June 25, 2002 
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Now starring, Shah Rukh and Vivek!
Saathiya's secret out

Subhash K Jha

Shah Rukh Khan makes a special appearance in Saathiya, debutante director Shaad Ali's Hindi remake of Mani Ratnam's Tamil mega hit Alai Payuthey (starring R Madhavan).

In Saathiya, Vivek Oberoi plays a middle class man whose wife (Rani Mukherji) suddenly disappears. Incidentally, during the shooting, Vivek's girlfriend Gurpreet Brar and Rani became such close friends that the former commented that Rani was her only friend in the industry.

Saathiya required a brief, but pivotal, role of a man who pretends to be Rani's husband after her near-fatal car accident. While that role was played by Arvind Swami in Alai Payuthey, casting for the part in the Hindi version proved problematic. Star power was needed to complement Vivek.

Shah Rukh Khan seemed an obvious choice. Mani Ratnam, who directed Dil Se, is the coproducer of Saathiya along with Yash Chopra.

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Much effort went into withholding Khan's name from the limelight to surprise the audience. This is the second film in recent months to employ such a tactic; the other being Kaizad Gustad’s Boom (in which Amitabh Bachchan's role is a secret).

It makes little market sense to conceal a film's USP, especially now since Saathiya is in its post-production stages. Mani Ratnam has taken charge of the film at this stage to ensure the final product is as slick and passionate as the original.

Whether Saathiya will have the same emotional impact as Alai Payuthey remains to be seen. But sources say Vivek Oberoi has done ample justice to the role that turned Madhavan into an overnight superstar in Tamil Nadu.


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