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October 17, 2001

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Comedy for Salman, Tragedy for Aishwarya

Subhash K Jha

Taking the unenthusiastic response to his latest film in his stride, prolific director Priyadarshan is now focusing on his next project, with Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai.

"I'm proud of my middle class background and attitude. When critics compared Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar to the middle class comedies of Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, I felt very proud," he states.

Priyadarshan Priyadarshan said that he intended to revive the blithe spirit of Basu Chatterjee's mid-1970s comedies Chit Chor and Choti Si Baat in YTGYMG.

"But instead, people wanted to see more of my last comedy Heri Pheri. That worked against my film," he notes.

While the soft-spoken filmmaker is currently busy working on a slapstick comedy, starring Salman Khan, he's consumed by the idea of directing Shah Rukh and Aishwarya in a romantic comedy set in a mental asylum.

"I feel it's going to be one of the best films I've ever made. Besides, it has commercial potential," he adds.

The film has Khan in the role that Jack Nicholson played in Milos Forman's classic satire One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. The film, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, is about the politics of insanity. It will be a musical, Hollywood style, with 12-13 songs composed by Anu Malik.

Priyadarshan was in Prague shooting an advertisement for American Express, when he got the chance to speak to Forman.

The film will go on the floors January 2, 2002.

Shah Rukh Khan Humble and self-effacing, the director of such modern masterpieces as Viraasat and Sazaa-e-Kala Pani (in Hindi) and Chithram and Minnaram (in Malayalam), considered that meeting to be one of the high points in his life.

In the last eight months, Priyadarshan has been consistently shooting ads. According to him, they are lucrative and creatively fulfilling.

There's also Priyadarshan's dream project on the weavers of Kancheepuram to be made in Malayalam on a shoestring budget. He is producing the film jointly with his friends. "The only saleable point in this film is AR Rahman's music. Everyone has pitched in free of cost," the director states.

And what about the much talked about project on the life of freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad, with Abhishek Bachchan in the lead? "I was supposed to be in New York later this month for meetings regarding that project. But now with the terrorist bombings in the US, the project has been put on hold."

Priyadarshan insisted he wanted to make the film, and only with Abhishek. "He's the only actor of his generation in Hindi cinema who has the typical Indian looks. He just needs that one hit to turn his career around, and I know I can deliver it for him."

Priyadarshan, who has directed 55 films so far, is known for his dedication to cinema. He even runs a sound-mixing studio in Madras that was recently equipped with Dolby sound.

The sound for all of Priyadarshan's as well as several other leading directors' works in south India, including the eagerly awaited Kamal Haasan starrer Abhay," is mixed in his studio.

"I don't make much money," Priyadarshan says. "But whatever little I make, I reinvest in cinema."

Indo-Asian News Service

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