June 24, 2002 
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Vikram Bhatt
'Who has any ethics around here?'
Vikram Bhatt replaces Mahesh Manjrekar as director of Kutumb

Subhash K Jha

A few months ago, producer Feroz Nadiadwala signed Mahesh Manjrekar to direct Kutumb, an ambitious adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola's gangster epic The Godfather. Amitabh Bachchan was to play the head of the mobsters' clan (Marlon Brando featured in the original version). Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan were pencilled in to play his offspring.

The latest news is that Manjrekar is no longer directing Kutumb. Instead Nadiadwala has roped in Vikram Bhatt, the director of his recent release, Awara Paagal Deewana, to do the needful.

Bhatt confirms his inclusion in the film. "I don't know what transpired between Feroz [Nadiadwala] and Mahesh Manjrekar," he says. "I will be starting work on Kutumb next year, with the original cast of Mr Bachchan, Akshay and Abhishek."

Bhatt is currently directing two films -- Mukesh Bhatt's Footpath and the late Bunty Soorma's incomplete venture.

Contrary to rumours, Manjrekar has denied the split had anything to do with the casting of Akshay Kumar. It is believed that Nadiadwala favoured Akshay, while Manjrekar insisted on personal favourite Sanjay Dutt.

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"The magazines write anything they want," says Manjrekar. "They even wrote that Sanjay Dutt wanted Madhuri Dixit in my proposed English version of Astitva, whereas I opted for Sushmita [Sen]. Fact is, Madhuri was considered. But she was not sure about doing the role. On the other hand, Sushmita -- a highly underrated actress -- was very keen on it. Besides, this film is going to be for an international market and her 'Miss Universe' tag will help me sell the film to the West."

As for Kutumb, Manjrekar complains there was too much interference from the producer, though not about the casting. "I felt it was better to part as friends," says the Vaastav director.

But isn't Kutumb originally Manjrekar's script? "It is," he retorts. "Feroz Nadiadwala has a copy of it. Besides, anyone can make a version of The Godfather. It is a free world. Who has any ethics around here?"

Manjrekar says he might consider making Kutumb on his own, with a different producer and cast. "Although I would think twice before doing it. I wouldn't want a Bhagat Singh kind of confrontation with another film. There are so many subjects to work on. Why pick on something I know is already being done?"


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