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January 27, 2001


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On the floors


Ajit The New Year is still sparking new, and already, the Tamil movie industry is buzzing with a heap of high-profile movies taking to the floors almost simultaneously. Here is a checklist:

Poovellaam Un Vaasam: Ezhil, who made a sensational debut with his Vijay-Simran superhit Thullatha Manamum Thullum, has now announced an Ajit-Jyotika starrer, thus satisfying the primary demand of the box office by teaming the current hottest male and female stars.

His second outing, Pennin Manathai Thottu with Prabhu Deva and Jaya Sheel didn't live up to the box office expectations.

Poovellaam Un Vaasam is a happy family drama. The simple flick conveys the message that 'relations' doesn't necessarily imply blood relations. Sometimes the deepest, most loyal relationships could be between friends.

The film also stars VS Raghavan, Sukumari, Nagesh and Marathi actor Sayaji Shinde, who recently debuted on the Tamil marquee in the lead role of the film Bharti, playing the role of the fiery Tamil poet of the freedom struggle.

The film revolves around two houses and their inmates. Art director Prabhakar, has created the sets of these fully functional, fully equipped homes at a cost of Rs one crore.

But it raises a question.

Jyotika Why are two sets created at such enormous expense, when they are meant for demolition once the shoot is over? In fact, for that amount, two luxurious, permanent bungalows in Tamil Nadu can be acquired, that could be used even after the shooting was over.

Then again, ours not to question why...

Nanda: Director Bala, who is referred to as 'Sethu' Bala these days, following the runaway hit of the Vikram-starrer Sethu last year (it also won him a national award for best film, while lead actor Vikram, turned in the performance of a lifetime and missed out the national award for acting by just one vote to Mohanlal in Vanaprastham), is now readying his second offering.

Nanda has Surya and Rajkiran in lead roles. Bala being the perfectionist he is, insisted on a very characteristic look for Surya. This meant that the shooting could begin only after Surya had completed some prior commitments, and then made the physical changes necessary for this role.

Rajkiran, too, plays an unusual role, but the filmmakers are playing this one very close to the chest, refusing to give out any hint of what the story is all about.

"In some parts, it is close to Sethu, and in others, it isn't," is all that Bala says, adding, "You have to wait for May, when the film is released, and find out for yourself."

Given, though, the sheer brilliance of his first film, it goes without saying that Bala has an enormous weight of expectations to fulfill in his second project.

K Balachander Paarthale Paravasam: It has been four years since K Balachander's Kalki, has taken to the floors. In the interim, he has kept himself busy producing television serials, occasionally even directing some of them.

Now he is back! When completed (K Balachander gives himself two months to finish this project), this will be his 100th film.

The story, believed to be based on a Marathi play, All The Best is about three physically handicapped youngsters all in love with the same girl.

The film has Madhavan and Simran in the lead, with Sneha (whose debut Ennavale opposite Madhavan proved a bomb and whose second film, Virumbukirain, opposite Prashant is ready for release) playing an important character. AR Rehman tunes the music.

Kaathal Virus: Director Kathir now comes up with yet another love story. And since Kathir doesn't make movies without AR Rehman providing the music, the latter will need to extend his absence from London to fulfill this commitment as well.

The film marks the Tamil debut of Richard, the real life brother of Shalini and Shyamalee, both national award-winning child stars (Shalini, famously, then went on to become an adult star, with a couple of huge hits, before marrying Ajit and retiring). Richard, incidentally, has already made his celluloid debut in a Telugu film.

Kathir Partnering Richard in the credits is Abbas, a Kathir discovery (introduced in the college caper Kaathal Desam, alongside Vineet and Tabu).

Abbas, however, will feature in the credits as a special appearance.

The makers are yet to finalise the leading lady, but the choice seems to be narrowing down to Bhumika, a Bombay import who has a couple of Telugu hits to her credit. This will be her first Tamil film, if she does it.

The film is about love and youthfulness, but the storyline for now remains hush-hush.

New: A film called New?

That's right -- that is the name director Surya (of Vaalee and Kushee fame) has given his next project.

Surya casts his favourite Ajit again. Their association began with Aasai, when Surya was assistant director to Vasanth. Ajit and Surya then teamed up in the latter's debut directorial venture, Vaalee.

Interestingly, it was Vasanth who gave the director, whose real name is Justin, the name 'Surya', after the character Rajnikanth plays in the Mani Rathnam hit Dalapathi.

Surya Vaalee was the story of twin brothers (both played by Ajit) both in love with the same girl, with the handicapped twin's mental equipoise being shattered by his failure to win her, and the disastrous consequences thereof.

Surja then came up with Khushee, a love story with a difference. In this film, there are no villains. The entire conflict is caused by the mental makeup of the lead pair (Vijay and Jyotika) and their respective egos.

New is, thus, Surya's third film -- and it has Jyotika in the female lead.

Asked what the film is about, Surya only laughs. While refusing to divulge the storyline, he said that one thing is sure -- the film will be 'a touch quirky'.

Swaasam: Now here is an interesting launch.

Director Balaji pairs Ebbie with Priyanka Trivedi, a Mysore lass who debuts in this film.

Incidentally, Ebbie is the son of Kunjumon, the high-flying producer of the Nineties, whose fortunes took a dramatic downswing due to his home project Kodeeswaran.

Kodeeswaran Kodeeswaran was supposed to launch son Ebbie, and for this the producer with a penchant for incredible extravagance pulled out all the stops. Karisma Kapoor, for instance, was flown down from Bollywood for a song appearance that features her as an extra-terrestrial, and which reportedly cost Rs one crore to can.

Trouble was, the mega-budget film found no takers among the distributors. Meanwhile, illicit prints leaked out, and flooded the video market, with the result that the film was effectively killed as far as the big screen was concerned.

This disaster, plus financial finagling by a manager close to Kunjumon, put the producer dangerously on the verge of bankruptcy. At the same time, it also put Ebbie into cold storage, with no producer or director willing to touch him.

Balaji now makes the effort, casting Ebbie in his upcoming venture.

Again, no details are known at this point. Ebbie, however, says that as far as he is concerned, the film is appropriately titled.

After suffocating in limbo following his debut debacle, he hopes that this film which has been taken to the floors recently, will be the resuscitating breath he so badly needs.

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