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September 11, 1997


Love, murder, guilt, revenge


Sharat Babu and Suhasini Rathnam in Amritavarshini. Click here for bigger pic!
First up, Amruthavarshini is a love story -- a hugely successful one, what's more.

Which brings up the question -- what's new about another love story, in an industry that knows nothing else?

Well, as the posters say, it is a "different love story" -- and surprise, surprise, when you sit back in the darkened cinema hall and the story unfolds before you, you realise that it really is different.

Simply put, Amrutavarshini is the story of the love of a husband and wife -- and therein lies the difference, for if the filmy norm is for screen marriage to put the full stop to screen romance, then in this film, the love story actually kicks off after Suhasini Mani Rathnam (making a comeback after matrimony, motherhood and the odd foray as film/television director) and southside character actor Sharath Babu get married.

The film focusses on the warm moments -- told with touching tenderness -- that can exist within the cocoon of conjugal life. Until, enter the thorn, in the form of Ramesh Arvind, playing Babu's good friend. Suhasini, in all innocence, develops a warm relationship with Arvind, and along the way gets an inkling that he is rather broody in the mind. Of course, women -- the celluloid variety, at least -- being rather naive creatures, she does not suspect that Arvind, who has lost his girlfriend to death's embrace, is now holding a flaming torch for her.

Ramesh at one point decides to get out of the happy couple's life -- only for the husband and wife to invite him to share a brief holiday they are planning in the hills of Kodaikanal. Temptation finally gets the better of him, and Arvind kills Babu in what looks like an accident.

Sharat Babu, Ramesh Arvind and Suhasini Rathnam in Amritavarshini. Click here for bigger pic!
Suhasini, shattered beyond belief, clutches at Arvind for help and succour and Arvind 'nobly' agrees, helping her through the formalities surrounding sudden death, and then helping the grieving widow deal with her late husband's business interests.

It begins to look like the perfect scenario for two bereaved hearts to forget past aches and embark on a fresh bid for happiness. But murder, they say, will somehow out, and Suhasini finds a little clue that speaks volumes of Arvind's involvement in the death of her husband.

How Suhasini gets her revenge -- in a very original fashion -- forms the rest of the story.

What appears in print to be a trite, thrice-told tale reveals, on celluloid, an ability to grip, to carry the viewer along on a tide of emotions ranging from the soft through the turbulent into the increasingly darker shades. And a lot of the credit goes to the three major performers, with Suhasini showing no sign of rust from her layoff.

What is interesting is the way the film -- by no means a whodunit, because you know right at the outset that Arvind is the culprit -- keeps you nailed, your sympathies oscillating between Arvind and Suhasini till the very end.

Suhasini Rathnam in Amritavarshini. Click here for bigger pic!
Director Dinesh Babu, who has also handled the cinematography, says, "I've used guilt as the main emotion -- with guilt itself becoming the ultimate punishment. In fact, I suggest that the guilt one carries is perhaps worse than being discovered and punished by law.

"And throughout the film, I've used imagery from the epics. Hanuman, the ultimate symbol of devotion, from the Ramayan and Aswathama, son of Guru Dronacharya, as symbol of ultimate evil, from the Mahabharat.

For both director Babu and for upcoming star Arvind, working with Suhasini was the stuff of deja vu. Arvind played her younger brother in his debut film and Babu has directed her, a decade earlier, in the Kannada superhit Suprabatham.

Interestingly, Babu is more renowned for his cinematography -- curiously enough, not in Telegu or Kannada, but in Malayalam. His recent credits as cinematographer include hit films from Kerala like King, Commissioner and Ullaasa Poongattu.

So how did he get to not only shoot, but to direct a film in an alien language?

"Kannada is not that alien," Babu says. "Actually, I was first asked to handle the camera, then the offer to direct fell in my lap and I figured, why not?"

Sharat Babu and Suhasini Rathnam in Amritavarshini. Click here for bigger pic!
Why not indeed? Producer Jaishree Devi of Chinni Films must have laughed her way to the bank, given that Amrutavarshini ranks as perhaps the biggest hit in Kannada cinema in recent years.

"We had the story years ago, but somehow, it got made only now," Jaishree says.

Asked about the casting of Suhasini considering her long layoff, Jaishree says, "Well, the story needed a good, mature actress to play the part. Suhasini was perfect for it and when she heard the role, she signed up immediately."

The success of the film has now spawned plans of a dubbed version in Tamil -- business sense, says Jaishree, since Suhasini and Sharath Babu are household names in Tamil Nadu, and Ramesh Arvind thanks to his appearance in Tamil films like Duet is no stranger to the Madras marquee either.

Interestingly, the producer is also a full-fledged journalist with a Telugu paper, specialising in in-depth interviews with achievers in various fields. "Especially women," she grins.

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