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November 5, 2001

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Two's company

Rajitha

In Madras, two names generate the most amount of speculation -- Rajnikanth and Shankar.

Shankar This time round however, the buzz clubs the two together.

Shankar's Nayak, the Hindi version of his own Tamil superhit Mudhalvan, didn't do as well as anticipated.

The ace director was supposed to begin work on Robot, a futuristic sci-fi project that was slated to have Kamal Haasan in the lead. But that project was stalled as Kamal is busy with the upcoming Pammal K Sambandham, where he plays the title role of a businessman who doubles up as a stunt double.

Rajnikanth, much to his fans' dismay has been playing coy for the past couple of years now. The disgruntled followers even began dismantling their fan clubs or merging them with those of other, more noticeable, stars like Vijaykanth. The superstar had said that he was taking a sabbatical after Padayappa, his last release, and that he would announce his next after a year.

Then came an announcement that he didn't feel like making films while friend, Kannada superstar Dr Rajakumar, was in custody of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, and that he would make his announcement only after the latter was released. Dr Rajakumar duly was, but no announcement from Rajnikanth was forthcoming -- though market sources maintained that he had blocked dates of Aishwarya Rai, who is slated to be his next heroine.

Shankar More recently, there was talk -- fueled, perhaps, by the fact that Rajnikanth was in the US around the same time as Aamir Khan -- that the swarthy star, much impressed by Lagaan, was planning to adapt and remake it in Tamil. But Rajnikanth himself scotched that particular rumour, when he announced that while it was true he found Lagaan impressive, he was not even remotely interested in doing a Tamil version.

Now, finally, the industry is agog with news that Shankar will direct Rajnikanth, in his next project. Incidentally, Rajnikanth was slated to play the lead in Mudhalvan. But the film contained incendiary dialogues and Rajnikanth felt that given his closeness to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham supremo and then chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, too much would be read into his mouthing those lines. And thus, he turned the role down on principle.

The sticking point for now seems to be in the choice of producer -- Shankar would like to work with A M Rathnam, the no-holds barred, no-expense spared moghul who most recently teamed with Shankar on Nayak. Rajnikanth, for his part, has been toying with the idea of getting a lot of his friends from way back to pool in money to make a film, so they can make a killing and he, in turn, can do something for his friends.

The issue is slated to be resolved soon -- after which, preliminary work will begin on a project that brings the superstar and the superstar-director of Tamil cinema together. And at this point in time, word is still that Ash Rai will play the female lead.

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