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|November 4, 1999||
Love makes the filmi world go round
We've had love through snail mail, love through email, love over the telephone, love unvoiced....While love stories are a staple of the movie industry, the present frenzy probably owes its genesis to Kaadhalukku Mariyadhai, which proved a smash hit for the Vijay-Shalini lead pair.
The film was directed by Fazil -- in fact, it was a remake of his Malayalam original, Aniyathipravu, which bust just about every box office record in Kerala -- and the message screaming through was, it is fine to fall in love but don't run away, don't create a mess, work to convince your parents instead and wait patiently for as long as it takes.
Then came Poovellam Kettupaar, helmed by Vasant. In the lead was Surya, son of yesteryear star Sivakumar, and Jyotika, Nagma's sprightly, effervescent sister.
This one took the 'get parental approval' message a step further, and had the lead pair swapping homes, the girl going to the guy's place as a nurse while the guy went to his loved one's home as driver, both working to inveigle themselves into the hearts of their prospective in-laws.
The comedy-laced film clicked, big time. And before you could say Cupid, out came four other films with an identical storyline! The funniest bit about this 'great minds think alike, so do copycats' syndrome was that Nasser and Vijaykumar found themselves playing identical roles in two of the films.
Jodi starring Simran and Prashant and directed by Pravinkanth (aka Pravin Gandhi, the man who directed Nagarjuna and Sushmita Sen in Rakshakan) was powered by A R Rahman's music.
Rahman, in fact, used the same score that he had composed for Doli Sajaake Rakhna (which, while we are on the theme, was a remake of Aniyathipravu in Hindi, and directed by Priyadarshan). The only unusual twist here was that Nasser, playing Prashant's father, works as a marriage registrar, is against runaway love matches and spends his time actively discouraging runaway couples from signing on the dotted line.
Next in line, Minsaara Kanna -- starring 'Chinna Rajni' Vijay and Rambha, alongside new face Monica. The film has Vijay and Monica studying in Germany, while back home, big sister Khusbhoo is a man-hater with a vengeance. The story has first Vijay, then his entire family, entering Khusbhoo's household as various members of the domestic staff, in a concerted bid to win her approval.
Directed by K S Ravikumar, the film gives Vijay some nice comic moments, and the song sequences are in exotic locales.
Then came Anbulla Kaadhalukku, with Mohan -- at one point, styled the poor man's Kamal, also called 'Velli Vizha Kadhanayagan' because his movies, powered by very good songs, ran 25 weeks without batting an eyelid -- returning after a long hiatus as hero.
It is doubtful whether in these days of young stars, anyone would have signed Mohan to play the lead -- a problem he solved by producing and directing the film himself. The theme? You guessed it, Mohan and debutant Geetha are in love, the latter has this bee in her bonnet that if they marry, her sister Shanti will become a widow within an hour -- some kind of family superstition, seemingly -- and the hero's job thus is to go over to India, enter the girl's household as, what else, a servant, unearth the wicked scheme that spawned the whole superstition anyway. And all's well that ends, ahem, well...
Stand by, now, for Kanave Kalayaadhey starring Murali and Simran (which incidentally makes this the second identical role for Simran) and directed by Gauthaman. The film was 'different' -- in the sense that it was shot in locales within India, at a time when the big kick is to go abroad.
Simran plays a Sikh girl who falls in love with a Tamil guy, and Murali goes over to Punjab to enter the girl's household and... yawn... convince the girl's folks that he is the guy for her. Not easy to do, since the girl's brother has a habit of reaching for his sword at the slightest irritation!
Hopefully, the flood of xerox films ends here...
Moving now to the subject of the big ones coming up for Diwali. The big news is that the three biggies that were supposed to bust the box office during the festive season have all been postponed. These three being He Ram, Alai Payudhe and Kandu Konden, Kandu Konden.
This leaves the field clear for two big ones -- Mudhalvan, helmed by Shankar with Arjun and Manisha Koirala in the lead; Taj Mahal with Bharatiraja introducing son Manoj, opposite Moon Moon Sen's daughter Ria. The latter has a rather interesting name in the credits -- the story and script is by Mani Rathnam, no less.
Another film with some promise, slated for Diwali, is Murli's Vattakudi Irannian. Prashanth will head the star cast of a rather unusual love story, Hello, with the chui mui si lass, Preeti (who made her debut in the Malayalam film Mazhavil, and at the point of writing, has a huge hit in the Andhra marquee in Thamudu) making her Tamil debut.
Manoj, interestingly, wanted to be renamed Manibharati -- combining the names of Mani Rathnam and Bharatiraja, but after a lot of dilly-dallying, will now retain his name. Papa Bharatiraja, in fact, has a thing for rechristening people -- and if Subhash Ghai has an 'M' fixation, then Raja has an 'R' hang-up, having in the past turned an Asha Kelunni into a Revathi, a Chandrika into Radha and so on.
The original Taj Mahal was a monument to a dead and gone beloved. This celluloid one, Bharatiraja says, celebrates a pair of village lovers while they are very much alive and kicking. And its music (A R Rahman, who else?) is supposed to be a strong point.
The Shankar show
Shankar, meanwhile, brings his fifth film on to the marquee -- this one being his debut as a producer. Arjun starred in his directorial debut Gentleman, while Manisha has worked under Shankar in Indian. The director has this thing for technical wizardry (remember the Muqabala song in Kaadhalan?) and Mudhalvan is supposed to be no different in that respect, being heavily into graphics, and spectacular cinematography including, as per the grapevine, a song sequence against the backdrop of a hill range on fire.
The story is about this television reporter who goes on to become a politico -- the spark coming during an interview where he grills a politico, exasperating the latter to such an extent that he bursts out, "it is easy to criticise, but not as easy to rule." That line triggers off ambition... and the rest of the story is about the outcome.
Shankar and A R Rahman is the kind of combo that arouses audience expectations, and they are joined by hotshot cinematographer K V Anand. Word around the studios is that this film's visuals are going to be a talking point.
Another attraction of the film is Sushmita Sen, in a one-song appearance. The song, called Shak-a-lak-a baby has been sung by newcomer Vasundhara. This peaches-and-cream complexioned light-eyed girl also stars opposite Kamalahasan in He Ram.
Among others who have put in one-song appearances in the recent past are Pooja Batra in a Tamil film, Sonali Bendre (in Bombay). Karisma Kapoor too, appears in a song as an alien in a Tamil film called Kodeeswaran. Incidentally, the film that started this trend is Shankar's Gentleman in which Prabhudeva and Gauthami appeared in a song sequence. The film's producer, Kunjimom, also happens to produce Mudhalvan.
Then there is Hello. "Most people," producer Senthil said on the phone, "commit some mistakes in their youth, some of them even being irreversible, which they realise too late. Here the hero commits a wrong, realises it and tries to undo it -- the whole story told as a full length comedy. It is a young, peppy love story."
Selvabharati, who made his debut in Ninaithen Vandai, helms for the second time with this film. Preeti, who starred in the Milind Ingle series of song-videos produced by Rajshri, before debuting on celluloid in Kerala and then getting a runaway hit in Andhra (Thamudu has completed 100 days and still running, with Pavan Kalyan, Chiranjeevi's brother, as her co-star) says she found Prashanth (the Jeans guy) easy to work with.
Her biggest memory, though, is the sheer pace of this film. "The team is very quick," she said, during a brief break in Bombay from her shooting schedule. "They are very sure, very fast, they know what they want and they get it quickly."
Language problem? "My dubbing artiste has done very well," Preeti says. "On screen, I mouth the shorter lines, the longer ones, I mouth in Hindi."
Deva, who this year has come up with some big hits like Amarkalam, scores the music and if Preeti's raves are to be used as yardstick, the songs are worth tuning in to.
Prabhu Deva, the painter
Another film hitting the marquee during the festival of lights is Time -- with Prabhu Deva heading a cast including Simran and Radhika Choudhary.
Interestingly, the loose-limbed dancing star does a flip in this film and plays a painter instead. His lady love is Radhika Choudhary, but as it turns out, one of the paintings of women that he does, looks like Simran. Comes the day he sees his painting come alive in her -- and the rest of the story is about what this does to his state of mind and heart.
Geetakrishna directs, Ilayaraja -- no less -- tunes the score, and the film is being released in Tamil and Telugu simultaneously. Prabhu Deva has been waiting for a hit for a while now -- this could, judging by studio buzz, be the one, though it has enormous competition on the marquee from the likes of Mudhalvan, Taj Mahal, Hello et al.
Then again, some movie makers release their films on the 'alternative' line of thinking. In other words, in the hope that cinegoers who fail, during the festive days, to get tickets for the likes of Mudhalvan and Taj Mahal will hopefully head for Hello, Time and such.
And among the alternatives, there is also Satyaraj's Azhagarsami, Vikram's Sethu and Vattakudi Irannian -- the latter supposedly being in the Ben Hur style of historical spectacular.
Now to see which of these prove to be real Diwali phatakas and which fizzle out when the fuse is lit...
Happy Diwali, all!
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