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June 19, 1999


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Pep 'n' fizz

Madhavan (right) with Satish Shah.
There is, you'd say on the evidence thus far, nothing small about Mani Rathnam's style of movie-making. Big budgets, big stars, big-name technical support, big canvas...

Think again. Alaipaayudhe, his under-production film, is as if you were looking down the wrong end of a telescope. The hero -- Madhavan -- is a small screen star, with several serials such as the now-running Ghar Jamai to his credit. As far as the big screen is concerned, he has acted in a Kannada film with Abbas, and also featured in an Amritraj Productions film for the Hollywood market.

And the girls? Shalini -- the erstwhile 'baby' who has now grown into a full-fledged heroine -- is backed by a gaggle of small screen performers like Swarnamalya and Medha. Both belong to the breed of young, wanna-be-bubbly hostesses plucked from the Sun TV rosters.

Swarnamalya anchors one of those around-the-campus kind of programmes peppered with the pun-ridden 'kadi' jokes so popular among Tamil audiences, while Medha stands around and smiles on cue in the programme Thillana Thillana -- the Sun TV version of Javed and Naved Jaffri's Boogie Woogie.

Not quite sure what Mani is trying for, here, with a star cast of this kind but whatever, this will be another young, peppy film after Thiruda Thiruda.

Runs in the family

Nagarjuna. Click for bigger pic!
Makes you wonder, sometimes, if this 'hero' business is in the genes. Just look about you, at the number of families that appear to have made stardom a business.

Akineni Nageshwara Rao, in his time, was on par with N T Rama Rao on the Andhra Pradesh film firmament. Being biblical for a moment, ANR begat Akineni Nagarjuna, who to no one's surprise became the next generation's hearthrob, rivalling the appeal of Chiranjeevi.

And now comes the third generation --Sumanth, ANR's grandson and Nag's nephew, and the latest star on the AP horizon.

Premakatha, his debut outing, is not a runaway hit, but it didn't sit down and bomb either -- reports indicate that it is doing well in most centres though for some reason, Hyderabad has cold-shouldered the film. Like uncle Nag, Sumanth completed his studies -- in this case, masters in fine arts -- from the United States, and is now ready to make a living at the family business.

Thus, he has signed his next film, to be directed by Karunkaran -- the man, you will recall, who won an award for his debut outing Toli Prema (Ananda Mazhai in Tamil) with Pavan Kalyan and Keerthi Reddy.

Naidu in Bengali

Debashree Roy Click for bigger pic!
A while ago, this column had mentioned in passing that D Rama Naidu was making his foray into Bengali movies. We were a bit thin on the ground in terms of detail at that time, but now it can be told -- the film is Asukh. Debashree Roy heads the star cast under award-winning director Rituparnu Ghosh, the film is within a toucher of being completed and is slated for an early July release.

Rama Naidu must like it in Bengal -- he's already off the blocks on his next project, Ek Baar Bolo, to be directed by Prabhat Roy. The film, we are told, is a remake of the producer's Telugu superhit,Pelllichesukundam.

No laughing matter

Srinivasan's name evokes the image of a Malayalam actor who specialises in comic roles with a touch of the self-effacing. But to regular followers of Malayalam films, he is also a hugely talented storyteller, coming up with interesting, unusual scripts and storylines.

The under-production English Medium, being directed by Pradeep, continues the trend, with Srinivasan this time taking a hard-nosed look at the educational infrastructure in his native state.

And while on stories inspired by real life, there is Puthumai Pithan, the Parthipan-starrer that had, for its peg, the quirks of our electoral system. More specifically, it is the story of a man who won his seat by just one vote. The film was a flop in the original Tamil, but that hasn't stopped producer K V Rathnam from dubbing it in Telugu, as, what else, Oka Votu.

Parthipan stars in the Telugu version as well, with Ghantashala Rathnakumar (scion of the deep-voiced Ghantashala) doing the dubbing for him. Roja, no stranger to the Telugu moviegoer, plays the female lead.

Still on the real-to-reel theme, Prakash Rai (Raj, when he is in Tamil Nadu) does a Charles Sobhraj in Criminal 786. In the original Tamil, the film was called Dinamum Ennai Gavani and Sanghavi heads the female star cast in the film directed by A R Ramesh, with Bharati Babu scripting the Telugu version.

And meanwhile, all those tales of 'sanyasins' who use their 'ashrams' as cover for sexual malpractice has finally found an outlet on the big screen.Nathikan, being directed by Vasanthapriyan, is the story of a 'swami' with big-time political connections who lures women into his ashram and sexually abuses them.

This being films, the guy is finally nabbed by an intrepid CBI officer who shrugs off the swami's political clout and brings him to book -- now how nice if life was like the movies are!

Vembu, a T Rajendar groupie, plays the swami while 'Hercules' Thangavel is the CBI officer.

The Telugu Pathram

Suresh Gopi.
And to end this particular segment, Pathram, the Suresh Gopi-starrer that raised some dust in the Malayalam media since it ostensibly told the story of the vicious competition between Kerala's two leading newspapers, is on its way to the Telugu marquee. It's now dubbed Journalist.

The film is already a superhit in Malayalam and doing very nicely in Tamil as well, thank you very much.

Rajashri takes the next step

Rajshri Nair. Click for bigger pic!
Rajashri Nair, you will recall, is the girl who essays the role of the doctor in Hyderabad Blues and whom Nagesh Kukunoor, the NRI holidaying in Hyderabad who is the pivotal character of the film, decides to marry.

Word is, she has now signed Tantra, to be directed by Allani Sridhar. More on the matter, as and when.

Vali makes a killing

Ajit. Click for bigger pic!
After a pretty miserable year or so, Ajit seems to back in the good graces of the movie gods. His latest, Vali -- which we had touched on in the previous episode of this column -- is now giving the Rajnikanth-starrer Padayappa a run for its money in the box office stakes.

Word goes that even as the story was under production, Ajit liked the storyline and direction so much that he had promised debutante director Surya a car as a gift. So if you see Surya swanking around in a brand new car these days, you know where it came from.

Over the last year and more, Ajit had his share of flops -- Raasi and Uyirodu Uyiraaaga being names that come immediately to mind. With Unnidathil Ennai Koduthane, with Karthik and a deglamourised Roja in the lead with Ajit doing a cameo, his luck turned and now, Vali appears to continue that upward spiral.

In between, there was also a trip to the United States for surgery to a spinal condition that had, at its worst, threatened to cut his career short. He then came back with Unnai Thedi, a hit helmed by C Sundar, then Thodarum which did average business. Now Vali, which besides being a bona fide success at the box office, has also earned him critical raves for his acting prowess.

Running simultaneously on the Madras marquee is Ananda Poongatrae, directed by Rajkapoor, which again sees the Ajit-Karthik team at work. This time, though, it is Ajit who plays the main lead while Karthik does the cameo. The film co-stars Meena and Malavika. It is, incidentally, Malavika's second Tamil outing, the earlier one being Sundar's Unnaithedi.

An interesting sidelight is that Malavika was 'discovered' by Khusbhoo, the one-time Bollywood wannabe who went south, shot to the top of the tree and had a long run as the leading lady on the Madras marquee.

Khusbhoo, for the uninitiated, is also C Sundar's intended, and their marriage is said to be round the corner.

-- Rajitha

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