What you don't know (or don't kandu kondu-fy), can hurt you! :-)
If the hype that Hey Ram! and Alaipayuthey generated, surprises the average tamil cinegoer, then what would he/she say about Rajeev Menon's film which blew everyone away as early February 1999? The more time Kandu Kondaen Kandu Kondaen took to make it to the silver screen, the more tamil cinema fans jumped in glee, anxiety and anticipation. Back in February 1999, it seemed highly unlikely that KK2 was much more than a low budget flick with significant star value. As time passed and Director Rajeev Menon's plans grew, the film mushroomed to become an expensive, extensively talked, sweated, cried and worried about venture to hit the marquee in recent years. After all, Rajeev's first film, Minsaara Kanavu under the A.V.M. Productions banner with Arvind Swamy, Kajol and Prabhudeva at the helm, struggled to complete a 100 day run in a noon showing at a local Chennai theater. Despite critical acclaim and ecstatic reviews, Minsaara Kanavu did not immensely attract the B & C center crowds. Rajeev Menon decided to keep mum and move on with his ad production business, never to turn back to his directorial duties ever. But then again, aasai yaarai vittadhu?!....................
When the film began, it appeared like an average low budget flick with Srividya playing mom, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai and Shamili playing sisters (Tabukka, Icekkuchchi :-), Ajeeth & Abbas as the jollu-vidum lover'boy' friends, Mamooty as a family friend, A.R.Rahman scoring all the tunes while retreating to London for the long haul and Producer 'Kalaipuli' S. Thanu constantly singing the glory of Rajeev without losing a single breath. Unfortunately, appearances can be very deceiving. Over the course of production and dodging potential release dates several times, Kandu Kondaen2 became fodder for rumour mongers and dirt writers. Aaga moththam, romba romba paavam Producer Thanu dhaan!.. He had crores of bucks tied up in the project, interest building in the lakhs every day with no final product in sight to show for his investment. To add to Thanu's miseries, Kandu Kondaen2 mounted its share of controversy, bad-mouthing and mud slinging. The only person who seemed totally oblivious to everything was Rajeev Menon. He shut himself off from the 'bad' news and went about his life as if nothing could bother him ever.
KK2 could have been named Kandapadi Kadhai Kattivittu2. The film's initial problems began as early as when Prabhudeva & Ajeethkumar were signed to do the lead roles. Prabhudeva with his current 'troublemaker' status, was given the boot.. for whatever reason God only knows!.. Prasanth took over only to soon realize that he would be paired up with Tabu. Chinna pillai pola he adam pidichchu-fied asking to be paired with Aishwarya Rai. Prasanth got the boot too! Enter Abbas.. the forever baby faced guy that even now makes us question Rajeev Menon's noble intentions. Of course, Abbs was not going to create any hassles. Ivarukku tamil-la market-ae illai.. vaal aatta mudiyumaa yenna? :-)
According to long term predictions, Kandu Kondaen2 was scheduled for a Deepavali 1999 release, which became a January 1st, 2000 release (making it the first film of the new millennium) and that didn't happen either. Just at the time, Padayappa & Vaali opened to widespread favorable response, Rajeev took his film to the patti thotti and decided to rework it according to the suggestions/improvements given by the villagers. He realized from Minsaara Kanavu's fate that unless the masses understand his film, Producer Thanu would literally be shedding tears in front of the box office soon :-) Heat picked up considerably when Mamootty became furious that he wasn't getting any publicity while Ajeeth & Aishwarya lapped up the media and camera time. He refused to provide the dubbing voice for the film and waved 'cherio' to the closest foreign country in sight. By this time, Thanu had seen and been through too much to be frazzled. So, he decided to use another dubbing voice closely resembling Mamootty's and complete the sessions as soon as possible. Nichchaya-maaga Mamooty-kku kobam vandhirkanume? :-(
The mess got messier as A.R.Rahman was taking his own sweet time to complete the background score and put the finishing touches on the songs. Thanu & Rahman were at logger heads for some time when T questioned R's priority and dedication to KK2. The fist eventually threw a punch as something prompted Kavignar Vairamuthu to blurt out his objections to Rahman's jarring music drowning his beautifully penned lyrics during the Kandu Kondaen2 soundtrack release function. Rahman, who smiled throughout this event to keep his cool, burst out at Vairamuthu in other ways. Interestingly, Vairamuthu might have picked the wrong cassette release function for his comments because the KK2 album is by far the most serene and peaceful album Rahman has composed in recent time. Unfortunately, everyone but the Kavignar have realized this. Their next big film together would have been the Kamalahassan-K.S.Ravikumar vehicle, Tenaali. But Rahman threw his own one-two punch at Vairamuthu by seeking the services of a up-and-coming young lyricist. The 'nee illaamal ennaala vaazha mudiyum' saga continues between the two as Vairamuthu has been re-laying his bricks on the path to Ilaiyaraja's home (Thanks to Yuvan!). Meanwhile, Rajeev started releasing word that Kandu Kondaen2 & Alaipayuthey will be joint contenders for the crown at the box office, come Tamil New Year's Day 2000. Paavam Mani, nondhu poi vittaar. He checked out a couple of song picturizations by Rajeev in KK2 and politely requested Rajeev to postpone his release dates at least by a few weeks. As always, the press kept Mani's request under wraps and blamed it on A.R.Rahman when KK2 didn't release on April 13th as scheduled. It was a rather proud moment for 'Kalaipuli' Thanu and Rajeev Menon as they saw their film, Kandu Kondaen Kandu Kondaen finally release in Tamilnadu on May 5th, 2000. Despite the rumours & seththai vaari pOdudhal, the family has stayed together (similar to the smiling one in the image on the left :-)
Aishwarya Rai and Ajeethkumar have indeed stolen the honors for being 'most conspicuous' during the shooting of KK2. Despite the failure of Iruvar, the moderate success of Jeans, the vetri kodi Ice naati-fied in Hindi with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam & Taal, Ice remains unfazed by her progress/promotions in the film industry. In a chance meeting with Rajeev in Bombay, the two came about discussing the story of KK2 and Ice immediately pounced at the opportunity to act in the venture. At least Rajeev claims that Ice fought with her mother to squeeze in call sheets for KK2. Neenga yenna pannuveenga-nu ennakku theriyaadhu. Aanaa, Naa Rajeev padaththula nadichaaganum Mummy - nu condition pOttaar Ice. After all, Ice did lose major heroine roles in Padaiyappa & Mudhalvan because of call sheet troubles.. inimel andha thappellaam seivaaraa yenna?.. Incidentally, Rajini and Director Shankar have promised to keep her in mind for their upcoming films. Ice proudly claims that KK2 has significantly built her self confidence in delivering tamil dialogues (her pronounciation of Kandu Kondaen Kandu Kondaen during an Anandha Vikatan interview was perfect, according to the reporter! :-). She views Iruvar and Jeans as mere building blocks, and KK2 as the real test, demanding her to play the complex role of a homely, bubbly, talkative young woman. Ennakku arumaiyaana character. Meenakshi engira peNNaaga nadikkiren. Thuru thuruvendru yendha neraththilum yedhaai-yaavadhu pesi konde-irukkum character. Miga mukkiyamaana vishayam. Naan adhiga vasanam pesa vendiya character. Idhu dhaan ennai muzhumaiyaaga maatrivittadhu. Niraiya vasanam pesi pesi thamizh ennakku nerukkam aagi vittadhu. What a lovely language.
Aishwarya also had fun on the sets of the film. She and Tabu found themselves arattai adichchu-fying with several paattis during the Karaikudi shooting and taking tuition lessons in tamil with the assistants. Ice also has a few solo dance numbers (nambalukku jolly dhaan!) with Konjam MainakkaLe (check out the dancing Bharathiyaars highlighting Ice's love for Bharathiyar in the film!), Kannamochchi Yennadaa (look forward to this one as Ice dances bharatanatyam with Kalashetra students) and one soga gaanam, Yengay Enadhu Kavidhai (Ice walks in pouring rain grieving her losses). Sarvam Ice Mayam, at least in KK2. Ice and Abbas also took a short foreign trip to London and Scotland to picturize the song, Kandu kondaen kandu kondaen kaadhal mugam kandu kondaen. Abbas was so overwhelmed by his trip in May 1999 that he couldn't think of anything else to speak about in any of his other interviews. Abbas paththi mEllum solla yedhuvum illai.. poojiyam! :-)..
Now to Tabu & Ajeethkumar. Tabu should have been more offended than Mamootty, considering that she was the second heroine and few interviews were conducted with her about KK2. But regardless, she and Ajeeth had a delightful trip to Egypt to shoot the song, Yenna Solla Pogiraai (Sandhana Thendralai..) During their trip to Egypt, both Aj & Tab, along with Rajeev Menon, Cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran and Dance Choreographer Raju Sundaram faced a lot of security troubles as there were several instances of violence against tourists in Cairo. Unable to bear the heat, Tabu fainted once, resulting in the cancellation of shooting for the day. What was to be a four day trip to Cairo became a seven day trip, as each member in the unit had a different problem in getting used to the heat. The average trip to the shooting spot at the Pyramids was a three hour stint from Cairo, but the song was picturized well with the help of local dancers. Michchadhai veLLi thiraiyil KaaNga!
Ajeethkumar plays a film assistant director trying to establish himself in tamil film world, who falls for Tabu at first sight. As an added bonus, Ajeeth also gets a dance number with Pooja Batra (who cashes in on a special appearance considering all her tamil films have flopped so far!) in Smaiyaayi yai.. Smai yaayi.. yai. All in the day's work of an assistant director.. nalla kooththu dhaan! Manivannan, Srividya provide the additional prop, while cameo roles are by Anita Ratnam, as Ice's sister-in-law and Dr. Matrubutham as Ajeeth's father. Another small, yet special aspect is KK2 holds the distinction of being the first film to hold shooting sessions at Kanadukathan Chetinadu Palace which has held its ground against cine shoots over the years.
For a professional who has lived and breathed tamil advertising, cinema & cinematography, it is once again rather amazing that Rajeev Menon prefers to have Ravi K. Chandran (who was one of two cinematographers in Minsaara Kanavu) lead the cinematography effort in Kandu Kondaen Kandu Kondaen. It would seem only fair that Rajeev himself take the helm (nobody questions his cinematographic abilities after Bombay, do we? :-) But here's what he says: Oru cameraman-in mEnmaiyaana rasanai-yai veru yendha velaigaLum disturb paNNa kudaathu. Direction, Camera-nu ellaththaiyum orutharey sumandhundu odaradhai-vida idhu better-nu ninaikkiren. Thavira, naan rasikkira viyakkira sila nalla technician-galai payanbaduththa vendum enbadhu en aasai.
Whatever happens to Kandu Kandaen2 at the box office, its creators, Producer Kalaipuli Thanu & Director Rajeev Menon have tried to breathe their freshest breath of life into the film. As Alaipayuthey has picked up considerable steam in the last couple of weeks, KK2 might still have a solid contender for the box office bucks. But this 'Sense & Sensibility' story variation fed to the audience with the hands & fingers approach (instead of a silver spoon :-), might actually click. Let's finish off with an recent interview where Rajeev was asked if marketing strategies beheaded the creativity in the films being produced today. After sighting the poetry of Pablo Neruda, the songs/lyrics in Kandu Kondaen2 alongside the picturizations as evidence, Rajeev concluded: Yes, we are marketing people. Adhai vida adhigamaa creative people. Engitte yedhu adhigam-nu neengaLe mudivu pannikkunga.
Indeed Kandu Kondaen Kandu Kondaen will speak for itself!
Very Special Thanks to: Anandha Vikatan, Kumudham, Dhina Malar's Thirai Malar for the pictures and the information.