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August 2, 1997


Litmus test

Sushmita Sen in Rakshakan
Will Rakshakan resurrect
Sushmita's career?

Shobha Warrier

It was soon after Sushmita Sen gave away her Miss Universe crown that producer K T Kunjumon signed her on for Rakshakan (Saviour). She bagged the film, long before Mani Ratnam's Iruvar was announced, long before Miss World Aishwarya Rai even thought of taking up acting as a career.

Like most of his films, Rakshakan is a multi-million rupee effort. Kunjumon planned to release Rakshakan, "a family entertainer with lot of love, emotions, fights and songs," in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and English. Yes, English! With Sushmita's universal appeal, he hopes the film will have a wider audience. But the format for the English version will be decided only after he checks out how the Indian versions fare.

Producer K T Kunjumon

Kunjumon says he may have to reshoot certain portions, delete some scenes and songs and also reduce the length of the film, but all that will happen later. His biggest worry now is the release of the film. The film should have hit the marquee on July 31. Unfortunately, the long drawn strike in the Tamil film industry delayed it.

Nagarjuna and Sushmita in Rakshakan

Kunjumon had a set built by award-winning art director Thotta Tharani for Rs 7.5 million. But work abruptly came to a halt with just one day's shooting remaining. Kunjumon loves erecting such huge sets. He had earlier made Thotta Tharani design the costliest set in India for Kadal Desam, worth more than Rs 10 million.

We asked the Southern movie mogul why he had chosen Praveen Gandhi to direct Rakshakan when he had booked big names like composer A R Rehman and actors Nagarjuna, Sushmita and Girish Karnad. Why didn't he pick one of the big names in the megaphone business?

Nagarjuna and Sushmita in Rakshakan
"People say all the artistes and technicians whom I have introduced so far have come up in life. When Praveen Gandhi came to see me, I felt here is a young man who is very talented and full of ideas. Above all, he was willing to work hard. That was the only reason why I gave him a chance. I am sure he will be very successful in life."

When Kunjumon signed Sushmita forRakshakan, it was considered a casting coup. Now, after Mahesh Bhatt's Hindi film Dastak -- in which La Sen made her movie debut -- flopped, Sushmita is no longer considered a big draw. Does he regret having signed her on?

Sushmita in Rakshakan
"No, never. She has performed excellently in my film and I am sure her reputation as an actress will change for the better after Rakshakan is released. She will sign many more good films."

Every film Kunjumon has produced so far -- Gentleman, Kaadalan and Kadal Desam -- were huge hits. Will Rakshakan, overburdened by great expectations, get stuck at the turnstiles?

Kunjumon can't tell. Maybe time can.

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