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August 11, 2000


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The dancing brush

Prabhu Deva Prabhu Deva was in Mumbai recently, shooting for an advertisement for Jet Mosquito Coils. And, during a break, teamed up with some of his Bollywood friends - Shilpa Shetty et al - for lunch at The Club.

At an adjoining table, they found this tall, lanky old man, sporting a flowing white beard and with his feet idiosyncratically unshod. Yeah, right. Maqbool Fida Husain, in the flesh.

Shilpa and the others kept egging Prabhu Deva on to go and talk to the famous painter. And Prabhu had just about decided to oblige, when he found the man in question getting up from his table and moving in their direction.

He was even more surprised when Husain held his hand out to Prabhu Deva, with the words, "I admire your dancing."

The loose-limbed star was floored. Completely. While reasonably used to fans gushing over him, he hadn't reckoned on adding the likes of Husain to that number.

M F Husain's sketch The painter, meanwhile, ripped a page out of his notebook, sketched on it his famous horse, signed it, and handed it over to Prabhu Deva with a flourish.

The dancing star in fact cherishes these unexpected encounters. Another one, which he recounts with pleasure, relates to when he was travelling. And this young lass came up to him. On looking up, Prabhu found himself face-to-face with Shruti Kamal Haasan.

She smilingly proferred a sheet of paper, on which she had quickly - and, he says, very competently - drawn his likeness, and asked for his autograph. They finally traded - Shruti got Prabhu Deva's autograph, and Prabhu got the sketch she had made of him, with her signature on it.

What is the highest amount you would pay a director? Any director?

Shankar Think of the most outrageous amount you can. Then, double it. You still won't get close to how much Pentafour Software, the latest entrant on the mega-producer block, is paying Shankar, whose latest hit, Mudhalvan, is now being remade in Hindi as Nayak with Anil Kapoor leading the cast.

Like, would you believe fifteen crore rupees? One hundred and fifty million?!

That's the amount Pentafour is paying Shankar, to direct a project starring Kamal Haasan (this, incidentally, being the second Shankar-Kamal pairing, after Indian).

And that makes the Tamil wizkid the highest paid director in the country today, by a mile and a half.

Pentafour, incidentally, has big plans, with a lineup of films including Bharati, the story of legendary Tamil poet Subramanya Bharati, with Marathi stage star Sayaji Shinde in the lead.

Then, there is Nilakaalam, a children's movie to be directed by Gandhi Krishna (whose Engineer, starring Arvind Swamy and Madhuri Dixit, has been in the deep freeze for aeons now). Also a Singitham Srinivasa Rao film titled Little John.

One thing's for sure - they may be a fledgling company in the world of movies, but they sure mean business! And, seemingly, have very deep pockets.

Tabu and Ajithh When you hear a negative buzz about Ajith, you begin to wonder. If only because he is the kind of star no one seems to have a bad word for.

Maybe it is just that he's been getting out of the wrong side of bed lately. Nothing seems to be going right for, and with, him. His Unnai Kodu Ennai Tharuvein was a total disaster, for starters.

Sections of the industry, meanwhile, are speculating on what the deal is between Ajith and Rajiv Menon, his director in Kandukondein Kandukondein. The film is a success. And Ajith is legendary for giving special gifts to his directors after a movie becomes successful. Thus, he had gifted Sharan a car after the success of Vaalee, and presented Surya a similar gift after Amarkalam became a hit. But no gifts for Rajiv Menon - which has the industry wondering why.

Meanwhile, Ajith has also turned down the lead role in Bala's next directorial venture - which again has eyebrows climbing, for Bala is the man who directed Sethu, the biggest hit of last year, and in the process, gave a fresh lease of life to the lead star, Vikram. Ajith, however, told Bala he was not "convinced" by the storyline - so that role has now gone to Surya, son of erstwhile star Shivakumar.

And to round things off nicely, while his under-production film Citizen, wherein he does a multiplicity of roles, is expected to do well given the unusual subject and treatment, things are not too cosy between Ajith and his director on this project, either.

Harking back to Bala for just a moment, the director now into his second film has pulled off a coup of sorts. Not only did he get Sivaji Ganesan to accept a role in his project, he has actually managed to get the thespian to play a character with negative shades.

Apparently Bala approached the Chevalier with some trepidation - but Siivaji gave one listen to the storyline, and immediately signed on.

The success of Khushee has translated into a demand for a Telugu version, which A M Rathnam will produce. Surya, who directed the original Vijay-Jyotika starrer, will direct this one as well, with Chiranjeevi's brother, Pavan Kalyan, replacing Vijay in the lead. Surya, in fact, has plans for debuting as a producer once he is through with this assignment.

An interesting titbit on Khushee. One of the scenes that had the audience buzzing was the spectacularly shot bungee jump by Vijay. Funny thing is, the same scene was also picturised on Jyotika - not once, but twice. And it proved just as spectacular - only, it ended up on the cutting-room floor. Could it be that our heroes can't take the competition? Or is it just that the producer and director decided not to give Jyotika's growing legion of fans a coronary by showing her leaping off the heights? Jyotika

Staying with Jyotika for the moment, she will appear in an important role in Priyadarshan's next project, Snehgithiye. The Tamil film boasts an all-woman cast, with Jyotika being joined by the likes of Sharbani Mukherjee, the brandy-eyed cousin of Kajol, who had a small part to play in J P Dutta's Border. Also making an appearance is Ishita Arun, daughter of the husky crooner Ila Arun (whose last outing in Tamil, incidentally, was when she teamed with Swarnalatha in the Thath Thom number in Kaadhal Kavithai, under Ilayaraja's baton.

Priyadarshan's film, meanwhile, is inspired by the recent Marathi hit, Bindhaast.

Shilpa Shetty Shilpa Shetty, who made a one-song appearance in Khushee, jiving with Vijay to the strains of Maca-reena, will shortly appear in Dubai for one of those star-spangled affairs. Incidentally, she has also been signed to star opposite Vijaykant for his next outing, Vanchinathan, to be directed by Shaji Kailas, the Malayalam director making his Tamil debut.

Harking back to Prabhu Deva, the dancing star is increasingly busy these days. At the time of writing this, thus, he is juggling five films: Kalavum Katru Mara; Maruti Madanlal's untitled venture to be directed by Prasad; Lakshmi Movie Makers' next, directed by Sundar; and Cheran's next, among others.

Simultaneously, he is doing a Kannada movie co-starring Upendra, as well as a Telugu movie. His Doubles, opposite Meena, is slated for an early September release.

Then, there is Boney Kapoor's Hindi production, to be directed by Krishna Vamsi, wherein he does a one-song appearance, a la the Que Sera Sera dance opposite Madhuri Dixit in Pukaar.

When these guys team up, it's news. We refer to the troika of director Bharatiraja, music maestro Ilayaraja and ace lyricist Vairamuthu.

Producer P Raja, the man behind Kizhakku Simayile, is the ambitious gent hoping to bring the three aces together in one hand, and talks are at an advanced stage.

Aarkay & Rajitha

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