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July 2, 1999


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The bat and the bullet

Prashant. Click for bigger pic!
Cricket and Kargil appear, increasingly, to be interlinked.

Both are conversation pieces, countrywide -- and, increasingly, the former is being used as a vehicle for raising the national consciousness about the latter.

Thus, July 18 will see a cricket match in Madras, with stars and cricketers participating. To be telecast by Sun TV, every penny of the proceeds -- including advertising on the channel during the game -- is slated for the defence fund.

This makes the second such event in Madras since the start of the conflict -- recently, Rotary International put together a stars-for-polio cricket match with 80 big names from the southern celluloid firmament participating, in front of 30,000 spectators (which, ironically, is more than Lord's could accommodate for the final of the World Cup between Pakistan and Australia).

Those present and participating included Sharat Kumar, a bandage covering one eye injured during a minor accident while filming; teenybopper heart-throbs Vijay, Prashanth and Abbas; while Meena, Roja, Radhika and Kaushalya provided the glamour.

Notably absent were Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth, Ajit, Simran and Karthik, among the big names.

Meena. Click for bigger pic!
The programme opened with Gangai Amaran, Ilayaraja's brother, conducting his orchestra in concert -- and surprisingly, the composer departed from his own norm of opening with a song composed by his illustrious brother, and opted instead to lead with the A R Rahman -tuned ditty Kalloori salai from Kaadhal Desam.

The showbiz touch was in evidence throughout. Participating stars were divided into three teams -- and the team colours were, if you needed telling, saffron, white and green.

A huge cardboard coin, too big to be flipped in the air, was used for the toss. The emcee just let it roll, and waited for it to topple over while the rival captains called.

While the stars stole the show, it was the star-kids who actually played like pros. Silambarasan, T Rajendar's son, and Shantanu, Bhagyaraj's son, were the standouts, the latter in fact being named man of the match in the final.

And since nothing is for free, all participating stars were rewarded -- with a gold coin apiece, presented to them by Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, no less.

Mellisai Mannar returns

M S Vishwanathan, the singer who in his heyday was given the sobriquet of Mellisai Mannar (King of Pop, loosely translated) comes out of hibernation. And it took A R Rahman to lure him back into the recording studio.

MSV, thus, sings a number for Sangamam, directed by Suresh Krishna and starring ARR's brother-in-law, the Malayalam actor Rehman alongside newcomer Vindhya. The film has an interesting premise -- a love story between two dancers. The story deals with how their passion for their art comes in the way of their passion for each other.

Preethi scores down south

Preethi. Click for bigger pic!
Preethi -- the Chui Mui girl -- is seemingly in demand, down south.

She debuted with the romantic thriller Mazhavil and has already been signed for two Telugu movies -- one opposite Nagarjuna, the other co-starring Chiranjeevi's brother Pavan Kalyan.

Then there is Hello, the Tamil film pairing her with Prashanth, wherein the two meet and exchange a hello once, at the start of the film, and never meet again till the very end. The entire 'romance' between the two is the work of their friends, busily match-making.

Selvabharathi, directing this rather unusual love story, prefers not to go into any more detail at this point.

Tamil storms God's own country

Ajit. Click for bigger pic!
There was a time when Malayalam films never did well in Tamil Nadu -- unless it was one of those C-grade soft porn quickies. Then came Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, which ran a year in Safire, the flagship theatre of the Vecumsees group (now defunct), and Malayalam movies, and stars, became big news in TN.

Now for the reversal -- the box office charts in Kerala are currently dominated by Tamil films.Vaali, the Ajit-Simran thriller due to be dubbed in Hindi soon, leads at the turnstiles; the Rajni-starrer Padayappa continues to gross bit time as it heads towards a possible 100-day run; Poomagal Urvalam, starring Prashanth and Rambha, sports houseful boards at all theatres and Thullatha Manamum Thullum, the Vijay-Simran vehicle, has just celebrated 100 days and still running.

Madam's gone south

Pooja Batra. Click for bigger pic!
Pooja Batra, like Preethi, has 'gone south' with a vengeance. Latest on the floors for her is Bharat Rathna which pairs her opposite Suresh Gopi under Vinayan's direction. Pooja had a superhit with the Priyadarshan-helmed Chandralekha, pairing her with Mohanlal, and she followed up by teaming with Mammootty in Megham.

Awaiting release, meanwhile, is her Tamil outing, Oruvan with Sharat 'Supreme Star' Kumar.

While on Bollywood belles, Sonali Bendre's Kaadhalar Dinam, a love story that begins on the Internet, is due for imminent release. Meanwhile, she has bagged a biggie -- Kannodu Kaanpathellaam pairing her with Arjun under Prabha's direction.

Sonali Bendre. Click for bigger pic!

Change of guard

Meanwhile, the changing of the guard seems to be well and truly on, in Tamil cinema. K S Ravikumar, who helmed Padayappa, is to direct Minsaara Kanna -- with Chinna Rajni Vijay, in the lead.

The Tamil industry appears to have installed Vijay as heir apparent to the Rajnikanth mantle, showering him with sobriquets of the order of Chinna Rajni and Ilaya Dalapathi.

To underline the point, this latest movie takes its name from the first line of a song picturised on Rajnikanth himself, and sung by Srinivas and Nityashree, in Padayappa.

Apparently KSR, and producer K R G, who returns to the field after a period of hibernation, approached Rajnikanth for permission to use that particular movie title for the Vijay vehicle, and got instant approval. The film, incidentally, has Rambha heading the female credits.

K S Ravikumar, meanwhile, is on a huge high. Padayappa is a megahit in Tamil, its Telugu avtaar, Narasimha is doing equally well, and he also has Snehakosam, the remake of Natpukkaga, with Chiranjeevi in the lead, busting the turnstiles over in AP.

Making a name

Simran's oomph and dancing prowess was what wowed the Tamil audiences till Vaali, co-starring Ajit, came along. Now it is her acting prowess that has both critics and fans in ecstasies.

While Vaali is a box office smash in TN and Kerala, audiences in the latter state are also queueing up big time at cinema halls featuring her other recent hit, Thullatha Manamum Thullum.

Riding the crest for all she's worth, Simran has now signed for a Malayalam film -- Savanthavadiyil Ninaiyum Kaathu which co-stars Kunchako Boban. Story and direction is credited to debutant Leo Baby Petta. And -- more Bollywood migration -- the music score will be by Jatin-Lalit.

-- Rajitha

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