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August 4, 2000


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No kiss for this miss

The Tamil junta call it the "English kiss" -- lip to lip, and no holds barred. And the "English kiss" is a big draw, for Kamal movies. 'Hey,' you find adolescents telling each other, 'did you see Kamal's movie? There's an English kiss in it!'

Kamal Hasan and Rani Mukherjee in Hey Ram It all started some years ago, with Punnagai Mannan. The introductory scene has Kamal and Rekha (no, not the Rekha who rules Bollywood, this is the Tamil version) poised on a cliff and about to commit suicide. Kamal, on that occasion, came up with an impromptu kiss.

The actress took offence, as no such scene was part of the script, but director K Balachander thought that the kiss fitted perfectly in context, and retained it in the film. Since then, Kamal has had at least one "English kiss" in every single film of his.

The latest instances, of course, were in Hey Ram! wherein he got to kiss not one, but two leading ladies. One was debutant Vasundhara Das. Kamal met her while she was in A R Rehman's studio, recording for the Shakala Baby number, picturised on Sushmita Sen, for Shankar's Mudhalvan. And promptly signed her on, because Vasundhara's light eyes reminded him, he said, of daughter Shruti (who actually inherits her eyes from momma Sarika).

Kamal and Vasundhara share a passionate kiss in the film. Asked how she managed to do that in a debut film, Vasundhara said that Kamal made her quite comfortable on the set.

The other kiss in Hey Ram, of course, was during the involved, and semi-erotic, romp with Rani Mukherjee. And here, Kamal went one better and took a bite out of her butt.

Coming up for release, during the Diwali festival, is his latest film, Thenali. With the vivacious Jyotika Sadanah, rapidly become Tamil filmdom's hottest property, as his leading lady. But surprise, surprise -- for once, Kamal doesn't get to kiss the miss.

Jyotika's response is a classic. Asked what she thought about not getting what is almost a perk for all Kamal heroines, the rising star smiled and said, "Relieved."

And while on Jyotika, she will shortly star in an English movie, Little John, to be directed by Singitham Sreenivasa Rao for Pentafour's Media Dreams banner.

Jyotika The makers aren't giving out much detail just yet -- merely, that it is a subject that will appeal to children, it has something to do with temples, and it is a trilingual to be shot in Tamil, Hindi and English. Jyotika will dub for the Hindi and English versions, while her regular dubbing artiste will voice the Tamil dialogues.

Harking back to Thenali actress Meena will play a small role -- as actress Meena.

Meena While on Thenali, Meena will be seen in a guest role in Thenali. And Meena will appear as Meena, the actress. Meena in fact kicked off as a child star, playing a terminally ill child in Anbulla Rajnikanth -- where Rajnikanth plays himself. Elsewhere, in Y G Mahendra's Uruvangal Maaralaam, the likes of Rajni, Kamal and a host of other stars have appeared as themselves (or rather, as God appearing as Kamal, Rajni, et al). Three-time national award-winner Mammootty played Mammootty in Number 20 Madras Mail, the Hindi version of which had Mithun Chakravarthy appearing as himself. And Bhanupriya plays herself in Vanamale Ellai, to cite just some instances of stars playing themselves in movies.

Snakes alive! The obsession with snakes, which seems to have our film-makers in constant thrall, surfaces yet again.

Nagalingam, produced, directed, and acted in by Babu Ganesh, is the usual snaky revenge story. But there's a twist -- for the first time, fragrances are used in cinema halls to enhance the impact.

Thus, for a scene set in a garden boasting a lot of jasmine flowers, the scent of jasmine wafts over the audience. And this being a snake story, there are other occasions when the scent of thazhampoo is used. For another scene, which features fresh-lit sambrani (loban), the smoky smell of that incense filters through the cinema hall.

In the film, Babu Ganesh is the man who descends to earth from the land of snakes, and has two naga kanyas, played by Neena and Ravali, falling in love with him. Ganesh loves and marries Ravali, Prithviraj plays the villain trying to take away the hero's 'powers' and kidnap Ravali... and so it goes.

The film-maker is hoping to make it to the Guinness Book, and points out that this is the first time fragrances are used to heighten the impact of a movie. The trick used is a simple adaptation of the aerosol principle.

Good idea, but someone forgot to check on calibrations -- with the result that audiences have tended to walk out as the smells come wafting, finding it a touch too much to take. Worse, they hit upon the idea of having assistants actually light big heaps of sambrani for the particular scene -- only to find the smoke clouding the atmosphere up, preventing people from seeing what was going on, on-screen.

Interesting thought, in any case. Now audiences must be hoping that for scenes set in hotels, they'll get fresh food served to them.

Bharati Raja's son Manoj, who debuted alongside Moon Moon Sen's daughter Rhea in Taj Mahal, has been actively pursuing an Manoj and Rhea Sen in Taj Mahal alternate career in singing, on the side. His first album was Pathinaaru Vayidhinile, for which actress Meena also chipped in with some crooning. And now he is busy readying his next album -- Kaadhal Oviyam.

Interestingly, both his albums take their titles from movies made by his father.

Speed is a buzzword when it comes to film production in the south. Which is why Vasanth's Rhythm, which seems to have been in the making forever, comes as a surprise.

The film stars Arjun and Meena, and A R Rehman's score, recorded two years ago, is believed to be breathtaking. Come to think of it, good music, with a USP, is a Vasanth trademark -- thus, there was the breathless song sung by S P Balasubramaniam in Keladi Kanmani, the Nivedha number in Nee Paadhi Naan Padhi wherein there are no lyrics, just the name of the heroine, Nivedha (played by Gautami), sung in various ragas.

Meena and Arjun in Rhythm Rhythm, which is also said to have a very interesting, unusual storyline (parts of it were shot in New Bombay, incidentally) however, got stuck for quite a while, reportedly for financial reasons. The news now is that it is back on the floors, finally, and will be released soon.

Interestingly, Jyotika -- right, here she is again -- despite her extremely busy schedule, is finding time to shoot for a small, but important, role for the film. It is, she says, her way of expressing her gratitude to Vasanth, who introduced her in his Poovellaam Kettu Paar. Officially, it is her small role in Vaali, as Ajit's pretend-sweetheart, that got noticed first, simply because Vaali made it to the marquee first. It was Vasanth however who first signed her on -- and for Jyotika, it is now payback time.

Still on Vasant in a way -- his Nerukku Ner had real life friends Vijay and Surya, the latter making his debut, heading the cast. The film had the two heroes at loggerheads, because Vijay's brother and Surya's sister (played by Raghuvaran and Shanti Krishna) are going through an acrimonious divorce.

 Vijay and Surya in Nerukku Ner The real life friends now come together again, in a movie called -- well, what else? -- Friends. To be produced by Navodaya (Appachan), the film is the remake of a Malayalam film of the same name. For the Tamil version, former actress Saritha comes in as co-producer.

Directed by Siddique, the movie is a masala entertainer with a Malayali flavour.

And to wind up, some non-film news. A reputed institute recently made and released a CD, that teaches you how to speak good English.

They roped in Kamal Hassan to release the CD -- fair enough, nothing like a top star to get the interest levels high. But who do they invite, to receive the first copy from Kamal?

 Vairamuthu Vairamuthu, no less. The national award winning lyricist, and Tamil Nadu's resident poet laureate, makes no bones about his love for Tamil, and his desire that the language grow in the public consciousness.

So what's he doing, in this function? Your guess is as good as ours. Poor Vairamuthu, finding himself having to 'say a few words', managed something on the lines of 'Yes yes, it is very good to learn English, but don't forget Tamil!'

-- Rajitha

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