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March 1, 1999


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Cupid's second coming

Devyani. Click for bigger pic!
Who has signed which movie opposite who and what is it all about -- that has been the underlying theme of this column from its inception.

By way of change, I figured I'd talk, this time, about movies made and released recently -- and about love, and how it seems to have found renewed favour with film-makers, in a big way.

Not that love was AWOL from the marquee before this -- of course not. But at least on the Madras marquee, love had for quite a while been jostling for room with 'family dramas' and 'thrillers' and 'devotionals' and such.

Within the industry, they say Kaadhal Kottai was the film that made love fashionable again. The Ajith-Devyani starrer, you will recall, was a romance between two people who hadn't met each other, and whose relationship developed via the friendly neighbourhood post-office.

Then came Kaalamellaam Kaadhal Vaazhga -- wherein the entire romance was carried out over the telephone. Also not to forget Kaadhal Desam, the Vineet-Abbas-Tabu love triangle in which neither of the guys gets the girl.

Perhaps this is what has been most unusual about Cupid's second coming to the Madras marquee -- love had progressed beyond the waltz in the park, and was finding unusual settings, unusual storylines, unexpected denouements.

Tabu. Click for bigger pic!
Sollamallae -- a tale of two people in love whose love remains unvoiced continued the trend. Kaadhalukku Mariyadhai had the young lovers running away in true filmi style, only to have a change of heart, to realise that they have parents who could be hurting, and to return to their families, prepared even to forego their love if need be.

Kaadhal Kavithai begins with a guy who finds, in the final resting place of Diana, princess of Wales, a tribute written in Tamil which moves him to respond -- only to find to his surprise that his response has, in turn, drawn a response...

And, even before You've Got Mail went on the floors, a film called Kaadhalar Dinam starring Sonali Bendre and newcomer Kunal centred on a romance that kicks off in an Internet chat room.

With that background, take a look at some of the films released in the immediate past....

Poor boy, rich girl...

Keerthi Reddy. Click for bigger pic!
Ninaikkumvarai stars Prabhu Deva, who hasn't had a hit in quite a while, opposite Keerthi Reddy.

The story revolves around rich girl Sandhya and slum dweller Jani, who become friends. Jani's mother, who has been told by an itinerant fortune-teller that her son will marry a rich girl, encourages Jani to fall for Sandhya. But just when he is about to pop the question, Sandhya, who considers him a very good friend, enlists his help in selecting a groom for her. How his selection turns out to be a bummer, and how it is all resolved, is the rest of the story, in which director Subhash manages to tap, successfully, the latent acting talents Prabhu Deva has always been credited with, but has not had much occasion to reveal.

Bad back but lot of spine

Ajith. Click for bigger pic!
Now for two recent Ajith films -- remembering, here, that he was the guy who can be credited with triggering off the trend with Kaadhal Kottai. A bike enthusiast in real life, Ajith had a spinal injury he was lucky to survive.

That luck, however, hasn't been much in evidence in his acting career, where his initial promise has remained largely unrealised. To add to his misfortunes, he turned down a role in the Mani Rathnam production Nerukku Ner. Surya stepped into the breach and the film went on to become a hit.

Vijay, the other star in Nerukku Ner, went on to attain superhero status, Abbas also came along with Kaadhal Desam and, in the process, Ajith got elbowed aside.

When love takes wing

Well, despite a recurrence of his spinal problems, Ajith has come up with two quick releases. The first, Unnaithedi, directed by Sundar C, is about the Australia-educated Raghu who, in New Zealand en route to India, meets Malavika. The pair take a liking to one another but before they can exchange addresses, the vagaries of an international airport and different flight schedules separates them.

The two find each other again -- but how, forms the key to a story well told by a director who has a penchant for the light romantic touch. Also going for the film is the score, by Deva, with at least two songs doing well on the charts.

Rather inexplicably, though, the director, who also has a reputation for originality, has copied three very recognisable scenes from elsewhere. These are Aamir Khan thumbing a lift in Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin, the station scene in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, and the scene in Vandanam, a Malayalam film, wherein Mohanlal is unable to attend a phone call he was waiting for because he has thrown away the key and can't get into the house.

The other recent Ajith release is Thodarum -- wherein wife Devyani loves hubby Ajith to a fault has Heera forming the third angle of a triangle that reprises Kaadhal Kottai.

But debutant director Ramesh Khanna's complex tale of the wife finding out that she is terminally ill and so trying to get her husband to hate her and marry Heera smacks of melodrama. And not even original melodrama, at that.

Three rather needless 'comedy tracks' add to the confusion, and the bottomline is that Ajith with this one appears to have come up with a lemon.

Sounding good

Vijay. Click for bigger pic!
A recent Vijay-Simran starrer, Thullatha Manamum Thullum, has an unusual premise. Vijay is the wannabe singer leading a spartan existence while Simran is the college girl living in the vicinity who hears Vijay sing and loves the voice without ever having seen the singer.

She has seen Vijay, however -- in situations wherein he is either beating up someone or behaving like your average streetside roustabout. One day, Vijay chases a pickpocket. The chase ends in the chemistry lab in Simran's college, and there is an accident. Simran loses her sight, and the last thing she sees is Vijay, the apparent cause of her misfortune.

Blinded, she only has voices to go by -- and the voice she knows and learns to love belongs to Vijay, who helps her through her distress. At considerable pains and much personal sacrifice, Vijay helps her recover her eyesight. The happy ending looms, you think? Debutant director Ezhil has the heck of a twist waiting, and we aren't telling you what it is.

Simran. Click for bigger pic!
Incidentally, this column had, much earlier, mentioned that this film had used the 'mother sentiment', without there ever being a mother visible on screen. How it works is that Vijay's mother - who is, through the film, 'seen' only through his letters to her, serves as his confidante.

It is to her that he tells the story of his love and it is the mother who, on her deathbed, donates the corneas that helps restore Simran's eyes. She is a very strong presence throughout much of the film, yet unseen -- and this bit has been well-conceived and executed.

Ezhil, who makes a strong debut with this film, has done his internship as assistant to the likes of Raj Kiran, the Robert-Rajshekar duo, and Parthiban.

A wedding romance

Venkatesh. Click for bigger pic!
Another recent romance on the Madras marquee is Nesikiren -- a film dubbed from the original Telugu and starring Venkatesh and Preity Zinta. The story begins with the hero and his friends (notice how the hero, these days, always has this group of hangers on, all serving as foils for the good-looking male star?) attend a friend's wedding.

Preity is the prankster, getting the cook to put marbles in bhajias, and playing suchlike inane pranks before the hero outsmarts her.

Love eventually blooms -- the catch being that Preity is engaged to a cop who, but of course, has to be a bad guy. Wedding preparations are in full swing, and the build-up is towards a Lochinvar-type ending -- only, that is not quite how the film turns out. Directed by Jayanth, the film has music by debut composer Ramana.

Preity Zinta. Click for bigger pic!
The film, like a few others in recent times, turns previous thinking on its head. Earlier, directors went the route of love justifying everything, with young lovers being encouraged to defy tradition, to run away from home, to do whatever was necessary to ensure that their love comes to a logical conclusion. These days, parental approval seems to be 'in', with lovers being made to realise that such approval is an essential ingredient to their future well-being.

Venkatesh has done well on the Telugu marquee in 1998 and Preity would seem just the kind of girl who will do well on the AP circuit -- but will Tamil Nadu, which rejected her in Uyire, take to this outing? A question that time will answer.

Love, thus, is very much in the Madras air. But so too, judging by recent releases, is terrorism -- the air fair reeks with the smell of cordite and trinitrotoluol. But that is another story -- for another episode of this column. We'll keep this particular fuse burning till then.

-- Rajitha

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