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May 31, 2000


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Aishwarya Rajinikanth to debut as singer

Rajinikanth The Gaikwad family appears, these days, to have fingers in every pie going.

Father Rajinikanth -- Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, to give him his given name -- is easily the highest paid actor in Indian filmdom today. Plus, he recently took to story and screenplay writing, making his debut in the field in an upcoming film starring his good friend Mohan Babu.

Latha Rajinikanth, meanwhile, had a good outing as an impressario recently, helming the hugely successful Rajini 25 bash at the turn of the millennium to mark the 25th year of her husband's reign as Tamil cinema's presiding icon. Simultaneously, she also paraded her singing talents, coming up with an album of pop songs which, we are told, is doing well.

And then there is daughter Aishwarya. Who, on April 24, debuted as a dancer at the Narada Gana Sabha auditorium before an elite gathering that included the likes of 'Chevalier' Sivaji Ganeshan, famed danseuse Padma Subramaniam, Hema Malini and Kamal Haasan. And, of course, her guru, Meenakshi Chitaranjan, who runs the Kaladiksha dance school in Mylapore.

The debut has been greeted with much critical acclaim.

And now, the svelte lass adds another string to her bow and will make her debut as a playback singer for the film Ramana, under the baton of music composer Deva. Talent, apparently, seems to run in the family.

A different Kamal

Kamal Haasan From Madras, more word on the hottest movie on the floors on date.

Tenali, we are told, has Kamal playing a diffident, scared-of-his-own-shadow type of character rather loosely based on Mousehunt. Jyotika and Devyani star opposite him, with Nagma's sister taking the higher billing thanks perhaps to her rapidly increasing fan following.

Also playing a key role is Jayaram. This, in fact, will be the second time Jayaram stars alongside Kamal -- the two were together in Chanakyan, a political thriller produced by Appachan where Jayaram plays a mimicry artiste who helps Kamal gain the upper hand over the corrupt chief minister, played to perfection by Thilakan. Incidentally, in that film, Kamal's love interest was none other than Urmila Matondkar -- and this was way before Rangeela and success on the Bollywood marquee.

K S Ravikumar, who helmed the Rajinikanth-starrer Padayappa, will both direct and produce Kamal's latest. And word is that he is so confident of the film doing well that when A M Rathnam wanted to buy the rights for Andhra, Ravikumar refused, preferring to keep it for himself.

The music is by A R Rahman and word is that the songs will be reworked versions of Rahman's work in various Hindi films. And, for the first time in years, Vairamuthu will not be writing the lyrics for Rahman's tunes. The two, regulars of this column will recall, had a falling out recently, after Vairamuthu, while speaking at a function, said jocularly that the beauty of his lyrics would show to better effect if the accompanying music were not quite so loud. Ilayakamban, the rising star on the lyrics block, has already delivered a couple of the songs that are supposed to be quite good.

While on A R Rahman...

A R Rahman The music whiz seems to be caught in a net of his own making. His music sells, so everyone wants him. At the same time, Rahman himself wants time off from the frenzy of pop composition, to do 'more worthwhile' stuff. The compromise solution seems to be that Rahman will increasingly rework his own tunes, given earlier for Hindi films.

Star, the Prashant-Simran starrer now on the floors, is one such instance. The film is being made by Praveen Gandhi (whose credits include the Nagarjuna-Sushmita Sen starrer, Rakshakan). Gandhi, by the way, is not his surname -- since he was born on October 2, his parents tacked on the Gandhi to his given name, Praveen.

Now he has dropped that name and reinvented himself as Praveenkanth. His earlier film, Jodi (another Prashant-Simran starrer), was a hit, with Rahman's music driving the box office take even higher.

For his latest, Praveenkanth wanted his good friend Rahman to provide the music yet again -- but the latter is a touch short on time. So the compromise is that Rahman will reinvent tunes earlier composed for films like Takshak and Taal. (Rather strange, though, the music of Taal is available in Tamil as well, as Taalam).

Then again, even this is not new. The music of Jodi itself was a reworking of Rahman's tunes for Doli Sajake Rakhna, the Akshaye Khanna-Jyotika starrer.

It's all getting a bit confusing really, what with Rahman reworking Hindi songs for Tamil and vice versa -- makes you wonder how he keeps track of it all!

Bharatiraja's son gets a second chance

Taj Mahal Bharatiraja came up with a dud when he made Taj Mahal as debut vehicle for his son, Manoj. So he gives it a second shot with Alli Arjuna, again featuring Manoj in the lead. Meanwhile, Bharatiraja is also busy with the Murali-starrer, Kadal Pookal. That's two on the floors simultaneously for the director widely credited with being the first to take Tamil cinema out of the sets and into the villages.

While on new movies...

R Madhavan Madhavan, who debuted in Mani Rathnam's Alai Payuthe, is due to appear in a movie being made under K Balachander's Kavithalaya banner. Directing it will be Gautam Menon -- Rajiv Menon's erstwhile assistant.

Suhasini aka Sneha aka Mansi???

Suhasini Sometime ago, a hugely popular Tamil weekly had announced that the makers of Virumbukirene were looking for a heroine to star opposite Prashant, under Susi Ganeshan's (Mani Rathnam's former assistant) direction.

After a while came the news that, as a result of the magazine story, the producers had been flooded with applicants (including, amusingly, some males as well) and had finally picked new face Suhasini for the starring role.

Since there is already a Suhasini (Kamal Haasan's niece and Mani Rathnam's wife), they further decided to rename her Sneha. The magazine revealed she was from Dubai and was holidaying at her grandparents' home in Madras when the story appeared. She sent in her application on a whim.

The story, though, turns out to be a dud, for no fault of the magazine's however. It turns out that Sneha, far from being a dewy-faced newcomer to celluloid, has already made her debut under the screen name Mansi in Malayalam, opposite Kunchako Boban in Ingane Oru Nilapakshi. The film was directed by Anil, husband of Urvashi's sister, Kalpana.

Suhasini aka Sneha aka Mansi is in fact the sister of one Govind, shortly slated to tie the wedding knot with choreographer Kala. It turns out that it was Kala who had suggested that her prospective sister-in-law send in her application for a role in Virumbukirene.

Vallasaru to be dubbed in Telugu

Vallarasu Naidu The Great is now readying for release. A Telugu remake, this, of Vijaykanth's latest hit Vallarasu.

Vijaykanth has been having a very good run at the box office lately and Vallarasu, the action-packed movie pairing him with Devyani under the direction of debutante Maharajan, continues to show good legs at the box office. Trax Theatres has bought the Telugu rights and the dubbed version is aiming for a June release.

While on Telugu movies...

Satyanarayana will be making Chaala Pagudi with Balakrishna, Simran and Sanghavi. Back after a brief gap, Satyanarayana is slated to churn out his trademark megabudget offering replete with special graphics and extensive song sequences in foreign locales (for this one, it is Switzerland and Australia).

Cheeya turns Samurai

Vikram Vikram, who for Tamil film fans has become Cheeya -- the nickname he uses in his superhit Sethu -- has signed for the lead role in Samurai, to be directed by debutant Balajee. Sethu was a dramatic, actor-driven tale with Vikram, shaved bald and starving himself to get the right look, playing a mentally deranged guy. Samurai will swing to the other extreme and feature him in a swashbuckling, action-oriented role. Variety, for Cheeya, seems to be the spice of cinema life these days.

MGR, Raj Kapoor to feature in Internet film

MGR You know, of course, that graphics-whizkids Pentamedia is shortly to reincarnate M G Ramachandran and Raj Kapoor and have them star in a trilingual (Tamil-Hindi-English) film scripted by 'Crazy' Mohan. Should be a treat for MGR fans in the south, given that reruns of the late matinee idol-turned-chief minister's movies still run to packed houses.

The 90 minute film, the director of which is yet to be finalised, will also be released on the Internet. And while on the topic, Pentamedia, as well as G Venkiteswaran (Mani Rathnam's elder brother, known to the industry merely as GV) are both busy buying up rights to old Tamil films, with a view to releasing them on the Net.

But, getting back to MGR, the Pentamedia film won't, as is popularly believed, signal his reincarnation. The late matinee idol will cavort with Devyani and rub shoulders with Satyaraj in the under-production film Ennamma Kannu. In fact, MGR, thanks to the magic of computers, has already 'appeared' in Kandha Kadamba Kadirvela, the Rama Narayanan-directed comedy that stars Prabhu, Vadivelu, S V Shekar and Vivek.

The film is all about the taming of a shrewish mother-in-law, with the likes of Roja, Kovai Sarala and Nirosha leading the female cast. The mother-in-law is played by Latha, who you will recall became MGR's favourite heroine after he split up his pairing with Jayalalitha.

In the film, MGR makes an 'appearance' in the song Nalla pasamulla thambikale, and theatres across Tamil Nadu burst in deafening whistles and applause as the late star's visage flashed back into celluloid life.

Backdrops as characters

Director Saran has a knack of using his backdrops as characters, as integral parts of his films. Thus, the mansion in which Ajith stays had a prominent role to play in his debut film Kadhal Mannan. In the superhit Amarkalam, it was Srinivasa Theatre, which formed both the setting and an integral element of the storyline.

In his latest, the under-production Paarthein Rasithein with Prashant and Simran heading the star cast, it is a bus (and in the Bharatiraja production Alli Arjuna referred to earlier, it is a police station). Saran and his unit are now busy shooting in and around Besant Nagar, the upmarket residential area in Madras.

While on Prashant...

Prashant He is one Tamil star who regularly does stage shows. With erstwhile screen baddie and character actor Thiagarajan masterminding the productions, Prashant regularly tours abroad, with a bevy of leading ladies and a team of comedians in tow. There was a huge show not long ago in Singapore and, more recently, one in Wembley in London.

All this touring appears to have increased his mass appeal in foreign lands -- and the word now is that he has in fact been signed on to play the lead role in a Malay film.

Vasundhara signs her second film

Vasundhara Das Finally, a word on Vasundhara Das. You will remember her as the green-eyed lass who walked into A R Rahman's studio wanting to become a singer. The ace composer signed her on to sing the Shakalaka baby number, picturised on Sushmita Sen in the Arjun-starrer Mudhalvan, directed by Shankar.

Meanwhile, Kamal Haasan spotted her in Rahman's studio and signed her to play his second wife in the box office disaster, Hey! Ram.

She will now appear in her second film, opposite Ajith, under the direction of Saravanan (Pavithran's erstwhile assistant).

And -- this, mind you, is just buzz, not yet confirmed fact -- the word doing the rounds is that Kamal Haasan and Shankar will team up yet again, after their earlier superhit Indian. Kamal, thus, is supposed to be doing the lead role in Shankar's next film -- though the director does not confirm, or deny this, saying merely that he is at this point busy finalising his plans and it is too premature to talk of details.

-- Rajitha

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