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April 13, 1998


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Aunty vs Chachi

V S Srinivasan

Govinda in Aunty No 1. Click for bigger pic!
There's been this big thing brewing about those celebrations of drag, Chachi 420 and Aunty No 1. That they are both inspired by Mrs Doubtfire and that they were both similar in content.

"No, I can't agree with you if you tell me the idea of Avvai Shanmughi (Chachi 420) germinated after watching Mrs Doubtfire. It is a crazy allegation. Why can't you accept a fact that the same idea can germinate in more than one mind," asks Kamal Hasan.

But that does mean that Aunty No 1 too could be an original idea?

"Certainly. There is no room for controversy. The media has made it all up. Govinda met me and spoke to me about his film. I went and saw the rushes of the film at Govinda's insistence. They are totally different films," says Kamal.

Kamal Hasan in Chachi 420. Click for bigger pic!
Govinda, though, admits his film isn't an original, but the prototype wasn't Mrs Doubtfire either, he says. And he has the backing of trade pundits, who say that Aunty No 1 is based on Acharya Atre's famous Marathi play Moruchi Maushi. In that case, Mrs Doubtfire only confirmed that that the theme could work on screen too.

Govinda's brother Kirti Kumar, who has directed Aunty No 1, says, "From day one I have been saying that Moruchi Maushi is the inspiration for Aunty No 1. The play caught my imagination long ago, when I was an avid fan of Marathi literature." Kirti Kumar claims he was especially impressed by the brand of humour employed in the play. That, coupled with his longing to promote Marathi literature, he says, was what prompted him into making the movie. Not Robin Williams.

Govinda. Click for bigger pic!
But he knew he lacked the knack to convert a play into a movie, and so he roped in Sachin Bhowmick for the screenplay and Kader Khan for the dialogues.

Govinda hopes the "curiosity value" will draw audiences. "People who have seen Kamal in Chachi 420 will be curious to know what I am doing in this film," he says. Kirti Kumar is even more confident. "Govinda alone can rope in the public," he says.

It was the hype that brought Govinda and Kamal together to thrash the matter out. And the matter was settled to everyone's satisfaction.

Kamal Hasan. Click for bigger pic!
"Govinda and I contacted him and we had a sitting together where we discussed our films and saw each other's work. We were pretty happy," says Kirti Kumar, who now blames the media for hyping up the non-existent.

Says Govinda,"(Kamal) is a man of the classes. I act in films that are more for the masses. The kind of films we do are always different... Moreover, the subject too is different in both the movies. Kamal has done a great job there. But then there are some changes needed in a Hindi version, because the masses here think differently from those in the south," he says.

Kamal himself gives Aunty No 1 a clean chit. "It's a typical Govinda entertainer. And Govinda is terrific," he says. "The only similar thing in the films is that both of us fight to the end. I'd turned myself into an old lady because that clears every hint of vulgarity. Govinda has done the role his way. Now I'm waiting to see how Aunty No 1 fares."

Govinda in Aunty No 1. Click for bigger pic!
Clearly, there is no trouble between aunty and chachi.

In fact, Govinda was surprised -- and maybe a little concerned for other reasons -- when Kamal's movie took time to take off. But when it finally caught on, he decided he ought to postpone Aunty No 1.

"Since the media had already described the films as being similar, it would have been dangerous for them to come out together," he says.

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