Prabhu Deva in a unique tap dance!
M D Riti
Want to know how to make a film in 90 days with a mammoth budget of Rs seven crores and two dancing superstars?
Ask producer Dhanraj, who just completed the mahurat of his new trilingual film in Bangalore.
The mahurat alone cost him a whopping Rs 20 lakhs. Its main attraction is that it features Prabhu Deva, the boneless wonder dancer from Madras, with Kannada cinema’s inimitable Upendra.
"I was waiting for a big banner and the right launchpad to make my first Kannada film," says Prabhu Deva. This ace choreographer and dancer has been identified so strongly with Tamil films that the people of his native Karnataka had virtually forgotten that he was a Kannadiga by origin.
But Prabhu Deva impressed assembled journalists and spectators at the launch of superstar Upendra’s new film by speaking flawless Kannada.
Prabhu Deva will costar with Upendra in his first ever Kannada film, the title of which producer Dhanraj refuses to reveal.
However, this film, which has just gone on the sets, is to have the biggest budget in the history of Kannada cinema -- Rs seven to eight crores.
Can Dhanraj and Upendra, who will also direct the film, really hope to recover this amount from theatre collections?
"Why not?" asks Dhanraj, confidently. "A well made film can always earn back its investment. Besides, this film will be trilingual: it will be made in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu."
"We have stopped dance direction for cinema in the last few years," says Prabhu Deva. "But Upendra persuaded me to choreograph all the dances in this new film."
National audiences still remember with delight Prabhu Deva's choreography of the song, Que sera sera with Madhuri Dixit in Boney Kapoor's film Pukar some months ago.
It might be recalled that the audiences of the South were irked when Madhuri Dixit had expressed her scepticism about Kapoor inviting an unknown South Indian (Prabhu Deva) to direct this all-important dance sequence. "If we had questioned Hrithik Roshan's ability to dance, would not Madhuri have been shocked at our ignorance?" asks an irate Kannada superstar, who did not wish to be named.
Upendra already has the reputation of being a top class dancer himself. However, Prabhu Deva promises to extract better than ever performances from him. "I will make him dance perfectly," he says, with a grin.
Both Prabhu Deva and Upendra have equally important roles in this film. Between them is Bombay heroine Priyanka.
Upendra declared mysteriously that there would be a special tap dance in the film, which will be unparalleled in the history of Indian cinema.
If the sheer grandeur and expense of the mahurat of the film is anything to go by, this new film should be the utlimate extravaganza. The launch function alone cost about Rs 20 lakhs, as it was set in the grounds of the Bangalore palace, which Dhanraj rented for close to Rs 1.10 lakhs. Red carpeting the premises cost another Rs. 1.4 lakhs, invitations took up another Rs five lakhs, and posters, Rs 3 lakhs.
The gladiator-like costumes worn by the leading stars for the mahurat reportedly cost over a lakh of rupees. Dhanraj has apparently set aside about Rs 30 lakhs for costumes alone for this film.
Spectators arriving for the mahurat were amazed at the spectacle of two elephants, about 50 horsemen and over 200 footmen standing in attention at the entrance to the palace.
The mahurat shot consisted of the men and animals proceeding in a grand procession towards seated princeling Wodeyar. In their midst sat Priyanka in a horse-drawn carriage. As she alighted from the carriage, both Upendra and Prabhu Deva garlanded her with a big garland.
A red carpet had petals strewn all over it. The palace made a magnificent backdrop to the scene, with a fountain brought in specially for the occasion.
At 8 pm, the famous magician, Uday Jadugar, and mimicry artiste Dayanand came on stage for a captivating performance with the Bangalore Palace as the backdrop and a huge water fountain. This was followed by a spectacular firework display. The audience of nearly 10,000 was starstudded itself, with even Parvathamma Rajakumar and her brother S A Govindaraj, who was released recently by Veerappan, seated quietly.
"This is my first film with Prabhu Deva," gushed Priyanka, dressed in a fairly revealing costume for the mahurat shot. "I have acted with Upendra in a Telugu film, Raa, already. I am delighted to be acting with both these great stars together now."
Priyanka, whose real name is Sridevi, says she has acted in two Hindi films, one opposite Arshad Warsi for Prakash Mehra, to be released soon. The former Miss Calcutta professes to have seen a couple of Kannada films on television to prepare herself for this assignment.
Song recording, under the direction of Sadhu Kokila, has been going on in Bangalore for this film since the past month. There will be six songs.
There will be a fair amount anticipation built up through intriguing press advertisements over the next few weeks, in typical Upendra style. "Spectators have come to expect novelty from me at all times, ever since my controversial film, which was released three-four years ago," says Upendra. "Now I am compelled to live up to their expectations."
Few people watching the spectacle at the Bangalore palace remembered Dhanraj’s own humble entry into Kannada cinema almost two decades ago as a tea boy! He came up the hard way, through his innate intelligence, commercial insight and endeavour.
Somewhere along the way, he became known as the king of remakes, as most of his successful films, starting with his first commercial success, Sri Ramachandra (1992) all the way through subsequent ventures like Vishwa, were remakes of successful films in other languages.