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July 21, 2000


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Yukta signs her first film

Yukta Mookhey From the time Yukta Mookhey was crowned Miss World, she's been dropping less than discreet hints about her desire to work in films.

That wish is now coming true -- word in the industry is that she has signed on for a movie to be produced by CTV, the Madras-based outfit fronted by Dr Murli Manohar, co-producer of Jeans.

The film will be directed by Gautam Menon, and Madhavan, the star of Mani Rathnam's recent hit, Alai Paayudhey, will be her co-star.

And while on Mani Rathnam, here is an unlikely pairing -- Sharat Kumar will star in the director's next film. Why unlikely? Because the vibes between the two were a bit wonky to say the least. Mani Rathnam had, earlier, approached Sharat Kumar for a film and, somewhere along the way, during the negotiation stage, bad blood had crept in. The simmering feud is now history and the new project will go on stream shortly.

Also southbound: Nana Patekar

Nana Patekar Now, here's the big one -- Nana Patekar, the Bollywood star who made his bones with a series of manic performances in films like Parinda, will shortly make his Malayalam debut.

This time round, the role he will essay is a polar opposite to the kind that have got him noticed. Under the direction of P K Prakash, thus, Patekar will play the role of Mahakavi Changampuzha, the late poet laureate of Kerala.

The film will be made under the Trends banner, with lyrics by Girish Puthancherry and music by Johnson.

And still on the subject of noteworthy new projects, Vijaykanth -- who has been having a very good run lately at the box office -- will team up with hotshot Malayalam director Shaji Kailas, in the latter's Tamil directorial debut. Actually, this project was conceived of quite a while ago, but various financial and other constraints forced it to remain on the back burner all this while. The project will go on the floors as soon as Kailas wraps up his ongoing project, Valyettan, starring Mammootty.

Meena hits paydirt

Meena With Tamil film-makers increasingly looking at Bollywood belles to provide 'glamour,' indigenous actresses are feeling compelled to go in for an image change.

One person who has succeeded to a considerable extent is Meena, who, by accepting roles that would be highly unsuitable for Bollywood imports, has gotten extremely busy of late.

One such project is Sivakami, wherein the actress will play the goddess Parvati and, in the second half, a fisherwoman. Strange? Not really -- the film is based on an incident from the Puranas. Siva, if you recall, once lost his notoriously short temper and cursed Parvati to be reborn as an ignorant fisherwoman. And lo!, as they say.

But, then, Siva found himself missing his consort and had to go down to Earth as a fisherman and woo and win her all over again. Which forms the gist of this particular tale.

Simultaneously, there is Dreams, the Malayalam film that has her playing the champagne-swigging daughter of a rich planter. Opposite her is Suresh Gopi, playing an invincible chess champion (Vishwanathan Anand, with an attitude?) intrigued by this belle who actually hands him a defeat at his own game.

The film is a heady mix of chess and love and word is it could be another noteworthy triumph for Meena, the lass who started out as a child star (remember her role as the orphan child in Anbulla Rajinikanth), who even played Sridevi's daughter in a Telugu film and who then went on to star as Rajinikanth's love interest in movies like Veera and Muthu.

Ajit backs off Nanda

Ajit We've been referring, off and on, to Citizen, Ajit's first big post-marriage project, to be helmed by debutant director Saravanan Subbaiah.

Now, here's the storyline: Ajit plays a Christian, law school graduate with a gold medal, no less. Gemini Ganesan plays his grandfather who, on graduation day, sits him down and tells him a little story.

To wit, Ganesan is not his grandfather nor is Ajit a Christian. What he is, is a Muslim. Whose father was killed, mother gang-raped and murdered, during an inter-communal riot (this bit, to take off on the real life Coimbatore riots not so long ago).

Ajit escapes and Ganesan brings him up as his own. Early on, Ganesan tries taking recourse to the law, to bring the culprits to book -- and fails.

Now that Ajit is a lawyer in his own right, Ganesan tells him, it is now his baby, his problem. And Ajit solves it in an unusual fashion -- slipping into six different personas (for one of which he will shave his head completely bald), he murders the six perpetrators. Interestingly, in order to bring authenticity to his varied makeup and disguises, he spent part of his honeymoon taking tips from the Hollywood expert who did the makeup for Hey! Ram and Ambedkar.

The cops finally find the identity of the killer. Ajit is produced in court, in a case that reverberates around the world. He is tried, found guilty and sentenced.

And then, he calmly produces, alive and well, the six people he is supposed to have killed and for which the courts and the cops found sufficient evidence to convict and sentence him. How does he achieve this sleight of hand? And why?

That's what the film is about -- and, in order to ensure that the legal and courtroom scenes are spot on, Subbaiah has been consulting with a bevy of hot-shot lawyers and fine-tuning his script.

By the way, while on Ajit, the actor has opted out of director Bala's upcoming project, Nanda. Not that he doesn't have confidence in the director -- it was, you will recall, Bala who helmed the sleeper superhit Sethu, with Vikram in the lead (word is that Vikram lost out, in the race for the national best actor award, to Mohanlal by the proverbial whisker). It appears Ajit has some apprehensions about the role, with the result that the role has now gone to Surya.

Which, incidentally, is the second time Surya walks into an Ajit reject, the first being with the Mani Rathnam production Nerukku Ner, directed by Vasanth.

And to round off on the life and times of Ajit Kumar, his honeymoon produced a rather unusual memento. Finding himself in London along with bride Shalini, Ajit took time off to visit Madame Tussauds, and get himself photographed next to the waxwork of famed racing driver Ayerton Senna. But naturally -- if there is one thing Ajit is passionate about (apart, that is, from his new bride), it is cars and bikes and racing.

Bharati Raja returns to the sea

Bharati Raja And to round off, word on Kadal Pookal, the seashore saga that is Bharati Raja's next offering.

The film, which vaguely calls to mind the award-winning Malayalam movie Chemmeen, will be Bharati Raja's third offering -- after Alaigal Oyvathillai and Kadalora Kavithaigal -- with the sea as his canvas.

In his latest, he has his son Manoj, who debuted under his father's banner a while ago with Taj Mahal, teaming up with Murali. The two play friends, one a Hindu, the other a Christian.

The two have sisters and that is where the trouble begins. And, while on that, the female cast includes Sindhu, Preeti Usha and Uma. Sindhu, you will recall, was a child star in Kannada and turned heroine opposite S P B Charan in Maha Edapeedangi, with Kadal Pookkal as follow-up. Preeti Usha, too, comes to Tamil via Telugu, where she has two films -- Samudram and Rayudu -- to her credit. Uma is the daughter of Sumitra, a yesteryear heroine who today specialises in playing 'mother' roles. Uma, incidentally, made her debut in the recently released Veera Nadai.

Interestingly, it looks like Bharati Raja is no longer fixated with renaming his heroines. In the past, he had this habit of either casting girls whose names began with the letter 'R' or renaming them if it didn't (like Chandrika, who became Radha for Alaigal Oyvathillai) and Asha Kelunni, who was rechristened Revathi.

-- Rajitha

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