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December 2, 1997


Daya, a film to watch for

Venu. Click for bigger pic!

In the movie Perunthachan, Jnanpith award-winner M T Vasudevan Nair deviated from traditional practice and looked at the life of Perunthachan and his extremely gifted son from an unconventional point of view.

Chandu is depicted as the villain in Vadakkan Pattukal, a folk tale from Kerala, but to MT, Chandu was the wronged one, the scapegoat. Surprisingly, Keralites used to seeing Chandu as the bad guy had no trouble accepting him as upright and virtuous. The movie, Oru Vadakkan Veera Gaatha became a massive hit.

Of late, MT has been unorthodox and unconventional in his novels too. In his recent and the most acclaimed novel, Randamoozham, MT wrote the story of the Mahabharat from Bhima's point of view. For the first time readers could feel compassion and sympathy for the giant whose gallant and chivalrous nature was eclipsed by the virtue and greatness of elder brother Yudhishtra and his courageous younger brother Arjun.

MT has now chosen a story from the Arabian Nights, that of the adventures of an intelligent and beautiful girl, who masquerades as a man to assist the ruler govern his not always peaceful kingdom.

MT's scripts are eagerly awaited. Picked to play director was Venu, three time national awardwinner for cinematography (the first one for Namukku Parkan Munthiri Thoppukal by Padmarajan and Amma Ariyan by John Abraham, the second award was for Pamela Rooks's Miss Beatty's Children and the third one for Ponthenmadaby P V Chandran).

Venu has roped in the best talent available in India. The script is by MT, cinematography by Sunny Joseph who has done the camerawork for Pamela Rooks's Train to Pakistan, lyrics by O N V Kurup, a well-known Malayalam poet, and music by Vishal of Maachis fame.

The young heroine is the teenage sensation of Malayalam cinema, Manju Warrier, the hero Krishnan is a new face and scion of a family of film personalities. He is actress Shobhana's nephew and Lalitha's grandson; the third generation of the Lalitha-Padmini-Ragini family to enter the film industry. The youngsters have heavyweight backing in the form of Nedumudi Venu and K P A C Lalitha. And, of course, director Venu himself. Ingredients, it appears, for a sure winner. Once the shooting in Rajasthan is done with.

Venu Click for bigger pic!
It amused and surprised me to see how well Vishal, a north Indian sang the poetic lyrics written by O N V in Malayalam. Malayalam is a singularly difficult language to pronounce words in but Vishal had no difficulty in beautifully rendering O N V's poems.

"Sir, am I not pronouncing Malayalam well," he inquired of the poet, who nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, of course," he said. Truly a compliment since the poet and professor has often cribbed that young Keralites had no interest in their mother tongue and took no effort to understand the beauty of the language.

Vishal's conscientiousness, a sweet gesture coming from a total stranger to the language, touched the poet. Vishal took pains to pronounce each and every word correctly. And the poet, who came to Madras from Thiruvananthapuram just to see whether the words came right, was mighty pleased.

And this time, words have taken predominance to music.

"See, O N V sir did not write the lines for my tune, I wrote tunes for his poems. Is it not amazing," Vishal again sought reassurance. No doubt it was, considering that the prevalent practice is to find words to fit the tune, so that the song sounds good even if the words mean little.

Chitra was singing after a gap of 20 days, during which she nursed a case of influenza, courtesy the Madras weather. Taking deep breaths from a Vicks inhaler between stanzas, Chitra sang, her voice still deliciously mesmerising. But ONV was not satisfied.

"Remember," he chastised her, " the girl is deliriously happy. So, you should not have sadness in your voice." He then described the scene: the girl is love was singing while she weaved. The scene was symbolic, about the co-mingling of the minds of the boy and the girl -- more poetry than film song. Chitra struggled to convey great joy while going at the inhaler like a vacuum pump.

The recording went on till afternoon. But Venu ran away to catch the flight back to Thiurvananthapuram. But then the brand-new director had a great deal of preparation ahead before the shooting of Daya began.

It's fantastic! The interview with Daya director Venu

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