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November 3, 1998


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A change of guard

Thai Poosam, a Tamil festival again with cultural connotations, of special significance to those living along the Cauvery, is big down Singapore way -- so Singapore forms the venue for a typical Thai Poosam song and dance spectacular.

The producers are pulling out all stops to pull the crowds for this one. Thus, the most saleable of the younger lot of heroes, Vijay, has been roped in to do a guest role. Interesting, that. Vijay these days, in label-crazy TN, is known as Ilaya Dalapathi -- a title that suggests he is second in the movie hierarchy to Rajnikanth, the Dalapathi of Mani Rathnam's film by that name, which co-starred Mammootty.

Vijay's appearance, albeit fleetingly, in this Rajni film is suggestive -- because the word around Madras film circles is that this will be the last film in which Rajnikanth plays the conventional hero role, before opting for screen personae more in keeping with his age in forthcoming ventures.

So are we seeing some kind of changing of the guard, here?

Way to go

For Mammootty, experimentation remains the norm.

Of late, there has been, in his movie selection, an apparent desire to stretch himself -- and, presumably, this latest outing is of a piece with that trend.

Kayal Samrat, under the direction of Suresh Babu -- one of the hottest names on the Malayalam screen -- has the two-time national award winner playing as many as three very disparate roles -- details of which, same time, same place, another day.

Meanwhile, the film is also interesting in that it returns to one of Kerala's two perennial sources for a storyline. Down the years, either the Vadakkan Pattukal -- the Southern Ballads, that celebrate various kalari heroes -- or the backwaters (kayals) of Kerala's rice bowl, Kuttanad, have furnished grist for filmmakers.

This one too revolves around the kayals and their role as the arteries and veins of much of Kerala's economy. And that's all we know now.

The sis image

Has Baby Shalini of old metamorphosed, today, into Sister Shalini?

You remember of course that her first appearance as an adult was in Fazil's Aniyathipravu -- in which she played the aniyathi (younger sister). And now here she is again, playing younger sister to -- hold your breath -- Rajnikanth, no less, in his upcoming outing Padayappa.

Details of the film in progress are only now trickling in. Thus, it is now known that, as the title suggests, the storyline will touch the six major Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu (the title Padayappa is a corruption of Aaru Padayappa -- a sobriquet for Lord Murugan and his six 'homes' in the southern state).

The 'N' factor

Superstition runs riot in movie circles. Akshay Kumar's toying with Khiladi titles, or David Dhawan with his No 1 series, or Rakesh Roshan with his 'K' films, all being instances in point. And hotshot director Shankar is no exception -- he has this thing for film titles ending in the letter N.

He scored big, thus, with Gentleman, Kaadhalan and Indian. When he departed from his self-imposed norm with Jeans, the results were, in comparison with his earlier three megahits, a non-success.

He's back now on the 'Nth' track, with his latest film, Mudalvan. As with any Shankar outing, details of the project are more closely guarded than results of India's nuclear tests. For now, this much -- the basic plot line revolves around a typical 'rowdy', who reforms and later, goes on to become mudalvan -- chief minister -- of the state.

Manisha Koirala will play the daughter of a television magnate, opposite Arjun who plays the central character.

Ayesha's turn

Ayesha Jhulka
Coming up for release later this month is a film that sees Ayesha Jhulka -- who was recently on the television channels talking of her budding business as a dress designer (she apparently wants to dress Laloo Yadav in an achkan!) make it on the Telugu scene.

Preminchalani Vundi is the story of a millionaire with a troubled romance, said role to be played by Prakash Rai. The young counterpoint to the more mature central theme will be provided by Vineeth and Ayesha, who play young lovers whose story twines around that of the central character.

The film, from the Sri Sai Raghavendra Art stable, has Nanjundayya directing. The film will be released simultaneously in Kannada, as Kanasile Neene Manasile Neene.

Suhasini directs again

Suhasini, after a directorial debut with the much-lauded Indira -- starring her own niece Nandini opposite Arvind Swamy -- went back to acting and came up trumps with Kannada megahit Amrutavarshini -- a very unusual love story that paired her opposite Sharat Babu.

Why unusual? Because the film was about the romance between a husband and wife, is why.

She had also been doing a bit of dubbing -- thus, it is her voice you hear when Manisha Koirala opens her lips in Mani Rathnam's Uyire (Dil Se, in Hindi).

Now the lady with the impeccable pedigree -- daughter of national award winner Charu Hasan, niece of three-time national award winner Kamal Haasan, herself a national award winner for Sindhu Bhairavi, and wife of Mani Rathnam -- is back to directing.

For now, details of her forthcoming project are a bit hazy, we only know that Shivashakti Pandian will produce.

Rajkumar returns

In Kannada-land, it is comeback time for senior citizens.

Dr Rajkumar, after a self-imposed exile stretching four years and more, is back -- a fact announced by son and reigning heartthrob Shivrajkumar on the sets of his underproduction film, AK47.

Dr Rajkumar, a Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, went into seclusion after Oda Huttidavaru -- and refused to come out of it despite repeated requests from a legion of admirers; he pleaded a knee problem.

Now recovered, the Kannada screen legend will star in a film, the details of which are in the negotiation stage.

Also coming back is Anant Nag, after three years away from the 'lights, camera, action' scene. His last film was Nirbandha -- a flop that saw him play a chief minister. He then became, for real, minister in charge of the Bangalore Development Authority, but swore that politics and governance wouldn't keep him from acting.

Now he is back, with a pivotal role in Nandanavana Jokili, to be directed by Kodlu Ramakrishna. And the story for the comeback film has been written by Nag himself.

A rather interesting twist to this tale is that one of his more memorable roles was that of the poet king Swati Thirunaal -- celebrated in Kerala history as a man so steeped in art and culture that he failed miserably in governance. Parallels, anyone?

The other Vijay

The last time we saw him onscreen, he looked more like an autorickshaw driver than most auto drivers do.

Vijay -- no, not the Ilaya Dalapathi who we referred to earlier, this is another one -- is in the Manoj Bajpai mould, an ensemble actor par excellence. The role referred to above was in the Ajith-starrerKaadhal Kottai, the Ahathiyan-helmed film that won a national award.

In that movie Vijay plays an auto driver who befriends Ajit and sees him through the stormy climax of a rather unusual romance. And his dancing in the song Kavalaipadathe sahodara was a high point of the film.

Vijay debuted in Uchiveyil which didn't do much for his reputation, but his casual, laid-back performance in Thalaivasal won him rave reviews, and movie offers by the score.

Other important films on his bio-data include Devadhai, directed by his friend and mentor Nasser and Sthree which paired him opposite Rohini for a performance that again produced raves.

His acting skills have now won for Vijay a -- hold your breath -- French film offer, to be directed by Paolo Borzman.

-- Rajitha

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