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|May 7, 2000||
Delayed, believed dead
Virumbukirein, which will mark the debut of Sneha in the lead, has her leading man Prashant playing a fire-fighter. Which immediately puts you in mind of Bruce Willis. Or, for Tamil film fans, of the role played by Kamal Haasan in Michael Madana Kamararajan, the full length comedy with Kamal in multiple avatars, one of which had him, in the role of a fire-fighter, rescuing Kushboo and her priceless paintings from a burning building.
Virumbukirein, unlike MMK, is not a comedy -- word from the floors being that it is a tautly scripted tale with its share of thrills and spills and, of course, special effects. It is produced by an erstwhile manager in 'Gentleman' Kunjumon's office.
Interesting, that -- members of Kunjumon's staff have made enough money to produce movies, but the most flamboyant producer down south is still struggling to release Kodeeswaran, the movie that was meant to mark the screen debut of his son Ebie.
Apparently the distributors are unwilling to touch the film even with the proverbial pole -- despite the added attraction of a song sequence featuring Karisma Kapoor playing an alien descending to earth -- a special effects extravaganza that reportedly cost close to a crore to picturise.
And while on Bollywood heroines whose films are languishing unreleased, add Madhuri Nene nee Dixit to the list. Her Engineer, a science fiction thriller pairing her opposite Arvind Swamy, has come to a complete standstill, with all shooting suspended for unspecified reasons.
Arvind Swamy is, in fact, a prominent feature on the 'delayed, believed dead' movies list, with his Sasanam, directed by Mahendran, also stuck on the floors. The film pairs him with Gautami and Ranjitha and has adoption as its theme.
Come to think of it, Sasanam shouldn't find the path to completion easy. Because, among other things, heroine Gautami -- a svelte lass when she signed the film -- has, during the inordinate delay in its completion, got married and even had a baby. And has lost her figure, adding to the problems for Sasanam's makers. The film, incidentally, is funded by NFDC.
While on Gautami, the erstwhile heroine is now busy making the rounds of Kodambakkam, on the prowl for 'mother' roles. Interesting, that -- her first hero, Rajinikanth (in Guru Shisyan) is still the most in-demand leading man, but Gautami, from pairing with him in romantic leads, could soon appear as the mother of his love interest (or worse, his own mother). Apparently, leading ladies have very limited shelf-life in this industry.
And before leaving the 'movies forever under production' theme, here's one more to add to the list: Rhythm, the Arjun-Meena starrer directed by Vasant, work on which has been going on forever. Word within the industry is that A R Rahman's music is stunning, the script and storyline are good. So what's holding this one up? Your guess is as good as mine -- the moviemakers aren't telling.
Nirosha is back
Leading ladies making themselves over as screen mothers is one part of the story. Nirosha is an example of a parellel trend. Remember the girl who cavorts in a swimming pool in Mani Rathnam's Agni Nakshatram, playing Karthik's love interest? That film put her in the 'sultry siren' bracket, but her innings didn't last too long.
She recently returned from hibernation when she appeared in the teleserial Chinna Paapaa Periya Paapaa (the Tu Tu Main Main clone produced by elder sister Radhika), which had her playing daughter-in-law while Sripriya played ma-in-law.
That essay in comedy kick-started her career again, with Nirosha landing a role in the comedy movie Kandha Kadamba Kadirvela. That, in turn, appears to have prompted other producers to cast her in comic roles. And, just to put the butter and jam on her daily bread, she has also started co-hosting a game show on the small screen.
Vivek turns down Tenali
Vivek, the comedian who reportedly writes his own lines impromptu, and who is rapidly upstaging the Gaundamani-Senthil pairing at the box office, recently turned down a role in Tenali, the Kamal Hassan-starrer pairing him opposite the hottest female in Tamil movies today, Jyotika.
Apparently Vivek was approached for the role and even took his signing amount. Then he took one look at the script, realised he didn't have the best laugh lines (expectedly -- the comedy-tinged film stars Kamal in the lead and it would have been highly unlikely for someone else to have got the good comedy bits), said no thanks and returned the signing amount.
Vivek's probably getting increasingly conscious of his box office standing, judging by his turning down the Tenali offer. After all, he did play a very quiet, diffident character in Mani Rathnam's latest outing, the Madhavan-Shalini starrer Alai Payuthe.
Switching roles with style
Her last release had her playing Raja Kaliamman, which still shows good legs at the box office. And now she appears as a hep, 'foreign-returned' babe in English Pondatti (the Tamil dubbing of the hit Telugu film, English Pellam East Godavari Mogadu) directed by Suresh Verma.
The film has Ramya playing a sophisticate who suffers acute culture shock when she becomes a widow and is forced to go through the heartless rites consequent on widowhood. And who, obviously, rebels at what she considers the degradation of her womanhood.
If not Papa The Great, then Kabbadi Kabaddi
Actor-director Bhagiaraj -- who under the influence of numerology now spells his name Packiaraj -- appears to have shrugged off the debacle of Papa The Great and is now busy with his next film, Kabbadi Kabbadi.
Papa The Great, you will recall, is the Hindi remake of the Packiaraj-Nagma starrer Vettiya Madichu Kettu, which had Packiaraj and Poornima Jayaram's real life son, Shantanu, playing his sceen son. The Hindi version featured Nagma, trying frantically to resucitate a dying career (in contrast to younger sister Jyotika, who is zooming up the ladder) opposite Kishen Kumar.
Promos of the film had begun airing on television and release was imminent when Kishen Kumar was implicated in the betting and match-fixing scandal now sweeping cricket. And that in turn spelt doom for the film, with distributors showing a marked reluctance to take it up for release.
Kabbadi Kabbadi, now under production, is slated to be one more in the Packiaraj genre of slightly risque comedies.
It's all in the family
You will remember M R Radha, the late screen villain who carried his 'villainy' into real life when he pulled a gun and shot at the late M G Ramachandran.
His family has done pretty well in the industry. While both Radha Ravi and M R R Vasu have established themselves as successful character artistes, daughter Radhika has shifted gracefully from leading lady to character artiste and television producer. Another daughter is an Nirosha referred to in the earlier item.
Enter now, the grandson. Vasu's son, Vasu Vikram, debuts as villain in the teleserial Chithi, produced by his aunt Radhika. Vikram's performance is coming in for much applause, and word within the industry is that it is only a matter of time before he follows his grandfather, father, uncle and aunts onto the big screen.
What's up, doc?
Dr Mathrubootham, a well known psychiatrist in real life, has been appearing in bit roles in a few films of late -- one such recent outing being in the role of the psychiatrist in the Ajit-Simran superhit, Vaali.
The doctor also hosts a television chat show (sponsored, appropriately enough, by an aphrodisiac manufacturer) wherein participants talk with rather startling frankness about various sexual problems (this, mind you, in supposedly strait-laced Tamil Nadu). The show is a hit, thanks in good part to the ease with which the psychiatrist conducts it, spicing his advice with snatches of old Tamil songs that he warbles at the drop of a cue.
Indications are that his popularity will translate into an increasingly active screen life -- for starters, he has a sizeable role in Ezhil's next film, the Prabhu Deva starrer Pennin Manadhai Thottu.
Malayalam films rake in the moolah
Set to cash in on this trend is the Suresh Gopi hit, Janadhipathyam, being renamed Makkal Thilagam for the Tamil audience. Makkal Thilagam, incidentally, is a title that will resonate with the Tamil audience, being the sobriquet M G Ramachandran was known by during his celluloid lifetime.
Another Suresh Gopi-starrer due to be released in dubbed version is Kavalan, a Viji Thampi-helmed thriller that pairs Gopi opposite Lakshmi's lissome daughter, Aiswarya. Who, after the trauma of a disastrous marriage and an equally disastrous flirtation with drugs and drink, has been picking up the pieces and remaking a career for herself on the small and big screens alike.
Divya sizzles in Tamil
Divya Unni is tall -- unusually so, in a Malayalam industry that seems to specialise in vertically challenged heroines. She's also buxom. And seemingly hell bent on parlaying these two attributes into a successful innings in Tamil cinema.
Thus, breaking away from the Malayalam mould wherein heroines are reluctant to show skin, Divya steams up the screen in her first Tamil outing opposite Karthik. And her willingness to slip into revealing costumes, coupled with a more than average acting ability, has got Tamil producers making tracks to her doorstep.
The Divya Unni philosophy, underlying what she hopes will be a successful career in Tamil cinema, appears to be 'If the Bombay babes can do it, why not me?'
Jayaraj on a roll
Director Jayaraj began this year with a bang. His Karunam bagged the Golden Peacock (shared with a Japanese film) and his Millennium Stars, starring Jayaram, Biju Menon and Abhirami, was released in the early minutes of January 1, 2000, making it the first film to hit the marquee this millennium.
The musical, about two friends who make it big as pop stars in Bombay, is powered by Vidyasagar's music. And remade versions are shortly to hit the Tamil and Telugu screens. In Telugu, the remake has been titled Shivshankar, while the Tamil version is still untitled.
Director Pravinkanth turns actor
Pravinkanth, whose name featured in recent editions of this column as director of the Prashanth-Simran starrer Star, has also begun work on another film with Ajit in the lead.
What is interesting, though, is the cast of his next film, Thullal -- the hero of which is director Pravinkanth himself.
The director had played a small role in Jodi, and apparently the acting bug bit him big time. Add one more, thus, to the increasing numbers of Tamil directors who have begun stepping in front of the cameras.
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