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June 14, 2000


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Kamal joins the rat race

Kamal Haasan Thenali, the Kamal Haasan-starrer that pairs him opposite Jyotika, is readying for a Diwali release.

The film has Kamal playing a Sri Lankan refugee who loses his parents in the ongoing ethnic violence in the island nation (father brutally killed, mother raped and killed, that kind of thing) and gets psychologically disturbed as a result.

The incidents in his life turn him into a chronic, scared of his own shadow paranoid, and that, in turn, entails psychiatric treatment. Which is provided by two doctors, played by Jayaram and 'Delhi' Ganesh.

Much of the story is about how Kamal gets close to Jayaram and his family -- with Devyani playing Jayaram's wife, and Jyotika playing his sister, and Kamal's love interest.

Mohanlal Films with psychiatry as the backdrop have, in the past, tended to be serious. Take for example the Malayalam films Thaalam Thettiya Tharattu, where Mohanlal, as the mentally disturbed character, turned in one of his memorable performances, or Ulladakkam, where, again, it is Mohanlal in the lead, but this time as a doctor while Amala plays the patient in need of psychiatric help. And incidentally, Kamal himself has played a psychopath in Sigappu Rojakkal.

But Thenali, unlike the films referred to above, won't have the grimness associated with the subject. Word is, it is being treated as a light comedy, with mice figuring prominently. In fact, one of the highlights is a scene where Kamal gets scared of an itsy-bitsy mouse -- which in turn leads to a multiplicity of mice. White mice by the dozen are being used for the scene and trainers are busy trying to get the rodents to match the lead star in 'acting.'

To revert for a moment to Jayaram, his 10-year-old son Kalidasan (Jayaram is married to former Malayalam actress Parvati) has become hot property in Kerala, following the success of Kochu Kochu Santhosham, directed by Satyan Anthikkad.

Of debut directors and second offerings

Ajith has been on a roll since his Vaali, co-starring Simran, proved to be a superhit. And that in turn was immediately followed by Amarkalam -- another massive grosser. And Ajith was back after a spell in the wilderness.

It did seem that the spate of bad films that preceeded Vaali and Amarkalam had taught the actor the value of going for strong subjects, with scope for acting -- but lo, Ajith's turned in a dud with Unnai Kodu, Ennai Tharuven, helmed by debut director Kavee Kalidas.

The basic theme is interesting enough. A mysterious woman walks in out of the gloom and hands over a new-born baby to army officer Nasser, who brings up the kid with the army playing foster-mother. Needless to say, he grows into the best cadet, with a brilliant future ahead of him.

Somewhere along the way, he also falls in love with Simran, the daughter of a high-ranking army officer. The romance gets official sanction, the wedding is fixed, but Simran's father dies in a terrorist attack and her mother promptly dies of a broken heart. This breeds in Simran a paranoid fear that she will lose Ajith as well. So she tells her fiancee that the choice is clear -- he either leaves the army or forgets about her.

So far, so good -- but the director, with an interesting kernel to work with, goes amuck, creating the most ridiculous situations imaginable. A pity, really, because, in the process, he also wastes the on-screen chemistry of the Ajith-Simran pairing, which worked wonderfully well in Vaali.

The audience response has been a definite thumbs down. Now, Ajith has his hopes pinned on his next outing, Nanda. Which is being helmed by Bala -- who, if you recall, made his debut as director with Sethu, the superhit that catapulted Vikram into the star bracket. Sethu was an actor-driven story and Ajith will be hoping for the Bala magic to repeat itself.

Kushee And while on debut directors and their second offerings, Vijay -- who, while Ajit was doing wonders at the box office, turned in a series of flops -- is back in the reckoning with Kushee.

The film, again with Jyotika sharing lead credits, was directed by Surya, whose debut was the Ajith-Simran superhit, Vaali. Kushee received a great initial and is now showing good legs at the box office -- something that should please Vijay, who, not so long ago, was being hailed, under the sobriquet of Ilaya Dalapathi, as Rajinikanth's natural successor.

While the love story runs on pretty predictable lines. Jyotika yet again gets rave reviews for playing the sprightly lass, while another drawing card is the Macarena dance number featuring Shilpa Shetty in a one song appearance.

And, before leaving the theme, Mumtaz, the Bombay moll who flopped big time in her debut outing, T Rajendar's Monisha En Monalisa, has a sizzling dance number in Kushee, for the song Kattipudi kattipudi da -- and, on the strength of that, is being hailed by industry watchers as the next Silk Smitha, with producers flocking to her doorstep to get her to do similar dance sequences in their own productions.

Prabhu Deva returns to his roots

Prabhu Deva A quick look at Kannada, where Prabhu Deva -- whose origins are Kannadiga -- will shortly debut alongside reigning superstar, Upendra.

Upendra, you will recall, is the bloke who makes something of a penchant of coming up with films with unusual titles -- there was Ssssssh!, A and Upendra (that's right, one of his hits was a movie named after himself). He also recently hit the marquee doing a reprise of Shah Rukh Khan's Darr role in Preet Se, another hit.

Now he will share top billing with Prabhu Deva in an upcoming venture.

Meanwhile, Prabhu Deva's brothers Raju Sundaram and Prasad are both on the verge of turning heroes. Raju Sundaram, whose one song appearances are a popular trend in Tamil movies, will lead the cast in the latest project of Anandi Films -- the banner that made old-time movies like Mullum Malarum. Prasad, meanwhile, stars in Madanlal's (the maker of Chaavi, the Tamil remake of Dial M For Murder) next production. Roja, who turned in a superb performance in Prabhu Deva's recent hit Ezhayin Sirippil, will play the lead in both movies.

You will remember that Raju Sundaram played Aishwarya Rai's brother in the Shankar film, Jeans, while Prasad, after his Humma humma dance number with Sonali Bendre in Bombay, did Thotta Siningi with Devyani, wherein he played Revathi's brother.

Will Vaanavil be Arjun's much-needed hit?

Arjun seems to work best with Shankar helming his projects. He had a huge hit with Gentleman, Shankar's debut vehicle, and another with Mudalvan, the same director's latest outing.

Since then, it's been downhill all the way, with Sudhandiram, the Tamil version of Ghulam, bombing big time at the box office. Apparently the audience couldn't stomach him dashing towards an onrushing train, or boogeying to the Aati kya Khandala soundalike.

His next, Vaanavil, is readying for release this month. The film has him paired with the Kerala lass Abhirami, who lookswise reminds you of Madhu, Hema Malini's niece and the star of films like Roja. Vaanavil will be a bilingual -- Arjun probably hoping to cash in on the superhit status enjoyed by the Telugu version of Mudalvan, which was titled Arjunudu. A big canvas film, Vaanavil has song sequences set in Italy, plus the usual Arjun trademark of immaculately choreographed fight sequences.

Meanwhile, the actor is said to be busy planning his next film -- a home production this time.

Rathnam-Shankar-Kamal heading for another film?

Shankar Shankar is one director whose every move is closely watched -- if only because he alone has consistently turned in hits with every successive outing. There was talk that A M Rathnam was keen to have Shankar helm a Hindi remake of Mudalvan with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead, but the director said no thanks to that particular project.

It was also rumoured, for a while, that he would produce the next project himself (he debuted as producer with Mudalvan), and was trying to rope in Yukta Mookhey to star in the film.

That project appears to have gone west, too -- but Shankar, who loves to take a longish break after every film, is likely to get back to work as the helmsman of A M Rathnam's next, with Kamal Haasan in the lead. The last time the Rathnam-Shankar-Kamal team got together was in Indian, the film that fetched the star yet another national award for acting.

The going is good for Madhavan

Madhavan Madhavan, who got good reviews for his Tamil debut in Mani Rathnam's Alai Payuthe, had done a Kannada movie before the release of the Tamil film. Hoping to cash in on box office interest in Tamil Nadu, that movie is being dubbed into Tamil under the title Relax.

Madhavan is also getting good offers following his initial outing, with word being that, among other projects, he will be the lead for C TV's next project -- C TV being the banner headed by Dr Murli Manohar, co-producer of Shankar's Aishwarya Rai-starrer, Jeans.

Revathi-Suresh to go public

G Venkiteswaran -- GV, to the industry and Mani Rathnam's elder brother -- broke the mould when he became the first to offer shares in his movie company to the public.

Slated to follow in his footsteps is former star-turned-television-producer Asha Menon nee Kelunni (Revathi, to give her the screen name).

Telephoto, the production company headed by Revathi and hubby Suresh Menon, is thus likely to go public shortly.

Nuvvu Vasthavani gives Nagarjuna new life

Nuvvu Vasthavani, the Telugu version of Thullatha Manamum Thullam, has broken the drought and given Nagarjuna the hit he's been missing for quite a while. Now 100 days old at the box office and still running strong, the film co-stars Simran, who had starred in the Tamil original as well.

TMT was Ezhil's debut film and he has directed the Telugu version as well. His next is Pennin Manathai Thottu, with Prabhu Deva in the lead and featuring, at the head of the female cast, Jaya Seel -- another import, this one being a Calcutta girl brought up in Bombay.

Nagarjuna, meanwhile, could cash in on his rediscovered popularity at the turnstiles with his next outing, the soon to be release Ninne Premistha, produced by R B Choudhury.

-- Rajitha

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