Happy Tamil New Year 2000

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TTV's exclusive look at the new tamil film releases on April 13th, 2000

Only five or six films blessed the tamil silver screen last year for Tamil New Year's Day.  Of these, only 'Thalaivar' Rajini's Padaiyappa crossed the Silver Jubilee mark! (Unfortunately, it was the only film to hold that distinction until the end of the year).  Relative duds like Vijaykanth's PeriyaNNa and T. Rajendar's Monisha En Monalisa also released because of some unidentified curse on tamil cinema.  It was only after Vaali's release that the industry was able to let out a sigh of relief!

Tamil New Year 2000 releases do not appear to be too different in quality (or so it appears!), except for one major film: Director Maniratnam's Alaipayuthey.   Similar to last year, big films like Rajeev Menon's Kandu Konden Kandu Konden & S.J.Surya's second directorial venture since Vaali, Kushi might prefer not to clash with Alai.... and have temporarily stayed out of the rat race.  Alai... is accompanied to the screens by Director Ravichandran's Sandhiththa VaeLai (his second venture after the awesome success of Kannedhiray ThondrinaaL in 1998), Kavithalaya's RaajakaaLiamman boosting Ramya Krishnan's Amman image, Sathyaraj's Veeranadai, Vijaykanth's Vallarasu, Director Selva's comic caper James Paandu with Prabhudeva & Parthiban.  Honestly, Alai... seems like a shoe-in for box office collections, but appearances truly deceive in this time & age.  Here's an exclusive look at the films coming to fill screens all over the world this Tamil New Year's Day, April 13th, 2000:

Alaipayuthey: Alai + Payuthey = Mani Ratna Formula....  

CD Cover, "Alaipayuthey" - Madhavan & ShaliniIruvar-il adi vaangi, Uyire-il maraNa adi vaangi.. Mani finally realized that the box office is key to his survival in the industry.  After all, it was not so long ago that stars fell to his feet to act in his films.  Aanaal, ini thaedhi-kki, though Mani is revered, industry-kkul oru maadhiri pessimism vandhu vittadhu.  To resurrect his box office reputation, he has gone back to the drawing board and pulled together the 'authentic tamil family drama' in Alaipayuthey; something which has built the very foundation of his career so far.  After all, his mani-yaana films, Mouna Ragam, Agni Natchathiram, Anjali (despite its failure), Idhayathai Thirudaadhae all had a solid 'family drama' foundation.

Manivannan once mentioned in the film, Vidukadhai, "Adhu Yenn-da, Cinema-la kaadhalikiravangaLa kaataraanga, kashta pattu kalyaanam paNNikiravangaLa kaataraanga.. aana Kalyanam aana appuram, vaadagai, electricity bill katta kashta padardhai, pondaatti purushan sandai idha ellaam kaattave matten-garaanga?".. So, true!  With the exception of Director V. Sekhar's mediocre melodramas, few films actually deal with life after marriage.  Alaipaayuthey deals in depth with that issue, with a special focus on two twenty-somethings who hurriedly jump into marriage not recognizing the repercussions.

Traditionally, Maniratnam never goes for inexperienced actor/actresses or newcomers in main roles with very few exceptions.  Preity Zinta (Dil Se) and Arvind Swamy (Thalapadhy) are exceptions and if you notice, debuted as supporting stars, not main ones.  He has jumped into the fray for the first time with Madhavan.  Madhavaa.. Madhusudhanaa :-) could have hardly imagined donning a role in a Mani film.  Madhavan has wavered from N.C.C. camp to teaching 'nadai-udai-baavanai' classes for air hostesses and finally landed on the sets of Hindi television serials produced by Zee T.V.  His meandering modeling/acting career found its way to a chance meeting with the relatively unkempt (at least at that time when compared to Model Maadhu :-) Santhosh Sivan.  Sivan passed on Maadhu's photos to Mani, who in turn, placed a call asking him to show up for a screen test. (Idhudhaanda adhistam!:-)

By the way, a big 'SORRY' to all the girls out there!.. Madhavan tied the knot with long-time girlfriend & fiance, Sarita (who interestingly fell for him while attending one of his air hostess classes!) in July 1999, with Maniratnam attending to bless the couple.  Madhava is quick to refute any assumption that he was lose teenage girls as fans because of his marriage even before his first film release.  In his own words, "Indha thalaimurai romba professional. Adhoda sondha vaazhkkai-yai thozil-odu thaevai illaamal pOttu kuzhappikka koodaadhu.  Adhu vera.. idhu vera.   En thirumaNam: ennoda edhirkaalam, pakkuvam, vayasu mattrum unarvu sambandha patta vishayamae thavira, thozhil sambandha patta vishayam illai-nu enakku padudhu."

Madhavan also noticed something unique about Maniratnam's working style.  Before Mani started shooting Maadhu's portion, he was already busy working on Shalini's part.  For seven days, Madhavan patiently watched and analyzed everything and everyone on the sets.   He went as far as memorizing huge portions of the script to be on the safe side.   Mani seems to have noticed Madhavan's 'thozhil bhakthi' and complimented him after his first scene was okayed without a hitch.  Paavam.. Madhavan.. poorippu thaanga mudiyavillai.  He called his parents and good friends to tell them of Mani's compliment.

To add to the 6 feet Madhavan factor, comes petite Baby-to-Kumaari Shalini.  Flanked by her pending -  retirement from films, amarkkaLamaana wedding to 'Kaadhal Mannan' Ajeethkumar and neverending deadlines of films awaiting completion by April 24th, 2000, Shalini's life is full to the brim :-)  Incidentally, Alaipayuthey will be her second to last film (Piriyaadha Varam Vendum with Prasanth being her last) in her short career as Kumaari.  Mani had been in conversation with Shalini's father, Babu, regarding renewing Shalini's career as an actress, even before Fazil's Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai.  But as fate would have it, Shalu had an astounding re-entry in Fazil Uncle's film, paving a clean path for bigger and better ventures.  Similar to her co-star, Swarnamalya, Shalu continues to escape any questions relating to the story of or her character in Alaipayuthey.

Move over, Pepsi Umas.. here comes Swarnamalya to the silver screen.   After seeing her performance in the "Fanta, iLamai Pudhumai" show, Mani had placed a call to Swarna.  Overwhelmed with school exams, she just mailed him a photograph and continued on with her life.  Out of the blue, ten days before the Alaipayuthey shooting, she receives another call from Mani asking her to show up for a screen test.   Without a clue as to her role or even the title of the film, Swarna shows up to pass the screen test in flying colors.  Swarna assures us, "Mani sir padam enbadhaal kaNNai moodi kondu oppu koLLavillai.  Kadhai kaetten. Ennudaiya character pattriyum kaetten.  Avarum naan kaettadharkaellaam badhil sonnaar." Articulate Swarnamalya volunteered only bits of information, including facts that she has no dubbing voice and no make-up in the film and that Director Shekhar Kapoor also paid a visit to the Alaipayuthey sets.  Incidentally, Swarna & Shalu are real life classmates in school.  Idhu eppadi irukku? :-)

Madhavan and Shalini in "Alaipayuthey"It's been over a month since Kushboo tied the knot with Director Sundhar.   Her long standing desires to act under the direction of big names and with big stars have mostly come true.  She has finished an incredible career working with jaambavaan Directors Balachandar, Bharathiraja and actors Rajini, Kamal and even younger stars like Arunkumar.  She had always vied for a role in a Mani film and it incidentally came together shortly before her retirement from a cine career.  She stars in a guest role in Alaipayuthey, paired with 'Mani's aasthaana hero' Arvind Swamy (also in a guest role).  Kush-in kanavu paliththu vittadhu! Comedian Vivek who has only figured in Mani's productions, gets his break in a serious role under his direction for the first time (or so, rumors state!)

"Alaipayuthey padaththil thalaippu-kku thagundha maadhiri camera-vum alaipaayanum-nu Mani sonnaar.  Adhae maadhiri, ingae saaththiya padara ubakarangalai mattum vachchukkittu alai paanjirukken. Paarkkara-vanggaLum adhai unara mudinjaa, naan vaazhkkai-la innoru kattathai thaandiduvaen."  These are words of P.C.Sriram who has brought color and life to many of Mani's previous films, including Nayagan, Agni Natchatiram, Idhayathai Thirudaadhae and more recently Thiruda Thiruda.  There are indeed only a few films where the Mani-P.C. combination might have gone wrong, but "almost never" is the most apt conclusion.  Incidentally, both Mani & P.C. have alai paanju-fied in their patriotism to each other over the last few years.   While Mani continued his stint with cinematographers Rajeev Menon for Bombay & Santosh Sivan in Iruvar & Uyire, P.C. went on to direct his own films, Meera and Kurudhipunal and serve as cinematographer to Kaadhalar Dhinam, Mugavari etc.  It is after quite sometime that Mani & P.C. have joined hands again. Hopefully the end product will not disappoints :-)

Mani & A.R.Rahman fans were stunned to hear initially that Alaipaayuthey had no songs to brighten their day.  Finally, word arrived that there was just one song in the movie.  Mani-kkum Rahman-ukkum yenna aacho.. at the end of this charade, we had a grand total of 7 songs in the film. With apt support from Kaviyarasu Vairamuthu, the Ustad Sultan Khan-Sadhana Sargam number, Snegidhanae has climbed the charts rapidly leaving competitors far behind.  Incidentally, Mani went to picturize one of the songs in Kashmir where the Alai... team received a warm welcome and full cooperation from local folks (considering a film shooting was actually taking place there after so many years!)  Another major asset for Alai.. is R.Selvaraj's involvement in penning dialogues along side Mani.  This is indeed their first film working together!

To boost advertisements for the music release function held during early March, a special 'meet the stars' event was held at Music World in Spencer's Plaza, Madras.  Koottam alai mOdhi, the Music World had tremendous trouble controlling the crowds, while Madhavan & Shalini busily signed autographs.   

To finish up, here are some interesting rumours that have run their course during the Alaipayuthey shooting:

* Mani, who generally takes a long stint in directing a film, will complete the shooting of Alaipaayuthey in 30 days.   (Nethiyoda, padam aarambichchu almost 1 year aachunga! :-)

* P.C.Sriram serves as cinematographer for a Mani film after a quite sometime.  Word is, P.C.'s associate is the one completing most of the cinematography.

* According to Swarnamalya, here is the story of Alaipayuthey:  There are four members in the family, where Swarna & Shalu are sisters.  A major problem arises within the family. (Swarna won't say anymore :-)

* It appears that Maniratnam might be doing a small role in his own film.  By far, any big budget film in today's market has this rumour of its director doing a role making its rounds.

* This is the biggest one of them all:   Shalini had placed a call to Maniratnam asking if she could see the songs of Alaipayuthey and more, as the film had almost reached completion. So, Mani & Suhasini, arakka parakka tried to get a projector ready for an exclusive show for their heroine.  What they didn't expect was for Ajeeth to tag along with Shalu for the screening.  Mani, who really was in no mood for a 'nerukku ner' meeting with Ajeeth after their previous fiasco, slid away from the scene without being noticed.  In five minutes, Suhasini received a call in her cell phone; she excused herself and took off.  Paavam Aju & Shalu.. arai 'mani' neram wait dhaan baakki. (No screening, no songs :-)

Vallarasu: Val Val + Arasu = P.Vasu as villain

P.Vasu and Vijaykanth in "Vallarasu"Plump, constantly red-eyed, dark hero who arrived & survived longer in the industry than Maggi Noodles :-).  If it weren't for the success of Kannuppada Pogudhaiya & Vaanaththai Pola, we wouldn't even be talking about him.  If we believe that Vijaykanth has been sidelined considerably in the last few years, that might be true too.  The majority of his action-oriented pointlessly mediocre masalas have hit the pits, most recently, Veeram VeLanja Mannu, PeriyaNNa & KaLLazhagar to name a few. Interestingly, he has managed to sustain many of his B & C center audiences for extended periods of time, even after messing up so often at the box office.  Hey, when all else fails.. act in R.B.Choudhri & Vikraman films to reach level ground.  Vallarasu is the story of a police officer of the same name, out to fight violence and international crime bosses plotting to ruin India.  The film's biggest asset was convincing P.Vasu to assume the role of businessman-cum-villain to add a little freshness to the drab storyline.   Richard, a New Zealander, acts as Vasu's son in the film.  Devayani has also done her share of marketing for ValVal.. It appears that she recently went around singing praises of Vijaykanth for including some 'heavy' scenes for Devayani to participate in, in other words, azhugai scenes.  Vadivelu also has a solo song in the film with Deva providing the playback voice.  (Yenn-appa? Vadivelu-ve nandraaga paaduvaarae?!) Raghuvaran, Mukesh Rishi, Mansoor Alikhan, Karan, R. Sundararajan, Thyagu, Charlie, Ambika, Ponnambalam, Kasan Khan all co-star.  Vallarasu holds the unique distinction of shooting a few scenes at Kargil, which Vijay is very proud of, given his desa pattru background.  Story, Screenplay, Dialogues & Direction by S. Maharajan.

JamesPandu: James + Pandu = ParthiPrabhuD

Prabhudeva and Renu in "JamesPandu"Selva is unfortunately not one of those prolific filmmakers whose creations improve in quality over time.  His level is best defined as 'average' & 'passable.'  He never strives to achieve something significant in the industry, in some ways, a lot like Sundhar C., V. Sekhar & Rama Narayanan to name a few (even these are have shown a stroke of genius here and there to balance out their lack of imagination!)  If Aasaiyil Or Kaditham & Unnarugae Naanirundhaal are signs of things to come, JamesPandu's prospects at the box office do not look too bright.  As far as the star cast goes, Selva wins hands down!..  Both Prabhudeva & Parthiban are extremely professional in their approach to comedy with excellent comic sense & timing.  Newcomer Renu (jollargaLe, watch out!) & by-now veteran Kausalya support the heroes, with help from Goundamani to add to the ragaLai all set to jump start this comedy.  JamesPandu can succeed tremendously if it follows the V.I.P., uLLaththai aLLithaa type of filmmaking where comedy rules over logic & story.  For every Alaipayuthey, there has to be JamesPandu, right? :-)

Sandhiththa VaeLai: Sandhitha + VaeLai = Karthi + Kausi + Roja

Cassette Cover: "Sandiththa VaeLai" Karthik, Kausalya and RojaSandhiththa VaeLai began as a project revolving around the life & times of a race car driver, Karthik, who goes through various phases with Kausalya & Roja interjecting often.  The film's promotions began in December 1998 and then.. the lull followed.  Severe problems arose with uncertainty over the heroines: Is it going to be Kausi, Roja, Isha Gopikkar (one or two heroines?) etc.  When shooting finally began to pick up speed towards the end of 1999, rumours flew that Karthik was experiencing trouble with his health.  His hands & face swelled rapidly and he had to take two-hour breaks, sleep & then return to the sets.  Some dirt-mongers wrote him off as having AIDS (Roja & Mohan can sympathize!), while others accussed him of acquiring some deadly disease (his 'playboy' image seems to have largely contributed to this).  The resulting mess over the course of the last two years leads us to wondering if Sandhiththa VaeLai is still being filmed on its original premise of a race car driver or based on some other concept.  Director Ravichandran was better off with his debut venture, Kannedhiray ThondrinaaL, which he completed in a rather short time span. After all, it was a Sivashakthi Pandiyan production.  That should speak for itself.  Deva has successfully scored a 'Salaam Gulaamu' type song for SV.. with Sukhwindar Singh, titled 'Ceylon SingaLa Pennae,' which will do well in the charts. Manivannan, Nasar, Chinni Jayanth, Vijayakumar, Vivek, Rathan, Sujatha, 'VeLLarikkaa' Ramji, Swetha Menon, Anupam Kumar, Sumitra & Mouli co-star with story, screenplay, dialogues & direction by Ravichandran.  M. Kajamoidheen under the Roja Combines Banner (Bharathi Kannamma, Porkaalam) produces.

*******

My sources: Cinema Express, Kumudam, Ananda Vikatan, Dhina Malar's Thirai Malar.

Tamil Thirai Valai saarbaaga ungal ellorukkum engal manmaarndha thamizh puththaandu vaazhththukkaL.

Sandya