***Ellorukkum Vanakkam***

***Tamil Movie News(Cont.)***

***Gentleman-in pala kashtangal.. Soon, after Kamalahassan declared that he would resume shooting Chaachi 420 with FEFSI workers, Producer K.T.Kunjumon jumped onto the Kamal bandwagon and also resumed shooting of the mega-budgeted Rakshakan.  His decision to hire FEFSI workers to resume Rakshakan has not only earned him a bad reputation amongst the membership of the Tamil Padaipaaligal Sangam, but also a label as a 'traitor' to 'team spirit' and to the rules of the strike!..

K. T. Kunjumon [Gentleman Films International]Like any other producer, director or union leader, Kunjumon has his own reasons for the dramatic decision he made almost 1 1/2 months ago!.. He discussed this issue in great detail with Kumudham magazine.  Kunjumon admits that the very thought (by the T.P.Sangam) of banning Kamal from Tamil films for one year for hiring FEFSI workers, seemed unjust and obnoxious.  Kunjumon hotly debates this by stating: "Kamal-ukku thadai yengiravargal, Maniratnam, Shankar, Priyadarshan, K.Balachandar pondravar-galukku-ellaam yenn thadai vidhikkavillai?"

According to Kunjumon, the "Bheeshmachariya" (or so KTK calls him!), of Tamil Cinema, K.Balachandar is currently directing 3 tele-serials.  All 3 serials have extensive work done by FEFSI workers on a daily basis. From morning 6 A.M. to 11 A.M., KB completes his shooting and then comes to the Padaippaalligal meeting and interrogates the use of FEFSI workers.. Kunjumon argues: What kind of reasoning is this?  He uses FEFSI workers and then acts as though he doesn't! Furthermore, KB is in an appa sthaanam to Kamal and yet he "thara kuraivaaga" criticizes Kamal and sends him a sarcastic bouquet!.. "Magan thappu seidhaal appa kandikkalaam.. Adharkkaaga ippadiya?"..

Interestingly, Kunjumon has plenty of reasons to be furious at K.Balachandar. Besides causing enoughStill from Rakshagan damage on the Kamal matter, KB made a phone call to Sushmita Sen and told her not to come to Madras for Rakshakan shooting.  It does not stop there!.. Maniratnam, who currently directs a Ram Gopal Verma's Hindi production (using FEFSI workers) happened to be Hyderabad recently and advised Nagaarjuna not to go to Rakshakan shooting!

Kodhiththu pona Kunjumon wants to know: "En padaththil kadhaa-naayagiyum, kadhaa-naayagan-aiyum shooting-ukku ponga vendam yendru sollvadhil ivargalukku yenna sandhosam?"  Some of Kunjumon's personal grudges also come into this matter!.. He claims that Director Shankar also conducted shooting in North India and KTK wants to know why the Padaippaalligal Sangam did not bother to question Shankar on the matter!..

Kunjumon's gripes don't stop there. He was also considerably disgruntled by the methods used by Producer's Council to hold up his own shooting. As of July 5th, when the signs of the strike officially took hold of Chennai, 98% of Rakshakan had been completed.  As a result of the "adaiyaalla velai niruththam" by the Producers' Council in support of Director Balu Mahendra, KTK lost almost Rs. 3 Crores.   According to the rules already set in the industry, any union (Directors, Cine Stars, Technicians, Producers etc.) will have to provide a 15 day notice before observing a strike. Kunjumon's biggest assault on the Producer's Council was their negligence of this rule.  Without notice, Kunjumon found himself with a set he had created worth over Rs. 60 lakhs at Rajaji Hall.  He had begged with the Producer's Council, that he could not rebuild such a set if the rain or wind brought it down.   With bayangara finance nerukkadi as his biggest problem, KTK asked for an one-week extension before beginning the strike.  Furthermore, all the "idli, pongal, vadai ellam vestaagi vidum. 1000 thunai nadigargal, 6 silo cars ellam shooting-ukku thayaar nilamai-yil vaithirundhen.  Sushmita Sen America pogiraar.  Ippodhu vittaal avarudaiya thedhi ennakku kidaikaadhu. Adhanaal indha schedule-ai naan mudiththu vidukkiren," yendru kenjinaar Kunjumon..

Producers' Council leader Producer K.R.G. provided permission for KTK to continue shooting, but Producers Ibrahim Rauthar and V.Azhagappan (who are considered the actual pillars of the Council) put their foot down. "Kunjumon mattum yeppadi shooting nadaththalaam?"  Soon afterwards, during a meeting at Savera Hotel, the Producers' Council decided on a "Kaala varai attra velai niruththam," KTK decided to keep mum and not object. In the meantime, due to the unexpected rains, the set worth over Rs. 60 lakhs collapsed in Rajaji Hall.  To make things worse, the set fell right on top of the silo cars, making everything a total loss.  Kunjumon himself states: "Yaaraavadhu thayaarippaallargal idharkku varuththam theriviththaargala?   Kunjumon-ukku ippadi aanadhu kanndu sandhosha-pattu PARTY koduththa thayaarippallargal-ai enakku theriyum. Samayam varum bodhu nichchayam avargalai sandhikku kondu varaamal vida maatten."

KTK insists that this strike was meant to ruin the entire industry and therefore, cannot be considered a good strike by any means. Despite many promises by the Padaippalligal Sangam that they would resume shooting with the new members of the Thamizh Thozhillaalargal Sangam, nothing dramatic occurred.  No shootings continued as promised, leaving Director Balu Mahendra to reminisce and worry "kadandha irubadhu varusham-aaga ennodu velai seiyum Light Man-gal illaiye engira kavalaigal enakku niraiya irukkiradhu." Kunjumon obviously deducts that BM and everybody else in Chennai knows that the FEFSI workers are the only ones who know the job and perform it well.. Unquestionably, FEFSI happens to be the uyir ottam of the industry.  So, why this problem now?!..

As the usual shouting matches continued between FEFSI and Padaippaalligal continued, Kunjumon eventually grew impatient and depressed with the whole system.  He had to handle harrowing problems with income tax and Sushmita Sen's call sheets.  Everytime he brought up the subject of resuming shooting, every producer kept mum on purpose. To heighten his problems even more, he had to pay 2000 employees two months of their salary and he had no money in his hands.  When he asked his financiers, they, in turn, wanted him to start shooting immediately.

When Kamal announced his decision to resume the shooting of Chachi 420, Kunjumon was tremendously excited.  Unfortunately, he was caught in a situation where he would have a great opportunity to employ thousands of workers, while earning the wrath of the Padaippaalligal and/or Producers's Council. He finally decided that he had no choice but to start shooting.

Kunjumon's grievances run a mile long.  Yet, his biggest one surrounds the Tamil Padaippalligal who promised to find a smooth ending to the long standing strikes.   Today, the negotiations and talks still continue with absolutely no ending in sight.  Kunjumon himself waited for a long period of time, with crores of rupees at stake and no idea when the strike would actually cease.  To make situations worse, many producers took their films to new locations like Bangalore and Hyderabad, completed the final portions with FEFSI workers and successfully released them. According to Kunjumon, most of those producers behave like sadists towards the others, like him, who could not complete their films through thiruttu methods.

Actually, Bharathiraja himself declared that those who had just 10 - 15 days shooting left, along with editing, dubbing and re-recording jobs could continue shooting to finish and release the film. But nobody listened to Bharathiraja when it mattered the most.   To this day, Kunjumon still feels that he had been immensely patient with the bigger producers in Kodambakkam who promised a good, smooth ending to this strike.   It was only at the time that the Padaippaalligal, the producers and Kunjumon realized that a solution was not in sight for quite a while, that Kunjumon decided to take his own path out of the strike.

Kunjumon does agree that the FEFSI workers had wronged the Padaippaaligal by shattering Bharathiraja's car to pieces and stopping Balu Mahendra's shooting. But he supports them for the fact that they did ask for an apology almost immediately.  Moreover, most FEFSI workers were worried that a new union like the Thamizh Padaippaalligal would take their jobs away (Many of them worked in FEFSI for over 20 - 30 years.)   Kunjumon argues: "Avargal padikkadhavargal.  Naam dhaan pakkuvam-aaga irukka vendum."

Kunjumon's last straw was the overall decision, that both Thamizh Padaippaaligal and FEFSI would not follow Chief Minister Karunanidhi's solution to the problem.   Interestingly, this problem was taken to Karunanidhi only after both sides (FEFSI and Padaippaalligal) could not find a good solution to the problem.  Interestingly, both sides accepted the Chief Minister's proposal, but neither side implemented it. So, without much choice, Kunjumon began shooting Rakshakan on August 1st, 1997 with the help of FEFSI workers.

Kunjumon's final statement on his decision and its possible consequences:

"Thamizh pada thayaarippaallargal sangam en meedhu nada-vadikkai yeduththaal adhu pattri kavalai illai.  Vaazh-vaa, saavvaa yendru vandha piragu yedhai pattri kavalai paduvadhu?  Yedhai kanndu baya paduvadhu?  Kaaranam illamal anaavasyam-aaga en meedu nada-vadikkai yeduththal naan summa irukka matten.  Naan thingara sottril mannai pottu vittu nalla soru saappidalaam yendral nichchayam saappida vida matten.   Nyaayam ennavo adhai seiyungal, kaaranam naan director-ukko, thamizh pada thayaarippaallar-ukko yedhiri illai.  Naanum thamizh padaippaalli sangaththai serndhavan dhaan."

***Actress Viji's "mental agony and physical pain" leads her to file a law suit on Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.. It all began on the sets of Poove Unakkaaga for Viji.  During shooting for one of the dances, Viji experienced tremendous hip and back pain.  Unable to deal with it, she consulted her family doctor, who conducted a scan on her back and hip areas.  The scan report indicated some major problems in her back bone which eventually led Viji to seek the expert care, or so they say, at Apollo Hospitals.  Once there, she presented her scan report to a Dr. Uma Chandran, who notified Viji that they had to conduct an surgery on her back bone which was fix everything.

Paavam Viji, ivargalai nambi, went through the surgery on March 21st, 1996.  But unfortunately, none of the problems were solved.  Vali praanam ponadhu and Uma Chandran kept mum as to what went wrong during the surgery.  As a result, within ten days, another surgery was performed.  This did not bring any result, as Viji lost her ability to walk almost completely and pain spread throughout her entire body.   Thudichchu pona Viji let Chandran know that she could not move to her left or right, only to have Chandran respond: "Veliye yedhaavadhu prachanai-kku bayandhu inge thangidalaam yenbadharkkaaga ippadi nadikkiraiya?" 

After plenty of complaints and agony suffered by Viji, a third operation was performed, cutting through same place as before. A Dr. M.R.Sivakumar told Viji that since the operation had not been performed correctly, therefore, the area had become septic, with impure blood solidifying around the area.  Yet another time, a surgery was performed with no results.  Viji could not even more her hips anymore.  She even begged the doctors to kill her with a visha oosi, as she could not bear the pain.  Soon, a katti developed and that was removed surgically at the same hospital in September 1996.

Viji blames the 'ego' of the doctors at Apollo Hospitals for losing her ability to walk.   If they had informed each other that such a mistake had occurred during the first surgery, they would not have needed to conduct so many surgeries to supposedly correct the error.  Viji's reality today is a walking stick and extreme difficulty walking from place to place.  The rookie we saw in Kozhi Koovudhu, and the veteran we saw in Sakthi, will never be the same!.  It was only under Actor/"Thuklak" Editor Cho's advice and support that Viji filed a law suit asking for Rs. 40 lakhs at 18% interest on Apollo Hospitals.

Interestingly, Apollo Hospitals' Chairman, Prathap C. Reddy, had initially promised Viji some medical care in a Delhi hospital, when she related her story to him.  He had tried to stop her from filing a suit by promising medical care.  But within a few days, when she contacted him again, he said "Ungalaal mudindhavarai paarththu kollungal."  Actress Revathy has also extended support to Viji and has given interviews warning ordinary citizens to be weary of Apollo Hospitals (especially since such misdeeds happen to even big names like Viji today!)  For all her pain and agony, we all hope that Viji at least wins her law suit against Apollo Hospitals.  As no money can necessarily replace her ability to walk, hopefully, it will be a small solace to her pain in the last two years.  Lots of best wishes to Viji!..

***"Kanngalil yenna eeramo?.. Nenji-nil yenna baaramo?".. Bhanupriya was once regarded the most shapely and most beautiful actress in Tamil cinema.  Every komban shumban in the industry had always thought highly of her beauty and her acting.   Content with her career and herself, Bhanu was ready to tie the knot and settle down.  Same case with her elder brother, whose kalyanam had already been finalized.   It was at this juncture that the villains entered to kollaichchu-fy all their dreams:

When Bhanu was just two, a man named Pattabi, who was her father, had left a letter behind and deserted Bhanu's mom and the family.  Assuming that the chapter had been closed, Bhanu and her family continued with their lives.  But Pattabi was recently arrested for heading a prostitution ring and blabbered that he was Bhanupriya's father in an effort to gain security and generate publicity.  To make matters worse, a servant who was caught stealing in Bhanu's house had just gone on trial.  To save himself from imprisonment, the servant claimed that Bhanu and her mother behaved badly toward him and were doing prostitution in their homes.  The magazines in and around Chennai were having a gala time with these kisu kisus and destroyed the little hope that Bhanu had of settling down with a husband and having a family of her own.

Bhanu tearfully relates that her current family problems were the real reason why she did not bother taking any other films after Uzhavan in 1994.   As of today, both her brother's and her wedding plans have been cancelled and Bhanu has decided to begin a dance school.  Kaalam thalla veru vazhi illai yendru solli vittaar!.. Bhanu had always believed that cinema was never a nirandhara-maana career for her and that her happiness depended mostly after she got married and had children!.. Ippadi oru kashtamaana nilamai yarukkum vara koodaadhu!.. We all hope that her "Raji Maami" role in Aahaa is successful enough to give Bhanu at least a little of her happiness back!..

***THE TWO 'THALAIVARS'***

***"Vandhaargal.. Nindraargal.. Sendraagal".. that should aptly describe the queen's visit to the pada poojai/beginning ceremonies-cum-shooting held for Marudhanaayagam.   The Queen of England hung around only for about 20 minutes, just because she had wished to see a movie shooting in India during her visit.  Interestingly, it could have been anyone who could have gotten the 'supposed' honor of having her at their shooting, Kamal happened to be there at the right place at the right time.

With a budget currently hovering in the Rs.200 million range and still climbing, Marudhanaayagam shooting began with Chief Minister Karunanidhi switching on the camera, Moopanar doing the claps and Kamalahassan calling for action and jumping into the first scene with fellow co-star Nasar. Soon afterward, Kamal showed Elizabeth Rani, his elaborate web site www.marudanaayagam.com on a multimedia computer and went on to screen his short trailer for the film, which consisted of a rather grand battle sequence. Aaga moththam, RajKamal Productions purse-u kizhinjudhu -- almost Rs. 15 million just to film the trailer.

In the sequence of events, next came the usual "Kamal-ai thalai-yil thooki vaiththu kondu aadara" event, as Sivaji Ganeshan, A.V.M.Saravannan and CM Karunanidhi hopped up on stage with their elaborate 'praise' speeches specially designed for the occasion.   In the tradition of tamil cinema speech-a-thons, Kamal came back with "No.. No.. I am not as big as these guys.. Sivaji, AVM S., or Kalaignyar.  After all, I am the Ekalaivan who learned from these great Dronacharyas." So on and so forth..

Probably the most anxiously awaited part of Marudhanaayagam, is the decision Kamal will make on its cast and technical crew.  So far, none of the people who were initially expected to work on the film have been mentioned again.   Camera: Ravichandran (appo, tata Santosh Sivan?), Music: Ilaiyaraja and a dozen of Southside Music Composers + a Western music composer no less than Andrew Lloyd Webber (so what happened to poor Zakir Hussein.. moottai katti-yaachchaa yenna?).   M.S.Subalakshmi joins the crew while rendering a few songs for the film, while Birju Maharaja will take over the dance choreography for the film.. Interestingly, only Nasar and Om Puri seem to be actually decided upon as potential actors in the film.. (Whatever happened to Madhuri Dixit and the whole tamil cinema gang expected to make their mark in the film?!)..

As always, some aspects and concepts are not discussed on purpose: one, for the element of surprise, and two, for the sake of originality.  But issues relating to the story and screenplay are hotly debated already as the character of Marudhanaayagam affects two different communities in different ways.  The fact that Marudhanaayagam was sited as a Muslim convert in history books is vehemently contradicted by the Muslim community, who claim that Mohammad Yusuf (as they know him!) had always been a Muslim.  Any other depiction would be strongly opposed.   In the meantime, the Thevar community (who had strongly protested their portrayal in the highly controversial Bharathi Kannamma earlier in 1997),  have indicated Marudhanaayagam to be the suppresser of their leader Puli Thevan.  Puli Thevan had continually opposed the British and was recognized as a freedom fighter.  To hold Marudhanaayagam in higher esteem would be insulting the efforts of Puli Thevan (a symbol of bravery and courage for the Thevar community.)  Kamal semaththi-yaaga maatti kondirukkiraar!..

***Vendave Vendaampaa.. Vambhu endru irukkum Rajini is currently finishing up the same role he did in Telegu version of Naattaamai (Pedhdha Raayudu).. With his gambeera-maana style, obviously nobody else could muster the respect and audience cheers better than Rajini. So, on to the Telegu film industry, where 'thalaivar' Rajini is expected to stop over to make another telegu film before he heads home!.. Unfortunately, tamil fans Rajini padaththukku konja naal kaaya kaaya irukka vendiyadhu dhaan.. Rajini has made it absolutely clear that he will not commit to doing his next film, until the strike problems resolve.  Despite the entire industry kisu kisu-ththing that his next film will be directed by Maniratnam, Suresh Krishna or Vikraman, Rajini has vehemently denied that he had made a decision at all!..

While the cine industry groaned and grumbled about over all its woes and pains, Rajini was not ready to get bogged down by it all!.. He had planned for many years to conduct marriages for 20 couples, completely under his sponsorship.  This was the year that dream came true!.. He successfully stood by all the wedding ceremonies of 20 couples, by providing them all the necessities for the event and beyond.  Besides the thaali & chain, watch and brand new clothes, Rajini and Latha presented the newly wed couples: kitchen utensils, stove, bed, pillow and steel bureaus etc.  Many of the wedding ceremonies of couples of various religions were conducted according to their respective religious rites and rituals.  Rajini, in his pattu veshti and sattai, was all smiles as the event gave him his moment of tremendous self-satisfication for the year.

***TO BE CONTINUED***

My Sources: Cinema Express, Kumudham, Anandha Vikatan..

Sandya