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|July 13, 2000||
A legend plays a myth
Half a century ago, he began his acting career playing the lead role in a stage play based on the mythological character Bhakta Ambareesha. And now, he is all set to reprise the character on the large screen, in an eponymous film.
"I have seen my father perform that particular role," he says, rather emotionally. "I only hope I can match the high calibre of his performance in that play."
When the matinee idol acted in Shabdavedi last year after a hiatus of five years, he promised his fans that he would do another film this year. And like Shabdavedi, Bhakta Ambareesha was also a project that the star and his family had finalised some years ago. In fact, the latter was meant to be his comeback film, but Shabdavedi happened first primarily because it was simpler to make.
Work has finally begun on Ambareesha, his 206th film, with a song recording at Akash Studio, in Bangalore, recently. As with all projects involving the enduring icon, the venue and date were kept a close secret, in order to ensure that he was not mobbed by fans. Hamsalekha scores the music, while Rajkumar as always will do his own playback.
Two for the price of one
Since then, his only other foray into mythologicals was when he did a guest role, as Lord Shiva, in his star son Shivraj Kumar's Shiva Mechida Kannappa. "Shivu was so nervous about acting with his father," Parvathamma recalls with a laugh. "He found it very daunting to do that scene where he has to lift his father over his shoulder."
In Ambareesha, again, the matinee icon will play twin roles, one of them as a devout believer and his brother as a die hard atheist. Jayaprada, who starred in his comeback film Shabdavedi, will yet again head the female cast, with Bhanupriya expected to be the other female lead. Popular heroine Soundarya, the Bangalore girl who is increasingly more visible in Tamil, will star in a special song and dance sequence.
A large chunk of the film will be shot in and around the Mysore palace, with Srikantadatta Wodeyar having already agreed to permit the filming. However, the ubiquitous red tape appears to have wound itself around the project, despite chief minister S M Krishna personally assuring Parvathamma that the government would expedite the process of getting the required permission.
Deviprasad is in charge of cinematography. And besides the names mentioned above, only two senior character artistes, Mukhyamantri Chandru and K S Ashwath, have been signed up so far.
For Shabdavedi, the unit went to Kashmir for the picturisation of the song Oho Prema Kashmira. This time, they will have to attempt the equally inhospitable terrain of Badri and Kedarnath.
Sunset for the son
While on Dr Rajkumar, his son Shivaraj Kumar has had a spate of releases over the last couple of months. Sadly for him, though, none of them has done particularly well.
Shivraj had hopes that the latest release, Devara Maga, would break the jinx -- but no dice. The film is just into its second week in the theatres, and already struggling. After the first week, the film crashed by 30 per cent in city theatres, and the word from the rural centres is equally dismal.
The only positive to come out of the film is its music album, produced by Akash Audio, which seems to be doing fairly well. The fact that Shivraj's famed father Dr Rajkumar has rendered, with his usual flair, the soulful Yeleya Mele number could be one reason for the album's popularity. Another ditty, Gowdaji Gowdaji, is meanwhile becoming top of the mind for Bangalore's young collegians.
The Chinese connection
The film is called Diggajaru. And it brings together five big names of the Kannada film industry -- two middle aged stars in Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh, producer 'Rockline' Venkatesh, director D Rajendra Babu and music director Hamsalekha.
As of now, the core team is all set to go to China to study the possibilities of filming in that country. Not, mind you, that the storyline has anything to do with China -- it is just that the big five figure on shooting three of the film's six songs in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China (more specifically, at the Great Wall).
Producer Venkatesh -- who, within the industry, is known as the king of remakes and plagiarism, stays true to type and will, yet again, indulge in his passion for remakes -- his latest film being based on the Tamil hit Natpukkaaga.
Director Babu meanwhile has his next project already lined up. He will direct the film version of the hugely popular stage play Jokumaraswamy, on a big budget. Given that most Kannadigas are familar with the play, Babu will find the assignment of translating it to the big screen more challenging than the remakes he usually busies himself with, for the Rockline banner.
Rockline's last big budget remake was Preeth Se, the Kannada version of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Darr, and it did well at the box office, powered by the presence of two young, popular male stars in Upendra and Shivraj Kumar along with Sonali Bendre. Question is, can Rockline fly equally high on the wings of two ageing, orotund stars like Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh?
M D Riti
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