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|May 24, 2000||
Rajani, Ash to star together?
There is a heavy duty buzz in the Kodambakkam circuit about Rajinikanth's next project. Word is that K S Ravikumar -- director of the latest Rajini superhit, Padayappa -- might be at the helm of affairs yet again. And that it could team the superstar opposite Aishwarya Rai.
Both Rajini and Ash have expressed in public their desire to work with each other and this upcoming project is reported to be the fruition of that dream.
But that, for now, is just a rumour. Meanwhile, Rajinikanth, in the lull following Padayappa, has branched out into another aspect of film-making -- he's turned story-writer for good friend Mohanbabu's next film.
And that is a first. The two -- Rajini and Mohanbabu -- chalked up a huge hit at the AP marquee with Pedarayadu. Mohanbabu's next -- Rayalseema Ramanna Chowdhury -- has gone on the floors, with shooting schedules in Pollachi, Tirupathi, Hyderabad and Phuket Islands in Thailand.
For the story-screenplay, Rajini had sittings with the famed writers, Parchuri Brothers, and was even present during the music composing sessions. The film is slated for release in late August and will mark Rajnikanth's debut as screenplay writer.
P Vasu turns villain
They say that, within every director, there is a failed actor. Which, in the case of Tamil cinema, is no longer true -- directors have increasingly been stepping before the cameras and doing quite well too.
Beginning with the doyen of Tamil directors, 'Iyaruknar Thilagam' K Balachander, who faced the cameras for a teleserial produced under his own banner and K Vishwanath, who has been doing a lot of character roles of late, the list goes on to include Sundarrajan and Mannivanan.
Mannivanan, in fact, has, in the last couple of years, had enormous success as comedian/character artiste and is now seen as an indispensable ingredient of most big budget films.
The latest to join the list is P Vasu, who plays the villain in Vijaykanth's latest starrer, Vallarasu. The film, directed by debutante Maharajan, is in fact doing better at the turnstiles than Mani Rathnam's Alai Payuthe. Vasu's villainy is said to be one of the ingredients contributing to its success. Since the film's release, the director has been deluged with acting offers.
And while on Mannivanan, the demands on his time have meant he hasn't wielded the director's megaphone much of late. That will change, though, when he helms Aandan Adimai, with Satyaraj in the lead.
Shankar now wields the pen
By way of an aside, and while on the subject of directors and their acting aspirations, I remember Shankar telling me, during an interview a couple of years ago, that he had in fact come to Kodambakkam wanting to be an actor.
Now he elaborates on the theme in a serialised autobiography being published in a Tamil weekly. And talks not just of his acting aspirations, but of how his great desire was to be like S V Shekar, the comedian and character artiste.
Interestingly, Shankar went on to direct Shekhar in the role of Aishwarya Rai's father in his film Jeans.
The autobiography has Shankar talking of his days as a struggler, of how he had to wear his school uniform to college because he couldn't afford to buy new clothes; of how his mother made rotis for dinner because the family couldn't afford rice; of how, today, he eats rotis as part of a new diet regimen to cope with his excess weight. But the rotis he eats today, he says, don't taste the same as the ones his mom made during those days of penury.
All of which sounds like the kind of thing our parents tell us -- a nostalgic glorification of former poverty. Somehow, though, the way Shankar writes it, there is no romanticising -- it is a very matter-of-fact rendition and, as you read, you realise where the director acquired the roots, the core values that are the backbone of his films today.
Vikram stars in Malayalam remake
Vikram, whose performance as the deranged young man in Sethu won him critical acclaim even as it rocketed the film to superhit status, is being flooded with offers -- but chooses to be choosy.
I met him recently when he dropped in on the sets of director Sharan's Paarthein Rasithen and, during that meeting, Vikram talked of his excitement at getting to do the lead role in the remake of a Malayalam film.
The film in question is Vaasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinna Gnanum. Kalabhavan Mani brilliantly portrayed plays a blind balladeer in the original Malayalam version -- a role Vikram will now reprise.
Another project on his cards is Vinnukkum Mannukkum, directed by Rajakumaran.
Kama gives way to Kajuraho
Anyone know what happened to cinematographer Ashok Kumar's directorial venture, Kama? The explicitly erotic film appears to have vanished off the map, but that hasn't fazed its cinematographer/director, who is now busy making Khajuraho.
Vishaal plays a sculptor who neglects his wife Saadkika, meets Nigar and is attracted to her to the exclusion of all else.
Mamta plays Nigar's sister and the story -- or that section of it that is not devoted to steamy scenes -- is about how she breaks up the affair and ensures that Vishaal goes back to the arms of his long-suffering wife.
"The subject," says Ashok Kumar, "is being handled with sensitivity and will not be sleazy." Which, come to think of it, echoes what he had to say about Kama as well.
Eunuchs threaten to disrupt shooting
Sadashiv Amrapurkar played a eunuch in the Sanjay Dutt-Pooja Bhatt starrer, Sadak, without raising an eyebrow.
Prakash Rai, however, is not quite as fortunate. He plays the same character in Appu, the Tamil remake of Sadak being directed by Vasant.
The word from the sets is that Rai has done a brilliant job in the role -- but eunuchs in Tamil Nadu are not too inclined to applaud. A section of them, hailing from Thiruvannamalai, have in fact threatened that if portions of the film are not reshot, they will initiate large scale protests and do their best to hinder shooting schedules.
The eunuch community is apparently upset that Rai, playing a 'sexually handicapped' person, is in fact the villain of the piece. They argue that they are an unwanted community with little social standing as it is, without moviemakers going out of their way to paint them blacker still.
Director Vasant is yet to respond to the protest, and the threat.
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