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   Movie Review: Jeans
   Audio Review: Jeans
         Interview with Ashok



Raju S, Ashok K., Shankar, A. Amritraj and Madhesh

The Producers.. In more than one way, the producers of Jeans had a major hand in how things would take shape in the movie.  Producers Ashok Amritraj, Walter Soloman and Dr. Murali Manohar of Amritraj-Soloman Communications were the guiding forces for the shooting of the film in the United States, in India and around the world.  Shankar himself admits that without the worldwide influence of Amritraj-Soloman Communications, many aspects of the Adhisayam song and significant portions of the movie would not have been possible.  As he has mentioned in several interviews, including the one in Tamil Thirai Valai, Ashok Amritraj is proud beyond words of Jeans.  He seems to be confident even more of the fact that he began the project with a good director and a strong story before the hero was decided upon.  Moreover, Amritraj stressed the importance of the director completing one project before taking the reins of another.  Shankar knows about this all too well, "IvaLavu time naan verai yendha padaththukkum yeduththu-kitta-dhillai.  10 padam paNradhukkaana sakthi-yai idhu onne izhuththu-kichchu.  AvaLavu vaelaigal, alaichchal, tension.  Mudichchu screen-la paarkkara-pO varra sandhosam irukku paarunga.  Adhukkaaga yedhai veNaa thaangikkalaam."

Shankar (Director, Jeans)

The Director.. How do you begin writing about a director who is constantly trying to feed his audience with something new and unique in every one of his films?  Or how do you write about a person who gives more interesting interviews than other film personalities all together?  It is at anytime difficult to write just a few lines about Shankar and move on, as he has completely taken control of the tamil cinema rasigar, mind & soul, with his films (though they may be just three in counting!)  As early as September 1996, when Indhiyan was still running to packed houses and Shankar had just become a father with the birth of his daughter Ishwarya, he gave an interview that says a little more about what he loves to do in cinema.  "Fast-aana ulagaththil vaazhgirom.  Packet-galil irukkum poruLL-in tharam mattum nandraaga irundhaal vilai pogaadhu. Packaging kooda paarpavargalai kavarndhaal-dhaan sarakku vilai pogum. Padaththil kooda special effects, technical velaigal sequence illaamal irundhaal rasigargal adhai aadharikka maattargal.  Theater-ukku rasigar-galai varum badi seiya vendum."  It is indeed his strong grasp of commercial cinema that still makes Shankar's formula unbeatable and enjoyable on screen.  Since 1996 till now, after completing Jeans, Shankar still modestly admits that his commercial film formula might last only about ten years or so.  Regardless, the work load, from concept to story to picturization is a rather demanding process for him.   Shankar describes it best, "oru azhagaana ponn-ukku konjam make-up pOttu, nalla dress maatti vittu, kaadhula kazhuththu-la jolikka nagai maatti vittu, paattu solli koduththu, dance kaththu koduththu, oru naaL 'Arangetram' paNNi asaththuvom-la.. appadi oru velai dhaan.. naan, Rahman, Ashokkumar, Venki ellorum paNNirukkom." (Result = Jeans)

The constant jabber among fans and every 'Tom, Dick & Harry' in Kodambakkam, is the actual big bucks budget of Jeans.   Obviously, the figures have been varying from a whopping 19 crores to an 'ammaadi' 24 crores.  Regardless, Jeans will hold the honor of being the most expensive film ever to be taken in the history of Indian cinema.  Whether it will be a wonder of the Tamil Film World,  Shankar refuses to commit to anything.  He would prefer if the fans see the film and decide if there are any 'wows' in the film, after all.

Kisu Kisus.. Besides the keen guessing about the budget, one cannot easily get over the kisu kisus and rumours flying all over the place about JeansGood or bad, True or False, is left to the reader to decide, but these rumours are the reason why Jeans remains as hyped today as it was in 1997.  Producer K.T.Kunjumon and Shankar have not been on good terms ever since Kaadhalan.  Shankar accussed K.T.K. of meddling too much in the making of Kaadhalan and K.T.K. took his jabs by blaming Shankar for spending too much money.  And.. the feud continues.  As the FEFSI - Thamizh PadaippaLigal fight took viswa roobam in 1997, K.T.K. was upset that Shankar and crew flew to North India and tried to continue Jeans with FEFSI affliates.  Moreover, as the strike toned down gradually, Kunjumon saw Shankar build a bigger set in Mahabalipuram than the one he had built for Rakshakan and was blowing fire, furious over Shankar's accomplishment.   Magazines also had a field day covering kisu kisus on Kunjumon's vayaththa yerichchal when Shankar booked a whole set of African girls to dance for a song sequence (as FEFSI dancers were not available at that time!) for Jeans.  

Aishwarya Rai and Prashant in Jeans

To add lots of spice to the matters at hand were the rumours that there were multiple Nasars, Aishwaryas, Prasanths and Raju Sundharams in the movie.  People tossed the idea around so much that creative screenplays were effortlessly generated by fans just to keep the hype and interest going.  More was made on the issue as word leaked out that Prasanth, for some reason, was chasing Aishwarya around the world in the movie.  For quite a while after these kisu kisus, things died down.  Until word came that Actress Lakshmi was rumoured to be very disgruntled on the unacceptable food conditions during her stay in the United States.  Some more silence.. When Jeans skipped its initial release date of Pongal 1998, the magazine rumour machines started churning out some good ones once again.  As Kaadhala Kaadhala had also not released for Pongal, the world went crazy over whether Jeans would clash with KK on Tamil New Year's Day 1998.  Vannathirai magazine published a small article on the possibility that portions of both Jeans and Kaadhala Kaadhala were being remade as the films resembled Naam Iruvar Namakku Iruvar in more than one way.  Considering NINI bombed badly when it released for Pongal '98, Vannaththirai believed that it was vayaththil puLiya karaichchal time for both Kamal and Shankar as they sat down to re-shoot parts of their respective films.  In the meantime, New Filmaalaya magazine released another kisu kisu stating that Shankar and the producers had fought over some issue and Shankar had stalled the film tentatively.  The magazine also indicated that Jeans would not release for Tamil New Year's Day and should not be expected before Deepavali '98.  One of the last rumours came in February '98 when Vannathirai once again published a small kisu kisu stating the producer was threatening Shankar to finish the film fast or he would have some other director complete the film and release it instead.  If the wheels of the rumour vandi did not roll, Jeans would not be Jeans, would it? 

Adding a lot more to the hype at hand were the Anandha Vikatan kurumbu team which created a make-believe invitation and sent it out to many of the celebrities in Chennai for a premiere show of the Making of Jeans on April 1st, 1998.  Paavam, a whole gumbal of folks including Gouthami, Surya, Ajeethkumar's parents and Director Vasanth actually arrived to have their heads seriously miLagaai arachchi-fied upon with an actual documentary on the making of the Jeans pant from the tearing, dying to the stitching.  Probably the authentic looking invitation really took everyone for a huge ride!..      

Music.. It was expected that A.R.Rahman would take the helm for the music direction of Jeans and he did!..  Unfortunately, all the good news about the album (like the participation of Shahul Hameed) came only after Shahul passed away in early '97.  Shahul, who had hoped for a long time that he would once again receive a chance to sing under Rahman's music, is sadly no longer with us to enjoy the fruits of his success in Vaaraai En Thozhi with Sonu Nigam (Northie irakkumadhi!), Harini and Sangeetha.  Lyricist Vairamuthu pairing up with Rahman was an added asset to the album, which was another strength to Shankar's prior films.  On an interesting side note, Vairamuthu had never seen Aishwarya Rai before (not even a single photograph!) and was expected to write the lyrics describing the heroine's beauty in Anbe Anbe.  After writing the lyrics and later having an opportunity to see Ice, he said, "En paadal-il pala varigal poi illai." 

Aishwarya in a dance sequence in Jeans

But when the Jeans soundtrack was released in March '98, across the board, all hearts melted at hearing Nithyashree's rendition of Kannodu Kaanbadhellaam.  To make the cassette more elegant and memorable, cassette store owners were told to wrap the cassette in jeans cloth, before handing it over to the customer.  Obviously, more glee for the fans.  The cassette release function was very well attended as almost the entire pattaaLam from the poojai ceremonies arrived for the event as well.  Three of the songs were screened for the audience present and Director Bharathiraja made it a point to divulge his 'awe' over Shankar's aesthetic sense and excellent picturization techniques.   Then, Mr. Subash Ghai showed up again for this function too.  Hopefully, Shankar's Jeans is not based even to a remote extent to Ghai's Pardes.   If not that, it still puzzles many why Mr. Ghai attends the southie functions so often :-)  In other news, Shankar was so overwhelmed by the dedication of Prasanth, Cinematographer Ashokkumar and Associate Director Madesh, that he presented each of them with a gold chain for their sincerity and perseverance during the shooting of Jeans.   Shankar did promise to recognize the others who worked tirelessly on Jeans at a later time.

Miscellaneous Thoughts.. Among the many Shankar-ish superstitions, one continues to be his decision never to release a film on an official holiday or celebration (aka Pongal, Deepavali, Tamil New Year's Day etc.)   While each of his three prior films have skipped big holiday release dates, each of them have earned in the crores by escaping the scrutiny of competition from other tamil films.  Whether it is Gentleman, which released around August 1993, with little credible competition or Indhiyan which released in March 1996 just before the Tamil film strike, Shankar has been smart in his timing when releasing films.  Jeans is not any different in this aspect as it released ten days after Tamil New Year's Day on April 24, 1998 worldwide.  While there is some credible competition from Kaadhala Kaadhala which is still at its peak grossing stage, Shankar probably has been in the industry too long to worry about such things.  Jeans holds a few more distinctions never seen before in tamil cinema.  It will be the first film to be released to theaters directly by the producers, without the aid of distributors, as the producers do not feel distributors can pay the exhorbitant sum expected in return.   240 prints of Jeans will be delivered to the theaters around Chennai and surrounding areas with tight security provided to clamp down on video piracy.   According to original plans, Jeans is supposed to have released in three languages, Tamil, Hindi and Telegu simultaneously on April 24th.   Whether the film was released in Hindi and Telegu is still unconfirmed.

I will leave you with a few words by Shankar on his film, Jeans:

"Jeans"-nu yenn peyir vechchen?.. Idhu iLamai-yin adayaaLam.   Naan paarththa oru real life character-dhaan idhanoda adipadai.  'Dikkilonaa,' 'Akkadaa.. Thukkadaa' style illaama konjam porupaana pozhudhu pOkku Jeans.  Innum naama yetti pidikaadha, thottu paarkkaadha area yedhu thoninadhu-la kidaichcha 'knot' idhu.  Padu jolly-aana vishayaththai suvarasyamaa-na science pOttu paNrom.   Adhukaana uzhaippu adhigam.  Thirupthi vara varaikkum yendha vishayath-thaiyum vidalai.  Andha result padaththula vandhirukku."

My Sources: Kumudham, Cinema Express, Anandha Vikatan, Kungumam, Pesum Padam, Vannaththirai, New Filmaalaya and India Today