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November 10, 1998


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Southern sojourn

Riya Sen. Click for bigger pic!
That Riya, Moon Moon Sen's daughter, will co-star in Taj Mahal, the film in which ace director Bharati Raja will launch his son Manoj, is history.

Now for the fun bit -- Moon Moon, who, of late has been spending almost all her time in Calcutta, follows her daughter down south. And will shortly appear, albeit on the small screen, in Manithargal, a teleserial that pairs her opposite erstwhile big screen star turned character artiste Shivakumar.

Produced by Seventh Channel and directed by award-winning serial-maker L Narayanan, and slated to be aired on Doordarshan's regional channel, the serial also stars national award-winning Charu Hasan and has the editor of a successful newspaper as the central character.

Cops and curves

Tabu. Click for bigger pic!
Ninne Pelladutha, which had the pair cavorting all over Mauritius and suchlike exotic locales, proved a huge hit.

So here they go again, Nagarjuna and Tabu, back together in Police Killadi, to be directed by E V V Satyanarayan under the Shreesai Ganesh Productions banner. And this time round, both male and female lead play cops. Could be fun, figuring out who caught who, huh?

Appu returns

Vijaykanth. Click for bigger pic!
Sixteen years ago, as a baby, he starred in one of the biggest extravaganzas this nation has ever seen. Now, grown to young manhood, he's back -- and ready to star in another blockbuster.

Yeah, Appu, the Asiad star, is back -- with a starring role in Kallazhaghar, co-starring Vijaykanth, who, in his heyday, was known as the poor man's Rajnikanth.

They had to track him down -- Appu, that is, not Vijaykanth -- all the way to Thrissur in Kerala, where the elephant formed one of a stable maintained by the famed Paaramekaavu temple, which forms the venue of the yearly Thrissur Pooram festival, one of the highlights of the Kerala tourism calendar.

Now he will lock horns with Vijaykanth in the upcoming production.

Meanwhile, there are other intriguing elements to Vijaykanth's story. During his glory days, Vijaykanth was involved in a relationship with Radhika, daughter of M R Radha (the late screen villain best remembered for having put a real-life bullet into M G Ramachandran's throat). That one went pffffftt, and Radhika went on to meet, love and marry a Britisher, Richard, this particular Indo-Anglian collaboration producing a baby daughter.

Now that marriage, as per the grapevine, is on the rocks. And Vijaykanth is having a bit of a problem finding finance for his movies -- Kallazhagar is reportedly delayed due to paucity of funds.

So his erstwhile lady love steps in to help out. By starring him in her own home production. Radhika, one of the better actresses in Tamil cinema, most recently hit the headlines when, in a few brief scenes where she plays a shrewish wife, she stole the acting honours in Shankar'sJeans, the Prashanth-Aishwarya Rai starrer.

Around the same time, Radhika also paired with Sivaji Ganesan in En Aasai Rajave, the film where the Chevalier plays a folk artiste and pulls off a bravura poikaal kudhirai dance number.

Plugging the ugly

Sharat Kumar. Click for bigger pic!
Now here's a tricky one: which of Bollywood's macho stars, who talk all the time of being willing to do "good roles", is prepared to portray himself as an "ugly" -- okay, to be politically correct, less than handsome -- guy?

The conundrum is thrown up by producer R B Choudhury, who you will recall was the man who produced Suryavamsham, the Sharat Kumar-starrer that proved such an impressive performer at the box office that the Big B and the Junior B will now star in the Hindi remake, Suryavansh.

He had also more recently-produced Sollamale, an unusual love story starring Livingstone (whose major credits thus far have been of the villainish order) and Kausalya, under the helm of debutant director Sasi.

The story was about a very ordinary looking guy, with a kingsize complex about his lack of looks, and his far-from-the-beaten-track romance -- to misquote a famous line, the "love that dare not speak its name".

Catch is, the ordinariness of Livingstone's looks was crucial to the story. And now Choudhury is readying a Hindi reprise, and has fixed on Kajol for the female lead. Now he needs a male star willing to be billed as an ordinary looker -- trick being to find one. Takers, anyone?

An embarrassment of musical riches

Illayaraja. Click for bigger pic!
Creativity comes with its share of headaches -- if not for the creator, then for those working with him.

Ask director Geethakrishna, now working on a film named Time. He roped in Ilayaraja to score the music and, to inspire the ace composer, even took him down to the Maldives, where the story is set, and flew him over the locales for a bird's eye view of the backdrop of the film.

Trouble being, Ilayaraja's muse kicked into overdrive and, lo, out came 30 tunes where the director wanted seven. All of them superlative, swears the director, who now has the unenviable task of trying to pare down these unlooked for riches. Or, to put it another way, to reject 23 Ilayaraja tunes.

Sex symbol reveals talent

Roja. Click for bigger pic!
Harking back for the moment to an earlier item: Vikraman, who will direct Big B and Small B for the Hindi remake of Suryavansham,Unnadithil Ennai Koduthen.

The film was remarkable mainly for the fact that Roja -- whose name spells oomph for Tamil and Telegu cinegoers -- fooled her legion of fans by appearing in a completely unglamorous role (a stunt she had pulled on them once before, in Kadavul).

The fans may have got less than their money's worth of female pulchritude, but Roja swept them -- and the critics -- off their feet with a powerful performance.

The film also did wonders for Ajith, whose career was going through a bit of a downswing before this film hit the stands. And now Vikraman readiers to pair the two together again. For her admirers, a stage wait while the film readies for the marquee -- then they will know whether Roja's latest role merits their wolf whistles, or their applause.

Kamal gets protection

Shihan Hussaini. Click for bigger pic!
Shihan Hussaini, TN's karate star, remains in the news with his mind-boggling stunts. And out of the public eye, he is reportedly masterminding security for Kamalhaasan -- a tough job, as the national award winning star is making a fair clutch of enemies with his under-production historical,Marudanayagam.

And now Hussaini's brother Ishaaq is all set to make his screen bow -- in Mansoor Ali Khan'sJeyam, which also introduces Bhavna in the female lead. Khan, incidentally, is a screen baddie turned movie-maker, who also has Kola Kolaya Munthirikkai on the floors.

Back to Marudhanayagam, which seems to be having more than its fair share of teething problems, or is it birth pangs we mean here? On October 16, 1997, the film took off to a blaze of national publicity when Britain's Queen EII, condescending to relax her serious mien for once, went down to Tamil Nadu to launch the film.

Since then, it's been problems all the way. The latest stemming from the fact that a very prominent Tamil community is up in arms, alleging that the historical misrepresents one of the icons of that community's history. Another section meanwhile allege that the film is a distortion of history, that the central character, portrayed as a hero of the struggle against the British, was actually a traitor who sold his country for a song-and-dance.

Since the two communities referred to above are central to the ongoing, and increasingly bloody, caste clashes in TN, the seriousness of the problem becomes evident. The prudent Kamal, thus, has abandoned extensive sets erected in Karaikudi, in interior TN, and shifted the locale to Chalakkudi, near Thrissur, in Kerala, where he hopes to find some peace and quiet in which to continue work on the project.

For Kamal, the bilingual -- the film is also being made simultaneously in English ("British English, not American", Kamal insists) -- is the culmination of a dream. And to see it fulfilled, he has decided to forego his usual fee, in the hope that when and if the film is made, the sale proceeds will more than compensate him for his present sacrifice.

Of the grandson of the Indian Zorro

M N Nambiar. Click for bigger pic!
The Mask of Zorro -- more accurately, Antonio Banderas -- has, in this age of laser guns and suchlike hi-tech weaponry, made sword fencing sexy again. Which reminds me of a guy who, back in the sixties and seventies, was renowned as a master of the art.

In real life, M N Nambiar was, by repute, a master swordsman. On celluloid, though -- such is the plight of villains -- he spent most of his time being made to look clumsy by matinee idol MGR (who, in passing, was famed as one of the foremost exponents of TN's home grown martial arts form, silambam).

Now we have another Nambiar --Deepak, M N's grandson making his screen bow opposite another debutante, Manjula, daughter of Krishna, the yesteryear's Telugu screen idol.

The elder Nambiar, meanwhile, has shed his villainous ways, and now plays avuncular roles in occasional celluloid outings. Interestingly, to devotees of Ayyappan, the reclusive Lord of the Sabari Hills, Nambiar is a legend. The temple has 18 steps, and the prescription is that you become a guruswamy when you take the arduous pilgrimage 18 times.

Nambiar is a triple guruswamy and counting. In fact, so popular -- and so very regular -- is the appearance of the Nambiar group of pilgrims at Sabarimala on the day of Makar Sankranti, that the temple authorities have now accorded them special privileges. They are permitted to be the last group up the sacred steps before the temple is closed down for the famed puja at dusk on Sankranti day.

-- Rajitha

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