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August 17, 1998


Clinic All Clear-Rahul Dravid

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The last laugh


Aishwarya Rai in Jeans. Click for bigger pic!
His first three films were runaway hits -- which perhaps was why the industry was quick to condemn his fourth, on the basis of initial reaction, as a flop.

Now it looks like Shankar is having the last laugh after all -- his Aishwarya-starrer Jeans is now doing 110-plus days in Tamil and has been declared a hit, while in Andhra Pradesh, the film has gone one better, being acclaimed, in industry jargon, a super duper hit.

And there seems no doubt, now, about where all the credit is going -- Ash is being seen as the biggest hook, drawing the crowds into the theatres over and over again. Perhaps by way of giving credit where due, the film's posters in AP show what are allegedly the seven wonders of the world in the background, with the former Miss World in the foreground, and read, simply: 'The Eighth Wonder'.

Meanwhile the director, his status as the man with the Midas touch at the turnstiles confirmed yet again, is already into preliminary work on his next project.

And so sure does he seem to be of his own abilities that for the first time, he is producing his own film. Mudalvan, thus, will be his debut as producer, and features, besides himself in the director's chair, the likes of A R Rehman and national award winning cinematographer K V Anand in the credits.

The credits? Shankar returns to earlier favourites. Thus, his male lead is Arjun -- the former B-grade 'action king' who hit full-fledged stardom in Shankar's directorial debut, Gentleman. Opposite him is -- hold your breath -- Manisha Koirala, who stormed the marquee down south with a standout performance in Bombay, then returned to star opposite Kamal Hassan in Shankar's own Indian.

The theme? Political, is about all you can say -- Shankar is not much of a one for talking of the text and contexts of his under-production ventures. Meanwhile, remember you read this here, first.

Titles at the top

Vijay with Suvalakshmi. Click for bigger pic!
The Tamil film industry has this penchant for sticking labels on stars -- and the more florid the label, the more it indicates the star's saleability.

By this or pretty much any other yardstick, Vijay should be somewhere at the top of the ladder -- so much so that he is now being hailed as Rajnikanth's successor, via the title 'Ilaya Dalapathy'.

The dusky young star's latest outing is K T Kunjumon's Independence Day release, Nilaave Vaa, which pairs him opposite Suvalakshmi, a rising star in Tamil who debuted in Vasanth's hit film Aasai, made under the Mani Rathnam banner.

Of Acts and actresses

Suvalakshmi. Click for bigger pic!
A Calcutta girl with a homely image and a sizeable collection of hits to her credit, local buzz has it that Suvalakshmi was once screen-tested by Satyajit Ray.

She is, further, a law student. No, we don't mean dilettante -- between shooting schedules, she can still be seen around the Madras high court, where she does whatever it is junior lawyers do.

But the most interesting name in the film's credits is that of the producer: Shobha Chandrasekhar. The wife of S V Chandrasekhar, one of the doyens among Tamil directors. And the mother of -- did you need telling? -- Vijay himself. So now they have it all in the family -- a director, a producer, and a star.

In passing, besides a fair portfolio of hit films, trivia buffs will also remember Chandrasekhar for one other thing: it was as his assistant that Jeans Shankar first learnt the basics of his craft.

A cut above

P C Sriram. Click for bigger pic!
Reverting to Jeans once again, the film has given the careers of its costume designers a considerable boost.

Anu and Aneez are new to designing, but not the industry. Anu, thus, is the daughter of Vietnam Veedu Sundaram, a big name director of yesteryears, while Aneez is the wife of award-winning cinematographer Jeeva.

The two work with cinematographer P C Sriram at his ad film outfit -- but indications are they will be increasingly drawn into big screen projects. Already, following Jeans, the Anu-Aneez team are doing the costumes for, among other projects, Engineer, the Arvind Swamy-Madhuri Dixit starrer now under production.

Rajni returns

Rajnikanth with Soundarya. Click for bigger pic!
Its been a while since we heard from Rajnikanth, but he's back.

With Padaiyappa, under K S Ravikumar's direction.

His heroines are Ramya Krishnan and Soundarya, though it was first supposed to be a Simran-starrer. Ramya, of course, is best known to Bollywood audiences as the moll in Subhash Ghai's Sunjay Dutt -starrer Khalnayak, and as the psychotic sister in Mahesh Bhatt's Chaahat, while Soundarya, like her co-star, is a bigger hit in Telugu than in Tamil.

A rather amusing sidelight is that Ramya and Soundarya last starred together in Amman -- a Tamil film with a religious theme, which piggybacked on some out of this world special FX to superhit status in both Tamil and Telugu.

In that film, Ramya plays the deity and Soundarya is the devotee. Here, both damsels will worship at the altar of the superstar.

Saving Bachchan's bacon

Amitabh Bachchan. Click for bigger pic!
After the debacle of Major Saab, Amitabh Bachchan must be hoping that forthcoming releases Lal Badshah and Bade Miya, Chota Miya, can stop his downslide. And if that doesn't work, there is always the last refuge -- the southern screen.

Coming up shortly is the Hindi remake of Sharat Kumar -starrer Suryavamsam. And another film, as yet untitled, to be produced by a certain gent name of S Ramanathan. Who, if you needed telling, was the selfsame guy who gave Amitabh, then a gangling, gawky wanna, a major break in Bombay to Goa.

The banns are out

And in conclusion, this one is on a more personal note...

While working for his recent release Priyamudan, Vijay had an accident and hurt his spine. Vijay -- with parents Shobha and S A Chandrasekhar in tow, went off to Britain for advanced treatment. And ended up finding the young star's future bride.

The girl is Sangeeta, daughter of London-based industrialist Chokalingam, who with family in tow, paid a friendly call on Vijay's parents. Who, for their part, took one look at the girl and wanted her for their son.

Vijay took one look at the damsel, and promptly agreed to the match -- with the proviso that the marriage would take place after two years, since for now he would like to concentrate on his career. Which suits Sangeeta -- who for now would prefer to concentrate on her medical studies.

No such waiting, though, for Bhanupriya. During a recent trip to the US of A to visit sister Nisanthi (remember her from the film Enga Oru Pattukkaran?), Bhanu met Adarsh Keshav, fell for him hook, line and sinker, and got married at the Sri Venkateswara temple in Malibu, California.

Adarsh, for those who like to keep abreast of these things, is from Hyderabad, and is settled in the US where he has a career as a digital graphics' engineer.

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