Bada Din, Kaizad Gustad's Bombay Boys and Begum Sumroo. Acting in a Tamil movie with Mammotty, she is.
Tara Deshpande. Click for bigger pic!
She grabbed the role with both hands when she heard who she was acting with. Mammotty's last with a Bombay belle -- Shilpa Shirodkar -- Arasiyal, a flick with a political theme -- was a superhit in Tamil.
Tara, of course, would love to act in something more intellectually stimulating. After all, hasn't she always been aspiring to be known as a thinking actress.
The MT twist
There's this other Malayalam film by M T Vasudevan Nair on the starting block, Daya. Same old Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, but from the viewpoint of Morgiana, the slave girl who often comes to Ali Baba's rescue.
But MT has been known to do this before, writing a story from the viewpoint of a minor character. Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha which earned Mammotty a national award for best acting and MT the one for best script, dealt with the story of folk hero Aromal Chekavar, from the viewpoint of his poor cousin Chandu.
Reading up the records, MT traced how Chandu became an orphan at a young age and was brought up and taught by Aromal Chekavar's father, actually proving better than Aromal Chekavar at the martial act.
Chandu falls for Aromal Chekavar's sister Unniarcha, herself a folk heroine, until the brother puts a spoke in the wheels. Chandu is not involved with the actual betrayal...
Another story, Randam Oozham ( Second Chance) was the Mahabharat, from Bhima's perspective. Now there's one Hindi director rooting for the rights of that one.
Paens to pulchritude
Speaking of Vairamuthu, whom the DMK government last year officially named Poet Laureate of Tamil Nadu, and who has a national award for best lyrics to his credit: his latest muse appears to be Aishwarya Rai.
Aishwarya Rai. Click for bigger pic!
For Jeans -- reputedly the costliest film ever made, and helmed by Shankar, the hotshot who struck box office gold with his first three films Gentleman, Kadhalan and Indian -- Vairamuthu has written a song comparing the brandy-eyed former Miss World with what is claimed to be the seven wonders of the world. A sampling: in one line, he calls Ash "the 50-kilo Taj Mahal".
Aishwarya's pulchritude comes in for some rather clever wordplay (at least, it sounds very clever in the original Tamil, allowance needs making for loss in translation). In one passage, he suggests that when a person looks at Ash's waist, he gets to thinking that Brahma, the Creator, is a miser. But if he "raises his eyes a few inches," he begins to believe that Brahma doles out his favours with an open hand!
The best for a Raja's son
Bharati Raja, the director who first took Tamil cinema out of the sets and into the open, fresh air of the villages, is launching son Manoj in a mega-budget film. Opposite him, is Riya -- Moon Moon Sen's daughter. The film is called Taj Mahal.
Rather mysteriously, Mani Ratnam (who wrote the story), Rajiv Menon (screenplay) and Madhu Ambat (cinematography) -- all participated in the launch function. Bharati Raja indicated clearly that all three backroom biggies would have a part to play in the film. Brings up the question, what? Mani is a director (Raja has indicated that he is not directing his son).
Rajiv Menon is a cinematographer/director (Bombay/Sapnay). Madhu Ambat is a top of the line cinematographer. So just who will direct, and who will handle the camera, is being mysteriously left open.
What was officially announced is that A R Rehman will provide the music. And Vairamuthu, the lyrics.
Big B plays old man
Amitabh Bachchan, meanwhile, has decided to act his age.
Amitabh Bachchan. Click for bigger pic!
Director Priyadarshan -- whose record of 40 films in Malayalam without an authentic flop, followed by the moderately successful Virasat, was spoilt by the bombing of Saath Rang Ke Sapne -- got a call from the Big B, assigning him a film project. "I want a role where I can be my age," was Amitabh's sole stipulation.
Priyadarshan, who made a career out of making light-hearted comedies, and who recently switched over to more serious subjects like Kalapani, delved into English literature for the right one. Namely, Ernest Hemingway's seminal Old Man And The Sea.
"The script I am working on will be based on the Hemingway classic," says Priyan without, however, going into too much detail.