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I n d i a’ s L e a d i n g s o u t h f i l m m a g a z i n e

RNI NO.: APENG/2009/29389 REGISTERED NO.: L ii/RNP/HD/1118/2010-12 Vol Issue

01 06 Pa n o r a m a o f s o u t h c i n e m a

March ‘10 India> Rs. 50 UAE> AED. 10

www.southscope.in

Rahman our Grammy man too

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Piaa Bajpai’s steamy session Dileep’s different strokes Bad guys have a blast Women directors of Tamil cinema

New From Suhasini Maniratnam’s personal diary


26 Centre Stage

Rahmania all over again

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VOL 01 ISSUE 06

On the cover: A R Rahman Photographer: T Selvakumar

© Worldlight

Exclusives 16 Karthi - The newest star on the Tamil screen

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22 Rima Kallingal redefines the essential Malayalam heroine

24 Sendhil Ramamurthy all ready to wow

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Indian women

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40 Suresh comes back with a bang indeed

42 Dileep, the man of substance 46 Arya’s hot and heavenly bytes

Features 44 Women directors of Tamil cinema 48 Movie promotions hit a new high 50 Bad guys have all the fun 58 Around the world in 24 frames

Galleria 20 Naresh Iyer’s crooning glory

South spread 34 Piaa Bajpai is in the mood

Mumbai Express 54 Straight answers with Priyanka Chopra

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22 Funda 06 Junk mail

Trivia on cinema

08 Gold Class

Kolly Jolly Simbly Malayalee

12 Loading...Please Wait

Films in the making

64 Mumbai Matinee Bollywood brouhaha

66 Wild West

Hollywood hullabaloo

68 Sing along Karaoke

69 Screen test

Launch pad for aspiring actors

60 Kaleidoscope

What happened when and where

70 Flash Back

61 Bioscope

Mandhiri Kumari’s power packed performances

Movie reviews

72 Leaves out of my book

Suhasini Maniratnam’s take NEW


tam

You’ve seen them, you love them, you can’t imagine growing up without them… Now here’s what you didn’t know about them!

Kodambakkam is known for its stars/producers/directors-in-the-making – all with their own distinct style, talent and whim to win. Only a few succeed. A majority of them spend their struggling days in tiny rooms and big dreams. This actor, with his own unique take on dialogue delivery and body language too followed this hallowed custom when he first came to the Tamil film industry: he took a room that barely accommodated his six foot frame, in Usman Road, T Nagar, earning a few measly rupees from acting in dramas. His sister and brother-in-law, visiting him once, despaired over his situation since they were a very wealthy family, with an ancestral home sprawling five grounds. Nothing made him change his mind to return to his life of luxuries and comfort. “I’ll make my name in Tamil cinema, see if I don’t,” said the youngster. And make it he did. He was none other than Sathyaraj – whose snide, sarcastic, “Ennamma Kannu?” struck such a chord with the audience that he became a star in his own right. The man who single handedly rewrote Tamil politics and cinema, MGR’s Tamil film, Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban (The Youth Who Went Around the World) was an epic in the making. It had two MGRs, three heroines, and a convoluted, yet engaging story that traversed over Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan. Filming in Japan involved capturing the 1970 Osaka Expo in all its glory – except for one problem; it amounted to massive expenditure and MGR sent his friend Manian to research the prospect. When, having made all the arrangements, Manian finally had MGR over, they ran into another problem: The Expo denied permission for MGR’s car to enter. The 53-year old actor promptly shouldered the camera himself and covered the entire Expo on foot, much to the amazement of his young team, while the shot was carried out without a glitch the next day. In the end, the footage edited into a four-minute song, was among the first of its kind to cover a foreign event with accuracy: Ulagam, Azhagu Kalaikalin Surangam. Nadigar Thilagam, the venerable thespian Sivaji Ganesan’s movies have always been known for the heavy dose of melodrama in them. In fact, a common jibe among fans of other actors, whenever a Sivaji film released was: go into the movie theatre armed with plenty of handkerchiefs, to see the heart wrenching tear-jerkers. But the King of acting was truly a king - as was evident when films such as Galatta Kalyanam and Sumathi En Sundari came out. Full-fledged romantic comedies, these movies served to highlight Sivaji Ganesan’s excellent comic timing, while also showcasing the dapper, suave and urban lover-boy side to him that went unnoticed at other times. The general public, taken aback after seeing these avatars, promptly fell in love with him all over again. Everything about the legend – his hairstyle, dressing, those signature scarves, blazers and shoes were copied assiduously among the youth of those years. Director of these movies, C V Rajendran, needless to say, acquired the status of an idol among fans.

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His name can evoke laughter for all who know him, as Innocent is known for his comic timing both on and off the screen. But did you know this about him? He once confessed that his father had named him Innocent, as he was always a troublemaker, even as a kid. So if he was ever caught by the cops and brought to the court some day, the judge would say, “he is Innocent” and that will save his life! Kireedam (meaning crown), made more than two decades ago, still remains one of the finest films ever made in Malayalam. Written by Lohitadas and directed by Siby Malayil, the story narrated the tragic turnaround in the life of a young man, who is branded as a criminal after he takes on a goon. But he is only trying to save his father – a cop - from the baddie. The innocent man’s life changes forever from then on. Lohitadas has stated that he was actually inspired from a real life event. Somewhere close by, a deadly goon was killed by a carpenter by mistake. The carpenter was not aware that he was being attacked by the infamous gangster and had reacted only in self defense. By the time the carpenter realised the gravity of what he had done, things had gone out of hand.

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GOLDCLASS

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Two women and a lensman Guess what! Ace director, Selvaraghavan’s wife Sonia has taken to marathon fitness sessions and beauty treatments for a brand new look. And all this in a bid to ensure that her husband doesn’t stray. Actor Andrea’s name still makes her see red-crimson-andscarlet though. There’s buzz going around that the couple who filed a joint divorce in a Chennai family court is planning to work out their marriage, post Andrea’s lash out at the director for her itsy-bitsy role in Aayirathil Oruvan after being promised her that big break in the film. She even went on record and refused to be present at the promotions of the film. And Sonia who looks a million bucks these days is missing hubby dearest and was seen partying like there’s no tomorrow on a common friend’s terrace. What’s up ladies!

Dhanush, who was never quite the remake sort is doing three remakes simultaneously after his Kutty, a remake of Arya became a hit. He is shooting now for Ready, a remake of Ready from Telugu, Maapillai, a remake of his father-in-law Rajinikanth’s blockbuster by the same name and Seedan, another remake Nandanam from Malayalam. Dhanush finds remakes a safe bet. Talking of other things, his film, Aadukalam, he says has an original script by director Vetrimaran. The buzz is that, the film will be a milestone in Dhanush’s career as the director has put in tons of research in it. Looks like it will turn out to be one of the best in his career. Three cheers!

Dhanush

turns remake king

Jeeva takes Simbu’s place Silmbarasan’s replacement by ace director K V Anand for his new film KO, just three days before the shoot in Northern China, created quite a buzz in the Tamil film circles. Anand started the film with Jeeva on the same day as scheduled, which earned him a lot of respect from industry veterans. The grapevine has it that Simbu was unhappy with up and coming actor, Karthika playing the lead, since he wanted a top heroine who demanded a hefty paycheque that the producers couldn’t afford! Simbu did a photo shoot with Karthika, which reportedly turned out well, but the actor was not pleased with it. Meanwhile, Anand was adamant that he would not change his female lead and instead replaced him! Nobody is indispensible, eh? 8 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


Namitha lives it up!

Namitha is living life queen size these days. Her career is on the decline in the Tamil industry, but she is optimistic and upbeat about her projects in Telugu. Yes, she has lost oodles of weight and is looking better than ever before. She was back in Chennai looking refreshed after a break when she was briefly away for a couple of live shows in Kuwait and Dubai. A self confessed shopaholic, she sure indulged in plenty of retail therapy. She was also seen flaunting her biggest shopping swag, a Versace bag which she paid a fortune on. And back to movies, Namitha shares that she can sign half a dozen films, but is “ultra choosy” and would like to take up projects only after thinking them out thoroughly. Cool!

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jollykolly

Nayan’s good words for Reema

Reema seems to be walking only on air these days. Her ambitious film Aayirathil Oruvan may be garnering mixed responses but she is getting rave reviews for her spirited performance and her style factor in the film. She flew back to Mumbai after a two-week stay in Chennai during which she did round the clock promotions for the film. She was all praises for the director and cameraman who brought the best out of her. But her happiest moment was when Naynathara called her up personally to say that she looked stunning in the second half as the Pandya queen. So what’s up next? She is shooting for a Priyadarsan film with Ajay Devgan, Akshay Khanna and Bipasha Basu. Good going Reems!

Soundarya’s getting hitched! 2010 has started on a new note for superstar Rajinikant’s daughter, Soundarya as she surprised everyone by announcing her engagement. The ceremony was held on February 17 at a star hotel and it was a close family affair. Her fiancé, Ashwin Kumar, a Stanford graduate is the son of Ram Kumar, a Chennai based real estate tycoon. Soundarya was quick to clarify that she has been seeing him for the last one year and Ashwin’s family is very close to hers. The wedding date is likely to be fixed for sometime by the end of the year after her dad completes work on Enthiren. Soundarya confesses that she never wanted to marry someone from the film industry and her appa is overjoyed with this decision! Mar 2010 SOUTHSCOPE 9


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Mammootty in a realistic role Blessy who has directed some of the finest films in Malayalam has now written a story for Mammootty, for his new film titled Kayam. Mammootty agreed to do this realistic film after reading Blessy’s story about a man who was working in Dubai, had to come back to Kerala after recession set in the Gulf. Back home, he has to look after his two daughters who are going to a convent school and has to complete the work on his unfinished house. Blessy wants to show the plight of several Malayalee workers who have been left high and dry by the economic turmoil in the Gulf. The shoot will start once Mammootty completes his present assignments. We sure want to see this one.

Don’t get us wrong. All we need to update you about is Mohanlal’s next film. He is once again going to play the ordinary man in Oru Naal Varum, directed by TK Rajeev Kumar. After he completes the first schedule of Joshy’s Christian Brothers in Kochi, he will take off his suit and don the mundu for his role. He’s playing a man who is trying his best to build his dream house, but is pulled down by corruption all around. The big news is that Sameera Reddy is going to play Mohanlal’s wife in the film. Sameera was to do a glamorous role in his Casanova, which has now been rescheduled. The shoot of Oru Naal Varum, has started in Thiruvananthapuram. Yes, we are waiting.

Ganesh Venkatram in, Arya out! The Tamil industry’s hot and happening hunk, Ganesh Venkatram is now doing a Malayalam film, Casanova with Mohanlal. Ganesh has replaced Arya who was to do the film, but dropped out at the last minute since he was caught up with his Tamil films. Ganesh is playing second lead to Mohanlal in the film, which has two glam girls Sameera Reddy and Lakshmi Rai. Directed by Rosshan Andrews, the shoot of the film will start in Dubai followed by another schedule in Bangkok. Ganesh is most excited about it and all praises for Mohanlal, who he says called him to do the film. Ganesh also shares that his character has lots of shades but it is not negative. The underlying message of Casanova is that love can conquer over crime. Let’s wait and watch! 10 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010

What’s Sameera doing with Mohanlal!


Jayaram in a jam!

Shriya Saran has completed the first schedule of her first Malayalam film, Pokkiri Raja in Kochi with Malayalam superstar Mammootty and Pritviraj, who play brothers in the film, written and directed by debutant Vysakh. It is an action entertainer and Shriya says she plays a modern girl and her character has a lot of scope to perform. We must add, Shriya absolutely loved shooting in Kerala. It’s so beautiful, who wouldn’t?

Shriya loves In the film, Happy Husbands Jayaram plays a husband with roving eyes especially for the maid in his house. During a television promotion of the film, Jayaram was asked to comment in jest if he flirted with his maid in real life too. To this he responded calling her “a dark, fat, buffalo like a Tamil woman.” This was totally twisted out of context and made into a sensational story by a Tamil publication. A group of people, said to be activists of Nam Tamizhar Iyakkam attacked Jayaram’s house in Chennai but Chief Minister M Karunanidhi intervened and in a bid to cool down tempers said that since Jayaram has tendered an unconditional apology, there should not be any further controversy over it. He reminded late leader  CN Annadurai’s words – “forgive and forget.” Hmm…

Kerala!

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Meera back with Rajesh? Arya 2 sizzles in Kerala Allu Arjun has the same kind of opening that a Vijay film has in Kerala. Arya 2 has taken an M & M kind of opening in the state and is running to packed houses even in smaller towns. Arjun, fondly called Bunny, has become quite a craze among college girls thanks to his romantic image and the fab dancer that he is. What’s more, in a recent poll, Bunny turned out to be the most popular star beating Suriya and Madhavan who were hot favourites till recently!

Meera Jasmine and Mandolin Rajesh, it looks like, are still cozying up together while everyone thought they’d split! A day after Valentine’s day, Meera celebrated her birthday amidst unit members on the sets of her new Malayalam film, Pattinte Palazhi in Mysore. Suddenly, Mandolin Rajesh turned up and fed a piece of cake to a delighted Meera. So is it on or off, Meera? Mar 2010 SOUTHSCOPE 11


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tamil

SINGAM PULI Cast Director Music

Jiiva, Divya Spandana, livingston, Santhanam, lakshmi ramakrishnan Sairam Mani Sharma

Singam Puli is sure to take Jiiva to the next level, since he’ll be featured in a dual role for the first time in his career. The film has been shot mostly in Chennai, with a few songs shot at exotic locales. Jiiva plays a lawyer and a fish seller, which gives him ample scope to perform. The film will have action, comedy and romance and is touted to be a complete entertainer. Computer graphics have been used extensively keeping in mind the dual role of the hero.

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Cast

Jai, Nandagi, Dhiyana, SS Kumaran, Veera Santhanam

Director

Meera Kathiravan

Music

Vijay antony

Aval Peyar Tamilarasi is poetry in visuals and a mÊlange of various art forms and festivals from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, while also being a strong love story set in a village in southern Tamil Nadu. Jothi Murugan, who lives with his grandfather at the village, takes a liking for Tamilarasi, who comes to their village to perform the folk art, Thol Pavai Koothu (puppet show) with her family. As they grow up together, Jothi becomes very fond of Tamilarasi and does everything to maker her happy. A single wrong decision however, changes everything in Jothi’s life. The film uses the backdrop of the popular folk art, Thol Pavai Koothu, which appears as a liet motif all through. The Lavani dance of Maharashtra is also used, while the elaborate Dusserah festival, is used as a backdrop too.

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AVAL PEYAR TAMILARASI

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malaYalam

MUMMY & ME Cast

Mukesh, Urvashi, archana Kavi, Kunchackoboban

Director Music

Jithu Joseph Sejo John

Mummy & Me spells out the tumultuous relationship between a mother and her teenaged daughter. The film is about how parents become overtly concerned about their children, daughters in particular, and how the children find this annoying. The story revolves around a bank officer Joseph (Mukesh), his wife Clara (Urvashi) and their daughter, Jewel (Archana Kavi). Jewel loves listening to western music and chatting on the Internet. Her mother is strict with her and she resents all of this. The father balances between the mother and daughter’s clashing views. Soon Jewel becomes a rebel. At 20, her mom expects her to behave like a 10-yearold. The film, produced by Joy Thomas Sakthikulangara under the banner of Jithin Arts is set to release in April. 14 southscopE Mar 2010


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malaYalam

The story of this one revolves around a father and son who live life to the fullest. The title is inspired from Pappi Appacha, the opening lines of an old Malayalam film song, sung by yesteryears’ comedian, Adoor Bhasi. But this rags-to-riches story about the father (Innocent) and his son, Pappi (Dileep) is humorously narrated and is heavily peppered with romance, heroism and drama. Dileep and Kavya Madhavan, the lucky pair of Malayalam is back after a break. The film is produced by Anoop, Dileep’s brother under the banner of Priyanjali.

PAPPI APPACHA Cast Director Music

Dileep, Kavya, KPac lalitha, Manjusha, asokan Mamas Vidyasagar

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IHTRAKKARTHI GNILLAKKALLING !IHTRAKKARTHI! Tamil’s favourite fresh star has Pavithra Srinivasan in raptures with his honest admissions, easy ebullience and just by being Karthi!

It’s been a busy few days for Karthi. The buzz surrounding his latest film, Aayirathil Oruvan, the historical fantasy is yet to dissipate, with film buffs thronging him wherever he goes. He’s been doing rounds of theatres, touring the state, arranging impromptu meetings with crazed fans and his enthusiasm is unflagging.

“Very little, actually,” he laughs. “I had a middle-class upbringing. We might have been star kids, my brother and I, but we studied at St Bedes, went to college – we were picked up and dropped in a car, but in college, I travelled by bus, and most of my friends are middleclass guys,” he shrugs. “So yeah – I have a pretty good idea about that life.”

This kind of attention isn’t new to him though: born Karthik Sivakumar, son of the popular romantic/action hero Sivakumar who ruled the roost of Tamil cinema during the 70s and 80s, and superstar Suriya’s brother, fame and adulation came easily with his first release, Paruthiveeran. Here was this debutante, donning village garb, a ruffian with a soft heart who easily made inroads into the hearts of Tamil audiences with his scruffy beard, raspy, lilting brogue and devil-may-care attitude. Tamil movie buffs let out a collective gasp and went gaga over this fresh face who challenged every established convention. Things have never quite been the same since.

That’s the everyday life of a Chennai-ite, but the recently released trailers of director Lingusamy’s Paiyya show him blazing across the screen as the typical Tamil hero: he dances, sings, snaps his fingers and taunts a band of villains, all in one go.

Two years later, the buzz surrounding Karthi has magnified tenfold. His second film has proven successful again, and he’s now showered with offers. And as we wait in his home in T Nagar, Chennai, filled with film awards and trophies, we’re aware of just how far he and his brother Suriya have come: black and white photographs of them grace the wall and many moments from their childhood are captured here. Every minute of Karthi’s time is precious, but this evening, he’s just signed off from a busy day and looks a bit frazzled, though comfortably clothed in a black t-shirt that reads “Aeropostale, 1987,” and snuggles into a sofa, eyes wide with anticipation.   Every conceivable question has already been asked of this newly-minted star, so we try a different tack: Where’s he returning from, just now?  “From the shoot of Naan Mahaan Alla (I’m No Saint),” he lets us know. “It’s a story about this middle-class guy who lives a pretty ordinary life. He meets his friends by the local tea shop, has a humdrum job, has a girlfriend and all the dreams and aspirations of your quintessential guy-next-door – and wham! Life takes a completely different turn,” he rattles off with a grin. And what kind of homework did he have to do, playing a middleclass guy?  

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More laughter follows at this. “We need our heroes,” Karthi grins. “Paiyya’s all about a journey, and the incidents connected with it. It’s got a little bit of everything. I want to do all kinds of movies, and these two were a break from what I’ve done so far. I mean, come on, people love watching heroes do that, right?” He flails his arms for emphasis, snapping his fingers. “We love watching our heroes do great things on screen!” And then he announces with a naughty glint in his eyes: “I may as well tell you, I’m doing the remake of Ravi Teja’s Vikramarkudu as well. I’m really excited about that, because it’s a dual role. I’m booked for the next one and a half years,” he crows with delight. All this ebullience is, not unnaturally, the result of his latest hit, Aayirathil Oruvan. With more than two years of hard work having finally translated into success, Karthi can’t stop talking about it. “Aayirathil Oruvan was a new attempt, whichever way you look at it,” he elaborates. “It’s a great adventure, a magical fantasy that scales heights we’ve never even seen before. I learnt so much from that team, from Selva himself.” He turns serious. “This is the movie that taught me that if you put in hard work, it will certainly be appreciated,” he says earnestly. Considering the movie’s genre itself, shifting from the 13th century, to a remote island off Vietnam, to a tribal community lost for centuries, and then an archaeological expedition in the present day, flitting between intellectual academics to a potty-mouthed coolie who can barely read, it’s certainly one heck of a journey, and not exactly the kind of script a new entrant usually plumps for, post a successful debut. When actors just a film old go for swash-buckling scripts, what made Karthi choose this?  


“Selva was a big attraction,” he says candidly. “The man’s a brilliant writer, and has such an open mind. He’s always been bold too. He’s never shied away from showcasing issues everyone else is afraid to touch. I mean, look at his movies – Thulluvatho Ilamai, or Kadhal Kondein – I was stunned when I saw such a brutal depiction of child abuse. This is real; it’s happening all over the world, but imagine the kind of impact it has in his movie.” True, but as hard-hitting as his movies are, Selvaraghavan’s male protagonists are also known for being lewd, rough characters with scant regard for manners.  Karthi leans forward, eager to explain. “Yes, but you see, that’s the kind of people they are. Aayirathil Oruvan’s coolie is just a guy who’s practically grown up in the gutter. He lives on basic instincts: food, sleep and sex. He’s a raw guy, who swears and curses but inside, he’s just a softie, kind of a coward, actually. He’s terrified when he confronts mystery and magic, and you can

see it in the way he reacts. And Selva’s a master at getting what he wants. He doesn’t constrain, just explains the situation, and lets you act it the way your instincts tell you.” Which is how, presumably, he worked on Paruthiveeran as well, under Ameer’s direction. How did he end up with that movie, anyway?  “Frankly, I didn’t have a choice. It was the only script I had,” Karthi grins disarmingly. “I was working as an assistant with Mani Ratnam Sir at that time and do you know, it’s really, really hard work. Ameer Sir’s script came to me then. I read it and agreed at once. I knew that this one would be really good. Right at the end of the photo shoot, we knew we had something special.”  Pray tell us how with such an urban upbringing did you transform yourself into a tough cookie who uncouthly waved sickles?   “You simply have to live the role,” comes the answer. “I spent all my time thinking, eating, sleeping the character. I observed the cast

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“Because there’s another Karthik in the industry.”

WhY iS it Karthi, aNYWaY, iNStEad oF thE MorE CoMMoN KarthiK?

“i’m still young, there’s time.”

FaN CluBS

“i have fan clubs in practically every district.”

loVE, rElatioNShiPS, MarriagE

“they’re not really similar!”

FaCEBooK aNd tWittEr

“actually, i’m a phone person.”

titlES

“oh no. People still call me Paruthiveeran Karthi.

PARUTHIVEERAN aNd AAYIRATHIL ORUVAN

and crew and Ameer himself, to absorb the dialect my character would speak. I watched movies like Kizhakke Pogum Rayil, 16 Vayathinile and Kizhakku Cheemaiyile to understand the man I was playing. Do you know these people are intensely emotional, so raw. That’s why they take up their weapons instantly, because they’re so quick to feel.” Inspiration, though, he says, came not only from the barren lands of southern Tamil Nadu – but home as well. “My father’s always been a disciplined actor. The 60s and 70s spelled the golden period of Tamil cinema. I mean, so many varied subjects were tackled, makers weren’t afraid to explore different facets then. Today, the genres are all different.” After a pause, he continues. “My father always made time for us, though. He’d wrap our school books, take us on holidays – our hometown is a small place near Coimbatore – and he taught me driving, swimming … he always managed to be there for us,” he shares. “But Suriya was, and still is a revelation,” he says reverently. “Watching him prepare for a role, or being a brother, father, or husband, is a great experience. No matter what the movie, his preparation and execution are perfect. I’m amazed at the way he handles his life. I actually worked out with him when he was doing Vaaranam Aayiram – he sweated six months to get the look right, for scenes that were just a couple of minutes long in the movie! He had to look 16 or 17 and he pulled it off perfectly. That’s the commitment I’m aiming for.” Judging by the earnestness in his voice, this was what he’d always wanted ever since childhood, yes? “On the contrary, an inclination for cinema came to me pretty late,” reveals the 32-year-old. “I was an engineering student. I even worked as a systems implementation manager in my uncle’s textile factory in Ambattur.” As we gawk in wonder, he grins. “Trust me, working for Rs 4,375 and three holidays a month is no joke. But there was no job satisfaction in what I did. I went to the US, got a scholarship and did my Masters, but I got more satisfaction working as a parttime graphic designer. My marks weren’t anything to speak of –” there’s the candid admission again “– but I found that I loved the work. I didn’t care about meal-times, sleep or anything. I wanted to do something creative. To me, that was magical. And then I decided that cinema was the place for me. Of course, my friends predicted years ago that I’d do this,” he smiles almost ruefully, “but it took me years to get there.”


Active voice, present perfect! Singing sensation Naresh Iyer fills in Vrinda Prasad on his soulful concoctions, being noticed by Rahman and his breathless adventure. Deep breathing recommended!

Photographer: T Selvakumar Š Worldlight

20 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


Try reading this sentence aloud in one breath: Naresh Iyer is a busy singer and performer who lives and breathes music of different genres even though he learnt Carnatic music formally. Are you out of breath? Naresh Iyer attempted Shankar Mahadevan’s Breathless sometime during his early days, at a fest in Kollam. The crowd went berserk. His concerts usually result in a few swooned women and thousands high on his music! His vocal chords have the power to evoke undiscovered adrenalin. Small wonder that his voice and his captivating smile have created a huge fan base. Naresh also happens to be one of A R Rahman’s favourites.

Moving on, we ask Naresh what he thinks of the trend of television channels churning out overnight singing stars? Naresh responds, “Television can make a star, a popular figure. When a singer is born, he or she will sing whether or not there is television. A lot of these people have talent, but not so many avenues to showcase it, so it’s a great platform.” Naresh is quick to add that “stardom without talent will surely be short-lived.” About being trained in music, he says, “it does help you get the right notes and the pitch, but at the end of it, the connection between the singer and the mike ought to happen.”

He would have probably been a cricketer or a table tennis player had he not ended up being a singer. “Let me be honest. There was no plan. I did not have an ambition to make it as a singer. You could call it a case of plain luck,” he offers. Turns out, it was his mother and sister who pushed Naresh to become a singer. “My mom wanted me to stand in an audition for Channel V Super Singer and I was freaked out looking at a crowd of some 5000 contenders. But I made it to the top 25,” he smiles.

Does that mean Naresh does his riyaaz daily? “That’s what I’m meant to be doing, but because of my erratic schedules I tend to miss my daily riyaaz,” he sighs rather audibly. We let him go now, since he needs to get back to the recording studio. As a parting shot, he treats us to a few lines of Roobaroo. While we are too busy getting heady and forget all about saying goodbye, Naresh resumes a note of humility that belies his young age. “I am here thanks to Rahman and all my fans,” he signs off.

The show was a deciding moment in his career. Rahman happened to be the judge and he was to announce the results. Though Naresh was eliminated, Rahman promised to call him back. In four days, he got a call from Rahman’s office and he sang Mayilarage from the Tamil film Anbe Aaruyire (2005). That was a first for him. His debut song got him the HUB Award for the best playback singer. “I simply walked into Rahman Sir’s studio and sang Mayilarage, without a clue that it was going into the album. My journey as a professional singer began then,” he says. Being part of the Rahman School has been a dream come true for the songster and it’s only getting better from then on. Naresh makes no bones about his indebtedness to Rahman. Within a year, Paathshala, Roobaaroo, Tu Bin Bataye, Paathshala (remix) were sizzling on Bollywood charts. Hey Kaala kaala bandar from Delhi-6 also created some buzz for Naresh. He won the National Film Award for the Best Male Playback Singer (2006) for the song Roobaroo, “Though my debut in Hindi with Rang De Basanti was great, the few films for which I sang after this weren’t even released for various reasons.” He has a few songs lined up this year. “I just hope it works out for me,” he says. There is intense competition these days with the new crop of young singers flooding talent hunt shows. But as usual, some singers are marked off to suit certain actors. Just how does he view this scenario? “Honestly, I do my job and switch off after that. I don’t want to keep a tab on who sings for whom, where the competition is going, where I’m heading and that sort of thing. I believe that there is life beyond this. It would however be nice if the name of the singer is shown in the title, along with that of the composer. People are curious to know about the singer, so perhaps there could be a montage shot of the singer in the video.”

I simply walked into Rahman Sir’s studio and sang Mayilarage, without a clue that it was going into the album. My journey as a professional singer began then.

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She defies conventions. And that has worked wonders for her. The four-film-old Rima Kallingal talks with the confidence and panache of an I-am-here-to-stay-and-know-what-I’m-doing actor. She loves her ‘cosmopolitan’ tag and is most comfortable being called sexy. Here’s more: How did you become an actor? I don’t know if I wanted to be an actor but I wanted to be a performing artiste for sure, maybe because I was exposed to dance at a very young age. I loved being on the stage. I enjoyed it so much that I started thinking it would be great if I could make a career out of it. But I didn’t know what to do about it until I went to Bengaluru. Before I got into films, for three years I was a professional contemporary dancer and that helped me ease into cinema. The Miss Kerala pageant, in which I was the first runner-up got me noticed and I started doing ads and some magazine covers. Director Lal Jose spotted me on one such cover and invited me for a screen test for his Tamil movie, Mazhai Varappoguthu. But the film didn’t happen and I was planning to get back to dancing when director Shyamaprasad’s Ritu was offered to me.

Taste the thunder! Rima Kallingal, the hottest offering from Malayalam, teaches a thing or two to Vijay G on the art of living!

Photograper: Jamesh Kottakkal

Makeup and Hair: Jayesh Sulthan Costumes & Styling: Rejani

Was Ritu your kind of film? Ritu gave me the kind of opening that I was looking forward to but I am not sure if it is my kind of film. My character almost had my kind of lifestyle, mannerisms and the way I dress and behave normally. In that sense, yes, I could identify with the film.


How close is your character Varsha in Ritu to the real Rima Kallingal? I’m often asked this one. I am very similar to her and I have even added some elements from my real life to the movie. The way I talk, mixing English and Malayalam, and the way I dress for instance. To a large extent I am also opinionated in life and I have my own principles. I am quite like Varsha in that way as well. You quite like your cosmopolitan tag, don’t you? Obviously. This is who I am. I am definitely comfortable with it. The only issue I have is that I don’t want this image to precipitate into all my roles. I don’t want to be doing the same kind of bold roles every other day. That is also why I jumped at the offer when Neelathamara came my way. My character in this one is that of an innocent village girl, who doesn’t know much about the world and gets fooled by her brother-in-law. It was a welcome change for me from the kind of roles I was being offered. Otherwise, I am very comfortable being known as an unconventional person. I don’t mind it at all. But the usual Malayali heroines are seen mostly in conventional clothing. Long skirts or saris… I don’t think youngsters today stick to only conventional clothing. I have been getting positive responses from people of all ages over my personal style. Perhaps, it’s not just the youth; everyone is looking forward to some change. Of course, I have lived in a village and I am used to wearing traditional outfits as well. Like, I was totally comfortable playing my character Sharathe Ammini in Neelathamara. It’s just that for all those who had seen me in Ritu, it came as a huge surprise perhaps. And hopefully it was a pleasant one. You’ve played a bar dancer in Happy Husbands, which is the kind of role that Malayali heroines are hesitant to do, though they don’t mind being glamorous in films of other languages. I had no problem playing a bar dancer but wasn’t sure if I should be doing a role like that soon after Ritu in which my character had a sort of grey shade. The director gave me the whole script of Happy Husbands. It wasn’t a negative role and moreover, it was a comedy film. Also, I seriously want to bring about a change. I don’t really believe in having a different set of rules for different language films. What kind of roles do you think you are best suited for? I have done four films until now and I have this confidence that the viewers will accept me in any kind of role. I was happy being a part of Kerala Café and I think it was a welcome experiment. I don’t want to be typecast. I want to get out of my comfort zone and do something challenging every time. I am looking forward to the kind of role that Jyothika did in Mozhi.

I really would like to play characters of different age groups, varied appearances, dual roles and challenging stuff like that. Usually in our scheme of things, only male actors get the opportunities to exploit their versatile acting talent. Do you feel that youngsters get sidelined in the Malayalam industry? I used to feel so earlier, but not anymore. After films like Neelathamara, Ritu and certain projects like the forthcoming Apoorvaragam, I think the industry is accepting the idea that with a good script and good performances even a young cast can deliver a hit. If the youngsters can carry it off, scripts will be written for them, like it happened for Manju Warrier and Revathy in the past. There’s no point in complaining. Instead, we need to make a change.

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He is on a very tight schedule. Make sure you do not take more than 15 minutes. That’s the practice in Hollywood. After that, he gets impatient. It affects other appointments. You can call him now. And try to make it interesting. He’s been doing nonstop interviews – his manager rambles on. Well, that sort of knocked the wind out of my sails as I was ready with 28 questions. The perils of planning! After all, this was an interview with Sendhil Ramamurthy. Here was one of the very few Indian actors to have made it big on US television. Today, he’s a household name in the US, playing Dr Mohinder Suresh, in NBC’s blockbuster sci-fi show, Heroes. Reconsidering the 15-minute-dilemma on hand, I dialed his number. All the while, I tried marking out the really important questions first. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, shot him my first question. . . .and beeeeeeep! Darn it, the network was acting up. Sendhil suggested I call on the hotel landline. Oddly, the receptionist just could not put me through. Another few minutes down. The clock was ticking. This was obviously not working out. Then I called him back on his mobile, hoping for the best. The line connected. I shot off my first question: How was your first experience of Mumbai? “Ah, it’s been pretty hectic. I have been so busy shooting, just did not get any time to explore the city. But work has been quite an experience,” comes the brief reply, laced with an air of definite cool… Sendhil lets us know that he is playing one of the leads in Ekta Kapoor’s latest production, Shor. US based Raj Nimoduru

Sex on two feet, anyone…

From a doctor in the making to one of the most popular television stars in the world, he has been where many wish to be but few Indians have made it. Karthik Pasupulate gives us a blow by blow account of how he finally managed to chat up with Sendhil Ramamurthy.

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and DK Krishna are directing the film. His story is one of the three parallel tracks in the film. “Shor is a gritty thriller drama. Set in contemporary Mumbai, the film gets right into the heart of the modern urban Indian experience,” he explains, adding: “I play a young, privileged NRI who’s come back to Mumbai, and wants to start an NGO, to help the less fortunate. But there is something in his past that he is running away from.” Tusshar Kapoor and Prachi Desai will also feature in the film. Shor has three separate storylines that are interconnected. While two of them run in Hindi, one is in English. Sendhil’s glad he is doing the English part. “I can’t speak a word of Hindi. I know Kannada, since my family comes from Bangalore, but Hindi is completely new to me. I only have a few words of Hindi dialogue thankfully,” I can sort of sense him grin. Sendhil is known to be very choosy about his roles but he signed up for Shor without even taking a look at the script. Last August, directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK flew to Los Angeles to meet him. They had shot a 14-minute short film which they intended to make into a full length feature film. “I was blown away by the short film. I had not seen anything like that before. I just loved it and agreed to be a part of it immediately,” he explains. “I have been looking to work in India for some time now but was just waiting for the right project,” Sendhil volunteers adding, “My best guess is that I was looking for something exciting to bring me here. Then I just knew that this was the right move. I think Shor has everything in it for becoming a crossover hit.” But getting used to the Bollywood way of working perhaps blew him away even more. “Shooting here is an experience in itself. It’s chaotic, and definitely not what I’m used to. There are just so many people, and so much going on, that it takes a lot of skill and a good bit of luck to get the perfect shot. It can be frustrating because you would be thinking that you gave a great shot, but might have to go through it again because somebody’s hand came into the frame.” Sendhil takes a breather and smiles again. “But it’s just amazing how everything just falls into place in that one shot that becomes the clincher. Guess there’s some order in the chaos.” Shor is not his only crossover venture though. He is also starring in Gurinder Chadda’s latest offering, A Wonderful aſter Life. His television assignments keep him busy as well. “For now, I am happy to work anywhere.” Sendhil pauses contemplatively, before putting forth, “provided the script is great. It is very difficult to find interesting scripts.” For instance, the actor has been flooded with piles of scripts which basically offer him stuff similar to what he did in Heroes. “I’ve rejected all of them. The challenge is to keep an open mind and not get typecast,” he says. Easier said than done, mind you. As long as one can remember, actors of Indian origin in Hollywood had to be content doing clichéd roles. Think nerdy doctors, taxi drivers or funny looking store owners. Even now, the likes of Sendhil are more of an exception than a norm. “It is just

a matter of perception, you see. For a long time Indians or even south Asians were never perceived to be good looking. But that’s changing, slowly but surely,” he challenges back. Certainly Sendhil is doing his bit to change that perception. With his quintessentially tall, dark and handsome, south Indian looks, Sendhil has evolved into a pan-South Asian sex symbol. He has twice been named in People Magazine’s annual ‘100 Most Beautiful’ list. He was also pronounced one of the sexiest actors in the business. “People who think I am sexy are obviously blind. I think all those who voted for me just made a big mistake,” he says dismissively. Well sexy or not, Sendhil has had quite a journey. At the risk of sounding clichéd, he never really planned about a career in acting. Both his parents and his sister are doctors. Sendhil too was all set to become one. “All my life I had been surrounded by doctors. 95 per cent of my friends, both white and black, were doctors. I even went to pre med and was all set to sort of get into the family business. Until I happened to accidentally land myself a part in a play,” he says. Sendhil took an intro to acting class in his junior year in pre med in order to fulfill an arts credit. It seemed like the easiest thing to do. “Acting wasn’t on my mind at all. Growing up, I just played tennis. I wasn’t into television or movies,” he says. So he did end up taking the acting class, and eventually skipped most of the sessions. As part of the course requirement, he had to complete an audition for a school production. That was all that was required of him, or so he thought. “I went and auditioned for the part thinking just that. But to my disbelief I got chosen,” he shares. What was even more surprising was that he loved every minute of it. “Deep down, I always hated medicine. I did not like being surrounded by sick people all the time. For the first time I realised that I could never be happy doing anything else.” As it turns out, Sendhil decided to go to drama school soon after that. His parents were not exactly thrilled when they first heard about this sudden change of heart. “But my folks have been incredibly supportive about the whole thing. They paid for my drama school course and came to New York and London for every play I performed in. They’ve been there supporting my every step,” he shares. Sendhil graduated from London School of Drama. He joined the World Shakespeare Company in England and did loads of theatre in London and New York. Gradually, he made his way into television. Films followed soon. “I just consider myself to be extremely lucky to have got to where I am. I see myself auditioning with some of the best in the business. When I sit back and ponder over how or why I got the roles I did, I do not have the answers.” he admits candidly. But Sendhil might just give it all up for a career in tennis. “If it was up to me I would trade a lifetime of acting to perhaps ten years as a professional tennis player. I just love tennis. Even as I am talking to you, I am watching the Australian open on TV. Except for the Australian Open I have been to all the grand slams.” The excitement seeps through the phone line. The biggest love of his life though is his wife Olga Sosnovska. They even have a baby girl, Halina. A glance at my watch tells me that my minutes are up, and I am expected to hang up. This is it, until the next 15 minute-encounter!

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Photographers: T Selvakumar Š Worldlight & G Venket Ram

His creativity that he claims is not his own but divinely inspired. His mystic charm that was, among other miracles, known to stop the rain in the midst of a concert! His unshakeable faith in the only religion he knows. Music. And this winner stands not alone, but with billions of Indians cheering. Make that as many from around the world who might never have heard his music before, but hum Jai ho these days.

Allah Rakha Rahman.

Text: Mona Ramavat

Winner

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Photographer: G Venket Ram


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This is some co-incidence: Rahman was Dileep Kumar before he converted and his wife’s name is Saira Banu!

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At age four, Dileep could play the harmonium with a natural flair. Unbelievable and wondrous. It is said that the famous music director Sudarshan had challenged Shekhar to ask his son to play a complicated piece on the harmonium. Not only did Dileep render the piece perfectly with his baby fingers, but did it on a harmonium deliberately covered with a cloth!

The birth of a daughter was welcome but not reason for overwhelming joy for Tamil music composer R K Shekhar and his wife Kasturi. Their next child, many astrologers predicted, would change their lives forever. He would be a gifted child whose creative genius would win him the world. And the parents in anticipation didn’t have to wait for long. On January 6, 1966, about a year later, Dileep Kumar was born. With his birth came an almost dramatic surge of prosperity in their household. Shekhar knew his son had brought him all the good change but didn’t quite understand how.

Two lives too. Let’s start with the first. And here we mean pure chronology.

Then again there’re two endeavours. The first (or maybe the second, if you ask him) a constant bettering of self taught musicology, getting to be the god of technology finding new challenges, constant stimulation. The other – complete surrender, wholesome selfless devotion to the will of god. Balancing the two is a continued effort for the music maestro who is often tempted to renounce the material world. Just when he is bored enough to actually give up everything, fortunately for us, a new challenge veers him back to the studio in his modest two-storey home in Kodambakkam, Chennai - his sanctum sanctorum from where springs the magic.

If there’s one man here for whom things happen in the twos, it’s got to be Rahman! First the Oscars and now the Grammys. He won two awards, each. He straddles two worlds with ease. One – that’s filled with hi tech computer consoles, complicated synthesizers and sound mixers, pianos that are works of art in themselves. His first piano that he would practice on during his childhood, by the way, too finds a place of pride in his highly sophisticated ultra techie AM studio. The other world belongs within him. Those dreams and visions, his intuitions, inner voices, the inner makings of the soul that connects in harmony with the limitless reservoir of divine energy. This is where he draws his strength, his famous composure and the genius the Oscars were not required to prove. From here also comes the detachment required of a man this successful, this recognised and celebrated. “It’s not my success or my achievements,” he’s often heard saying. “I’m only a conduit of god who was sent into this world to touch as many lives as I can with music,” he humbly adds. Over a hundred million albums sold. One Padmashree, four National Awards, 21 Filmfare awards, one Golden globe, two Oscars and two Grammys among others. But these are just statistics for him.

All the world’s indeed his stage. Two Oscars proved it (to those who weren’t familiar with A R Rahman’s genius or doubted it). He’s brought home two Grammys for Slumdog Millionaire in the best compilation soundtrack for a motion picture category and his composition, Jai ho in the best motion picture song category.


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Two years later, he set up Panchathan Record Inn at his home where he would make those ad jingles. Per chance Rahman met filmmaker Mani Ratnam at a film event and made him listen to some of his jingles and tunes. On a whim Ratnam asked him to do the music for his film Roja. The year was 1992. Rahman was always in awe of Mani Ratnam and this was a god sent opportunity, quite literally! He went ahead and took up the project for a mere 25,000 bucks. He also went ahead and explored his imagination wherefrom came tunes that were unique, unbounded and uninhibited like a child’s expression. What he actually earned was invaluable. Recognition, exposure and the National Film Award for best music direction. A rare first for a debutante.

Moved by all that happened between the first time the family met the Sufi pir and ten years later, they converted to Islam. Dileep chose Allah Rakha from among seven names during his conversion. A R Rahman was born. And that closes the story of one life and begins the second.

At 15, Rahman was sort of a freelance music maker flitting between various troupes including Ilayraja’s. He later got down to making music jingles for commercials and was just about helping his mother support the house.

His sister fell terribly sick and someone suggested that if they prayed at a particular dargah, she would recover. And she did! Dileep’s mother also found a Sufi pir, Karimulla Shah Kadiri on the railway station quite by chance who foresaw that Dileep was indeed destined for bigger things. This is when Dileep’s first brush with Sufism sowed the seed for a lifetime of commitment.

Desperation and despair made Dileep’s mother gritty and determined to go find back their fortune. But where do you get something, like ahem, fortune? If you asked Kasturi, she would have said, “temples, astrologers, pundits, dargahs…”

Dileep was nine then and on his mother’s insistence would do some small time music assignments. They rented out music equipment to support themselves. School and studies were never his first love (or any, for that matter) and he bunked school often. Later he was even expelled for poor attendance and low grades. His mother would force him to wake up early and practice playing the piano or drag him away from the carom board.

Dileep’s parents had seen enough and more of their prodigious son to believe that all those predictions about him that were made before his birth were true. Things couldn’t have been better for them. The next few years were dreamlike. But their world came crumbling down when Dileep’s father Shekhar died suddenly leaving behind a musically inclined but totally devastated family.

On a busy evening in London, while Rahman was working on Bombay Dreams, the ace percussionist Shivamani who he has been associated with for long, cooked fish curry for him. Rahman devoured it at one go!


Photographer: G Venket Ram Courtesy: S Magazine, Sathyam Cinemas Chennai

Rang De Basanti, Guru and Sivaji: The Boss happened after this. With each of these films, and the many in between, Rahman grew in both endeavours – as an artist and also spiritually. By this time, he had also put together the KM Conservatory, a music training academy for aspiring musicians. It was possibly named after his sufi guru, Karimullah Shah Kadiri. The extremely private person that Rahman is, even some of his close associates are not sure about what KM stands for.

Zubeida, Lagaan and some more films followed and with this also came the urge to quit, the same feeling he was overwhelmed with soon after Roja. But soon enough three international projects came his way – Elizabeth, Bombay Dreams and Lord of the Rings. On the home front it was Swades and a few others.

Rahman is usually heard saying that it bothers him when youngsters in India don’t find Indian music all that appealing. They worship Jackson but don’t know the worth of our own music. This has had an impact on his style that is influenced heavily from all over the world. Western classical (which mostly comes from studying music at the Trinity College, Oxford) Indian classical, pop, rock, folk, reggae…

His album, Vande Mataram that he released in 1997 was a phenomenon and a befitting tribute to the nation on its fiftieth year of independence. It evoked among the thousands of people who had come to see Rahman perform in Delhi, a passion that Michael Jackson or a cricket match was capable of inspiring.

Following this were many projects in mainly Tamil and Telugu. In Hindi, Rangeela came up, then Bombay, Dil Se, Taal and a spate of other films. Incidentally, when Rahman was working with Subhash Ghai for Taal, he remarked that Rahman would one day win an Oscar. Rahman simply laughed it off with a “nobody in India wins Oscars.” Didn’t he know by then that prophecies worked great on him?

Apparently, when they were off for their honeymoon to Kodaikanal, Rahman was heard in the middle of the night practicing on his harmonium, in one of the adjoining rooms from his!

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Rahman’s mother found him a bride. It wasn’t love at first sight for him, but it certainly was for his mother! They happened to be at the Sufi dargah they visited regularly. Saira Banu, who Rahman later got married to, was also there with her family. Rahman’s mother saw her and decided she perfectly fit her son’s aspiration for a life partner. “A girl with some education, some beauty and loads of humility,” is what Rahman was looking for. So the match was arranged at once, but not before both of them were sent off to talk by themselves. Apparently, she was mostly quiet all through the three hours they were together. Rahman was once heard as saying in an interview: “She hardly spoke anything then but later I knew just how much she talks! I kept smiling throughout the three hours. By the end of it, my jaws honestly hurt!”

Rahman is mostly a jeans and shirt man.

Both Rahman and his wife love wearing black.


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As a bachelor, Rahman is said to have used the abbreviation LFA a lot. It stands for Love Failures Association.

No matter what, Rahman offers namaz five times a day.

Photographer: T Selvakumar © Worldlight

The 43-year-old music maestro with almost childlike chubby cheeks and a deep sense of calm in the eyes, retreats into his creative and spiritual space where he seeks his ‘permissions’, revisits his visions and before we know, there is another masterpiece, another victory knocking at his door, while the world waits with bated breath and perked up ears…

His mother and his Sufi gurus – Karimulla Shah Kadiri’s son, Arifullah Mohammad Al Husaini Chisti ul Kadiri – have been major influences in Rahman’s life. Then again his wife, Saira, their two daughters, Khatija and Raheema and son, Rumi make up the rest of his universe, besides music of course. All three of his sisters, by the way are musically inclined too and his elder daughter loves his music. He however, doesn’t allow anyone to enter the Panchathan Record Inn, his studio at home, when he is composing.

But these are not personal achievements he insists. “Winning the Oscar was my wife’s dream,” he had said after winning the Oscars. And at the ceremony acknowledged his mother, or Amma as everyone calls her. “There is a Hindi dialogue which says ‘mere paas ma hai.’ It means, even if I haven’t got anything, I have my mother,” he had said in his speech.

His music has built bridges between religions, music traditions and nations. With Slumdog Millionaire winning accolades aplenty, the bridges have only strengthened.

When he was once in New York over some work, a journalist met up with Rahman over lunch. He offered the journalist a sumptuous spread, but the journalist happened to be fasting that day. Without another word, Rahman got up and a few minutes later, returned with a glass of orange juice and placed it in front of the journalist, while continuing their conversation like there had been no interruption. “Come but be careful,” is what he had famously said to several fans before a concert in Australia recently, in the wake of violence resulting from discrimination against Indians. While in a concert in Toronto, he had Japanese fans flocking all over sporting T-shirts that read ‘Rahman come to Japan!’

From Shekhar Kapoor to Prasoon Joshi to Aamir Khan, everyone who has worked closely with the Mozart of Madras describe him in different words, as a deeply spiritual person whose artistry is a result of complete deconstruction of the ego. And Sufism is about loving and connecting regardless of anything. The Sufi message of love was imbibed by Rahman not overnight but over many years. Like his conversion to Islam. He would set aside three hours everyday to learn Arabic, to read about Sufism, understand it deeply and apply it to his life. It also included visit to dargahs, frequent charity for the poor, spending time with Sufi practitioners. That shows up in everything Rahman does. From spotting new talent from the most unnoticeable and unthinkable quarters to dealing with colleagues and associates, Rahman is just Rahman.


Photographer: G Venket Ram

Rahman’s daughter, Khatija doesn’t like him visiting her school. She says she doesn’t like people thronging around him for autographs.

Rahman shares his birthday with his son, Rumi.


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Rahman works mostly in the night but incidentally, he’s composed all of S P Balasubramaniam’s songs before 10 pm.

The Oscar winning Jai Ho was originally meant to feature in Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraj.

Rahman enjoys Thai food but something he can eat anytime is rasam rice.

Although he is hugely passionate about cars, Rahman never drove fancy cars until he bought his first BMW a couple of years ago.


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h Piaa Piaa… The latest sultry sizzler Piaa Bajpai gets into the mood and lets Karuna Amarnath get a glimpse or two of her oh ooh oomph …

She worked as a receptionist in Delhi, transformed herself into the most sought after face in ad films, worked as a dubbing artiste in Mumbai, all in quest of a career in films. “I always wanted to be an actor. But acting was taboo in my family. The Balaji serials were very popular in our village Ittawa (UP), and my mother was a big fan. So, I lied to my parents about being selected to act in one of them, and that’s how I moved to Mumbai,” she cuts the long story short.

Lights

Make up: R A Jayaraj Hair: Pinky Stylist: Vira Shah Coordinated by: Sridevi Sreedhar

Photographer: G Venket Ram

She has every reason to smile now but not so long ago, life was anything but rosy. However, the tide turned in Piaa’s favour after she auditioned for television commercials and bagged the much coveted Liril campaign. “Obviously I was thrilled to bits because Deepika Padukone, Preity Zinta and many top heroines were my predecessors!” she smiles. There has been no looking back since then. Piaa has worked with some of the best brands in the country and shared space with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Amitabh Bachchan along the way.

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The film call, however, came when Piaa was shooting with director Priyadarshan. “He asked me if I knew Tamil, I told him I could try, and that’s how I entered Tamil movies,” she says. Poi Solla Porom (remake of Khosla Ka Ghosla) happened and immediate recognition followed. Piaa was soon signed up for another Bollywood remake, Aegan. “I had no clue about Nayanthara and Ajith’s star status. The role was something I related to because I had watched Main Hoon Na. Finally, it was an Ajith-Nayanthara film. What else can I say?” she smirks. While Poi Solla Porom was a fun experience, Aegan felt like going to a theatre school. Though she wasn’t very comfortable with the film and the way it turned out, there was no time to think because she was immediately cast in Bale Pandiya, with a chock-ablock schedule.

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“Shooting for Bale Pandiya was a new experience for me, especially the fight scenes on the ship. I was sea sick and only survived thanks to Gibran, Vishnu (coactors) and tamarind!” she laughs.

Action

“The most adventurous mission I have embarked on so far has been this shoot. I’ve always wanted to do an exciting photo shoot for Southscope. When I spoke to Venket and asked him if we can do something experimental, I didn’t for a moment expect the adventure that followed. I landed up at the studio on the day of the shoot, completely unaware of what was in store for me. To say I was speechless is an understatement! My first reaction when I saw the clothes was, ‘Hey, I am not comfortable with skin show’! But, I trusted Vira, the stylist and Venket and decided to go ahead because I was sure I didn’t want a regular ‘portfolio’ kind of shoot. I don’t think any actor in south Indian cinema has been photographed in this look and I am glad to be the first! I guess the good girl will have to take a breather, eh?”

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Pack up What’s the difference between Piaa in Ittawa and Piaa in Chennai? “Nothing extraordinary, nothing superb. I am still as open-minded, chilled-out, hardworking and blunt as before,” she smiles, “The only difference is that now I have got an opportunity… Things are very different these days – your fate as an actor changes every Friday! It took almost four years for my parents to be convinced that I can do well; now they are happy and proud of me. But, if you fail in your personal life, no one will stand by you. And, I am not going to shy away from this truth…” 38 southscopE Mar 2010


STYLE MANTRA

THIRD EYE

“Piaa has no hang ups and she trusted us. That gave us so much more creative freedom. Initially, we had decided to use old cinema as the foundation and reinvent five iconic filmi looks. But, as the concept evolved, we decided to do a little fusion of old-world and modern-day to give it a ‘stage’ look. That’s why the tube dresses, bikini tops and other trendy clothes are set off against bold colours like yellow, orange and purple, plus accessories with as much gold as we could find and bizarre props. We rummaged through all the cinematic costumes and chunky jewellery available at Nadhamuni (Kodambakkam) and picked up fabrics from Nalli (T Nagar) to use as drapes and sheers. The fashionable dresses, tops are from Etalage (GN Chetty Road).

“We usually do a ‘designer’ shoot with most actors, so this time we decided to think out-of-the-box. I’ve worked with Piaa before for ads and feature film shoots, and I knew she was pretty daring and open to experimenting. Besides just the look, we wanted to use interesting props so we picked up a cage, throne, wooden box, bow and arrow and other such things from Cine Décor (Kodambakkam) and Chandi Props (Vadapalani).

While the look remains garish and in-your-face, the makeup and hairdo was contemporary – very muted and in sync with the trends of Spring/Summer 2010. We retained the curls because they complement her personality beautifully. And her petite frame worked well for us too!” - Vira Shah, Stylist

Photographing Piaa is great because she’s wonderfully confident in front of the camera. To top it all, she has good skin, so we could keep the look as raw as possible and bring her attitude to the fore.”- G Venket Ram, Photographer


How Suresh got his groove back… Many have come and gone and some have come back. Suresh, however, came in after long and is convinced will stay for longer. Karthik Pasupulate finds out more.

Comeback is perhaps the most loosely used term in showbiz. Tables get turned and fortunes burn every Friday. But there’s always someone who is on a comeback trail. As for actor Suresh, he happens to be making his own return journey after six years. And looks like this time it’s for keeps. He has made many a return ever since his debut, the super hit Paneer Pushpangal, as a seventeen year old way back in 1981. In a career spanning 28 years, Suresh has acted in 265 films in both Tamil and Telugu. But what is it that made him want to take a long break and what is it that brings him back to the other side of the screen all over again? “Well, once an actor, you are always an actor,” Suresh shrugs matter-of-factly. “I opted out because I was getting typecast and the same old roles were coming my way. I had been acting since I was 17. I was acting and studying as well. Even got myself an MBA,” he shares. Suresh takes on a sardonic note as he picks up from where he left: “I was not content with being just a dumb actor you see. I also wanted to be a dumb producer, a dumb corporate entity and so on.” In the years in between, Suresh got himself involved in television production, while also heading Zee Motion Pictures for a couple 40 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


of years. as for what happened after that, Suresh says: “here i am, back to doing what i love!” he gets all wide eyed and excited at the mention of his comeback film, Asal. Saran is directing the film with an ensemble cast. ajith is playing the lead, and there is Sampath, rajeev, Pradeep ravat, Bhavana and Sameera reddy as well. “Asal is a very exciting film. it is a big ticket venture and almost 70 per cent of the story is set in France. it is not your typical action flick. it’s got all elements of an action flick, yet it is refreshingly different,” he says with a touch of confidence. ah! different is the word. “i know everybody says their film is different. i have worked in 265 films and can assure you this film is truly different,” he smiles. While we are still on the matter of being different, Suresh looks like a new man now. Sporting a shiny bald pate and a lean body to boot, he’s come back with renewed confidence. “i lost 22 kilos. i had undergone discectomy a couple of years ago and was recuperating for over a year. i had put on a lot of weight. this is quite literally the new, improved Suresh that you are seeing now,” he laughs. Wow! and just how do you lose 22 kilos at 44? that must have been something. “Forty is the new 20. i work out for three to four hours every day. i have been doing it for over eight months. this is the fittest i have been ever in my life and i can tell you it feels good.” oh yes, we can see that too. By now, he is game to let us in on a little secret as well. “all i think about when i am working out are the nice clothes i can wear. You need to have something to look forward to. that’s what motivates me to do those

five extra crunches. i have also developed a little visualisation gimmick that keeps me motivated. i imagine myself walking into a room looking all trim and fit. and the people around go wow! Suresh is looking so much younger than before,” he says breaking into a guffaw. hmmm, so is forty really the new twenty, huh? “Yes, it definitely is,” he defends. “if anything, it’s much better. at 40 you can still do it and you know bloody well how to do it.” and that pretty much seals the argument. Sitting here in the cool studio floor, life has come full circle for Suresh. he started off his career in tamil in the eighties. he moved over to telugu in the nineties. Now he is making a comeback with a tamil film, which is where it all began. does a long career also mean immense satisfaction? “Well i have no other option but to be satisfied,” he grins. “i strongly believe what’s meant to happen will happen. You could be leaning against a door in your first film and die and still become a rajinikanth. it is all written. Why try to fight it?” So how did it work out for him? Suresh pounces on the question. “i learnt it the hard way. i fought it initially, wanted to make hits out of intelligent films. i reckoned, why not make one action film and made a complete fool of myself. i even formed a group of directors with whom i would work and only make good cinema. all of them sold out.” the tides turned in his favour, when Suresh became familiar with the ropes of the business. “i learnt to swim in the direction of the current and make the most of the choices that came my way,” he says. But we persevere. Suresh never could make it to the top echelons of stardom when he was at it. he has earned respect for being a versatile actor (no doubt) but does it bother him that he never could break into the top league? “initially when i started off, i did not have a clue about what i was doing. the director said ‘look here, now smile.’ and that’s all i did for a long time. By the time i figured what to do in front of the camera, i found myself trapped, playing the lover boy over and over again.” then, the first of many turning points happened. “i ventured into telugu and did everything that would enable me to push my boundaries as an actor. i played the villain, a romantic hero, family man, acted in two high performance films, the works. Even acted with biggies like Chiru, Venky and Nag and managed to hold my own.” on that count, you definitely cannot blame him for not trying. “When i look back, what pleases me most is the range of films that i have been a part of. Films like Allari Pilla, which was an out-and-out comedy film, to Dongaata, in which i played a lovable rascal.” a contemplative pause later, “then there was Puttinti Pattucheera, which was a complete female lead dominated film. i just had to look good and feel sorry for the heroine. i have no regrets whatsoever!”

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DILEEP’S dance with destiny In this quick fire chat with Dileep, Vijay G manages to get a glimpse of the man behind the actor. And just about gets there.

No, he won’t smack down a dozen hunks at one go. His shirt won’t come off so often to show well toned abs. Not many sizzling sirens swoon over his looks. Instead, he is your quintessential nice guy next door, and he’s still going strong. Yes, we are talking about Dileep, who is dubbed as the janapriya nayakan or the popular hero of Malayalam cinema. But that’s not how it always has been. The highs and lows in his career are the stuff that roller coaster rides are made of. Meet him in person though, and he says that he prefers to take on life as it comes: “I never plan things. Whenever I do, they don’t work out the way I would like them to.” One glance at his high success ratio, and you could be convinced that it’s just his humility speaking. In the middle of things, he has turned producer and back. Success has followed him in that role as well.

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He feels that the 2009 Swantham Lekhakan had failed, as it brought to light some unpleasant truths. Dileep essayed the role of a reporter of a local daily in the film, trying hard to strike a balance between deadlines and time to take care of his pregnant wife. Dileep has been known to experiment with his looks, and that has worked wonders for him. He has three releases lined up for early this year, all of which would have him play entirely different characters. In director Siddique’s Nayanthara-starrer Bodyguard, Dileep suits up in safaris and dark shades. Lady luck sure seems to be on his side as the actor gears up for a bevy of releases this year. In Aagathan, directed by Kamal, he is a techie on a mission. The film is already a hit. After that, there’s Pappi Appacha, directed by debutante Mamas, where he plays a nouveau riche school dropout. He is also teaming up with Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, in Joshy’s Christian Brothers, one of the most high profile projects on the floor. CID Moosa saw Dileep step into the producer’s shoes for the first time. He also played the comic hero in the film. Since then, he has been active as a producer-distributor in the business. The high point in his career was the spectacular success of Twenty 20, one of the biggest hits in the history of Malayalam cinema. The project was designed to raise funds for the actors’ association AMMA and in a move that could spell disaster, had a staggering cast comprising all the big names in Malayalam cinema. Thankfully though, backed by a tight script, Twenty 20 is still riding strong in the state and beyond. And people simply loved the all-out star cast. “I decided to produce CID Moosa myself as it was difficult to convince the potential of its slapstick theme to others. The support of my friends gave me the courage to go ahead with the project,” he says. Considering the efforts that went into the making of the magnum opus, Twenty 20, we wonder if he will attempt such a movie again. At this, Dileep plays the diplomatic card, limiting his reply to “I don’t know it can happen again.” We leave it at that. He is also the producer for singer-actor Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Malarvady Arts & Sports Club, featuring a bunch of fresh faces in the lead. The grapevine has it that he will be doing a guest role in the film, but he is not ready to give out anymore. The actor retains an aura of the classic romantic hero, which goes beyond his art, into his life. “Yes, I am a romantic at heart,” smiles Dileep. “But my concept of romance is not all about women and it can be about my profession, the people around me, nature, thoughts and lots more. Of course, I believe that your mind will be young even when you grow old. But it needs a fit body to have a healthy and vibrant heart.” Following a stint at mimicry, Dileep (who was known as Gopalakrishnan then, before switching to his pet name) started his film career, assisting director Kamal in a film. Soon after that, he faced the camera. Success came slow, and he gained recognition in Malayalam cinema over a period of time. Films like Manathe Kottaram, Sallapam, Punjabi House, Thenkasi Pattanam, Ee Parakkum Thalika, Kunjikkoonan, Meesa Madhavan and Chanthupottu, among several others catapulted him to newer heights. The secret to his success has been attributed to his simple, genuine looks, likeable mannerisms, and an impeccable comictiming. Last year though has not been a particularly great one for him, except perhaps for Passenger. Quiz him on this and he agrees, flashing a smile. “Of course we are here to make films run. When a film fails, it affects us badly,” he says. “Like for instance, Kerala Café, a portmanteau of ten stories that came last year was a welcome experiment. I played an NRI in the film called Nostalgia. But sadly, Kerala Café was not accepted the way it should have been.”

One question that Dileep has been faced with time and again concerns his wife, the gifted actor Manju Warrier. She quit acting after the two got married. This came as a surprise to many, considering their fabulous on screen chemistry in films like Sallapam and Ee Puzhayum Kadannu. Eventually, things went beyond just the screen and the two got married later on. What was that special thing about Manju that attracted him? He ducks the question with the expertise of a well-set batsman and says that he has never thought about it. So will she return to face the camera again? He laughs in his trademark style, “True, I have been asked this several times before, but I have never answered it as well. All I can say is that in films, anything can happen, anytime.”


Sridevi Sreedhar decides to celebrate the spirit of Women’s day this year with the new breed of women filmmakers calling the shots in the tamil industry

through her lens Women in the Tamil film industry are silently rewriting history and infusing Tamil cinema with a spate of films that are unique in appeal yet not the arthouse variety. More women unlike before are coming forward to make commercial films while storming into the male dominated bastion. Filmmakers like Revathy and Janaki Viswanathan are no longer who younger women directors emulate. Instead they take inspiration from filmmakers like Farah Khan who surprised everyone with two back to back blockbusters — Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om. The Tamil industry had directors like T P Rajalakshmi, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, Vijayanirmala from late 1930’s and more recently Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Revathy, Janaki Viswanathan and Revathy Varma who made films on subjects ranging from socially significant issues to romance. But not too many of them have ventured into the mass masala territory. They pretty much adhered to the worldwide image of women directors. The new bunch of young women directors are now making films in Tamil, targeted at the box-office rather than the awards. Things are also looking up for them thanks to the success of small budget movies and the changing trend of story gaining prominence over stars. More and more women are slowly but surely joining this brigade including actor Chaya Singh and Aishwarya Dhanush. Here’s a quick glance at six young successful women directors making it big in Tamil cinema:

Sondarya Rajinikanth Filmography - Sultan - The Warrior Soundarya Rajinikanth is just about wrapping up her animation film Sultan — The Warrior. “It will be a typical Rajinikanth style mass masala film with punch lines, comedy, action and romance. The film is being made keeping the superstar’s image in mind,” says Soundarya.

Priya V Filmography- Kanda Naal Mudhal, Kannamoochi Yaeneda Priya V, who made multiplex hits like Kanda Naal Muthal and Kannamoochi Yenada, is all set to do her next film, tentatively titled Script 3, with Prithviraj and Bhavana. Says Priya V, “It is going to be an urban story for viewers of the B and C classes. At some point, I would love to attempt realistic cinema, but right now I am happy with commercial films.”

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After her debut with the soft romantic Vallamai Thaarayo, director Madhumita has completed the shoot of her new comedy caper Kola Kolaya Mundhrika (KKM), written by Crazy Mohan. The film features Karthik Kumar with a hot Kannada heroine, Shika, in the lead. Says Madhumita, “KKM is an out and out comedy about a bunch of conmen on a treasure hunt. It is made like a Farah Khan movie and has lots of humour, item numbers and fights. The film is slated for release this summer.” Anitha Udeep Filmography- Knock Knock I am looking to Marry, Gulliver’s Travels, Kulir 100 Singer and entrepreneur Anitha Udeep, who owns the 10 screen multiplex Mayajaal on ECR, Chennai debuted as a director with an English film followed by an animation film. She then made a teenage “slice of life film set in a boarding school” titled Kulir 100, which turned out to be a multiplex hit. “I targeted the youth, as my story was about a lower middle class guy studying in an up market boarding school. The film has all the commercial ingredients of a mass entertainer including catchy songs, emotional drama, exotic locations, super camerawork and action scenes.” These days Anita is busy completing the script of her next film which will start rolling from July. Adds Anita: “It’s challenging to make a commercial film and I enjoyed doing it. My next film will be a feel-good romance with action and humour”

Madhumita

Filmography- Vallamai Tharayo, Kola Kolaya Mundrika

Sudha K Prasad Filmography- Drohi Mani Ratnam’s most trusted assistant Sudha K Prasad has branched out on her own and completed work on her debut film Drohi featuring Srikanth, Vishnu, Poonam Bajwa, Pooja and Poorna with camera by Alphonse Roy. It is said to be a gangster movie set in Royapuram and is packed with mass elements galore. Says Sudha, “Drohi, a realistically set film was completed in record time. I would say that my film is very violent and disturbing, inspired by Mani Ratnam’s kind of films, peppered with action, friendship and romance in the right proportions.”

Nandhini Filmography - Thiru, Thiru, Thuru, Thuru Thiru, Thiru, Thuru, Thuru (T4) directed by Nandhini, a film institute gold medalist turned out to be an average grosser. Says Nandhini, “It was a city based, light hearted romantic comedy, made keeping in mind the taste of the classes and masses. Now all the producers I speak to want me to make similar feel-good films, but I am writing a script packed with suspense and action, a thriller set in a village. I plan to start my next film this year probably with a big star.”

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Fast five The film industry: People can claim to have acting skills, but acting cannot be taught. You are either a good actor, or not. All this talk about talent is rubbish. Half the heroines don’t even know the language. I believe actors are paid for their time and not their skill. It’s just showbiz. I’d like to be remembered for: the movies I have done. Not many people know me as a person so I’d like them to at least think I’ve done some sensible films.

“As long as I know what I am doing, “I am happy” Arya is among those few actors in the Tamil

industry unfazed by the pressures of having a star status, while he deserves every bit of the stardom, discovers Karuna Amarnath

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My philosophy: I believe you must make a graceful exit. If my films are not being appreciated at the box-office, it’s because of my own doings. If the fans are disappointed, I can’t blame anyone but myself. So, I must decide to quit and do something else, rather than stay on and make a fool of myself. Director’s trump: I don’t have any favourite directors. Each one has their own way of working. Vishnu (Vardhan) and I are good friends, and I share stuff with him because he’s seen me grow as an actor and knows me very well. Link-ups: It’s all part of life! I’ve been linked with so many women, I’ve lost count! I even got married off to one of the actresses! But I don’t say ‘oh no!’ when I read about it because I know what the truth is. I am very open and share clean relationships with each of them. Nothing secret here.


He’s chilled out, happy with the way things are and has no regrets. He’s among the few southern actors who doesn’t take things seriously, doesn’t plan more than two months in advance or shows off his star status. In fact, instead of dissecting tabloids and stressing over his rating as an actor, he’s busy watching his regular dose of football or working out at the gym. “I don’t think my attitude works against me. At the end of the day, a producer is only worried about whether the project is viable or not. Your box-office success can only be determined with your hit films, and not by what is written about you everyday.” With such clarity of thought, it’s easy not to stray into the rigmarole of ‘wanting to be noticed,’ don’t you think? And, it comes as a surprise because Arya isn’t your regular ‘star kid’, nor does he have uncles, brothers, grandparents or producers who could change decisions for him in the industry. He’s just your average computer engineer, who decided to give modelling a shot and got noticed. “When I first met Jeeva sir (the late filmmaker Jeeva), he said, ‘there are thousands of people out there who look better than you and probably have better acting skills. But, you’ve got the opportunity, so make the most of it’. And, that’s helped me remain grounded,” he smiles. When the tide favours you, all you need to do is go with the flow, and that’s exactly what Arya did. Owing to a delay, his second film, Arinthum Ariyamalum released before Ullam Ketkumae, starring fresh faces Asin Thottumkal and Pooja Umashankar. To say both films did superbly at the box-office would be an understatement! Arya’s role as Kutty won him critical acclaim and he bagged both the Filmfare Best Debut Award South and Best New Male Face Award in the same year. After Oru Kalluriyin Kathai, Arya became the hot pin-up boy of the Tamil industry, making filmmakers sit up and take notice and women swoon! But, instead of going the tried-and-tested way of being bestowed with ‘titles’ and only signing films that would show him in dynamic roles, Arya decided to act in Pattiyal alongside Bharath. While the film broke records and his performance was much appreciated, critics and fans wondered if he was doing the right thing for his ‘image.’ “What’s wrong in acting in a film with two heroes?” he questions. “As long as I know what I am doing, I am happy. Moreover, when you do multi-starrers, you get to learn about different storylines, characters. I wanted to break the ‘single star’ syndrome by doing this and make people realise that it’s in fact a healthy way of growing as an actor.” And that’s why he’ll be seen playing a baddie in the Telugu film Varudu, also starring Allu Arjun.

I knew it was going to get critical acclaim. It has won the National Award now. The final product that you saw was very different from what we had envisioned, and thanks to the censor board’s intervention, there was nothing we could do. I have no regrets about signing the film because I’ve got several offers after it released. And more importantly, the experiences I had – whether it was living in Kasi for six months or with the Aghoris for 45 days. It is the best thing that’s happened to me,” he smiles. Now, if a three-year-wait wasn’t long enough, Arya has signed to be in Bala’s next project as well! “It should be done in six to eight months,” he grins, adding that unlike Naan Kadavul, this project is truly commercial and does not experiment with the dark side. “More than anything else, I like working with Bala sir because he’s an amazing technician. His stories are character driven, not just substantial, but also very stylish. I like doing such films because they are very motivating and challenging,” he tells us. And, that’s why you’ll see him next as a wrestler/dhobi wala in Madharasapattinam, a film set in the Chennai of 1947. While the Independence Day is just the backdrop, the story revolves around Parithi, who’s in love with the then Governor General’s daughter. “The innocence of the character and the love angle piqued my interest,” he shares. “More than for me, it has been a challenge for the director and cinematographer to put this film together – to recreate the Central Jail, Waltax Road and Mount Road of 1947…” So, while his acting is in great shape at the moment, the actor has also started small businesses to aid the film industry. Arya launched Light House with cameraman Nirav Shah to provide high-quality lighting equipment for films. “We wanted to bring in equipment that would help upgrade the quality of cinema and rent it out at affordable prices,” he explains. He has also initiated The Show People, a production house that will soon make small-budget films and offer a launch pad to aspiring actors and directors. “When I started off, I had no backing. Of the 100 people who try, only one person makes it. The rest only lose themselves in the sheen, waste their lives. So, I’d like to use this platform to give them a chance.” So now we know. He’s charming, he’s unpretentious and he’s also thoughtful…

If you thought we’re done with surprises here, let’s tell you this: While at the peak of his career, he had signed to play Rudran in Bala’s mammoth project, Naan Kadavul. An eight-month schedule dragged on for two years, and Arya had disappeared from the scene. But, unlike what everyone thought, he patiently went through not just the filming process, but also the brickbats after its release. “It wasn’t a smash-hit, but it was definitely well-received.

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MOVIE PROMOTIONS, SOUTH STYLE! Filmmakers and distributors are warming up to smart market strategies for movie promotions finds Vrinda Prasad. Forget cheap publicity stunts and cutouts. Smart, slick promotion is the buzzword in southern industry these days. Movies are specifically promoted to reach the target audience, and eventually rake in the bling at the BO. The success of a recent string of films has shown that filmmakers and distributors in the south are waking up to the vitality of film promotion. These days, even the cast and crew go that extra mile to reach the audience. Unique marketing campaigns and promotional strategies are brought in as extra ammunition. Diversification is the big word as different channels of communication are being explored to promote the film. Films have always been linked with audience acceptance. Says noted Telugu movie publicist, SKN, “Stars are always a craze among the audience. Any kind of contest which gets a common man close to the actor is always a hit. Meet and greet, date with the star and such events have been on for long, yet they work wonders.” Delving deeper with the fans’ obsession with stars, he recalls two films that were hugely accepted. “YVS Chowdary, during the promotion of Devadasu came up with a contest called Swayamvaram with Ileana and it was a hit. For Desamudru a contest invited fans to date with Allu Arjun. These strategies made a big difference to the movies.” While the use of digital media is also widespread, Kannada film publicist Nagendra (Cheluve Ninna Nodalu) says, “The producer wanted something different. So, we included an hour long video titled The Making of Cheluve Ninna Nodalu in the audio CD. It was a bonus addition.” Agrees famed Tamil director Vishnu Vardhan, “These days, no film would run without aggressive promotion. I would like songs from my films to be shown on television at least a month before release.” The music remains a huge pull factor with the audience, notes the filmmaker, saying: “Hit songs are the best way of promoting almost any film.” 48 southscopE Mar 2010

inputs by sridevi sreedhar and aravind G shivkamal


Village lo Vinayakudu fame recalls, “It was a strategy to promote the film by tying up with seven firms (Reliance, Kalamandir, Radio Mirchi, Mirox Animation, APTDC, Futuregenerali group, Tv9) which helped reduce production cost,” he explains. The company also sold the audio CD of the film at Rs. 9.98, along with a free Reliance GSM SIM. “And it just worked,” Adivi shares. Also recently, 7UP promoted Arya-2 in the promos, which was another first in Telugu films. The Internet and multimedia mobile phones took movie promotion to a whole new level. Aravind S D, the director of the Kannada film, Jugaari, The Gambler launched a swanky website, containing everything about the film, including working stills and multimedia. “It has created a lot of interest online. We are getting fabulous response,” says Aravind. Pawan Kalyan’s Jalsa turned out to be one of the first Telugu films that ran mobile and internet promotions. A gaming company, RZ2 created a game based on the theme of Jalsa.

Viren Thambidorai, executive producer, Suresh Productions, who also headed the publicity team for Leader and Namo Venkatesa talks of various strategies they used for promoting these films. He explains that for Leader, they created a text based mobile game with a timer. “The homepage starts off with the animation titled Leader and the game starts. There are three ways to win the game. You finish the first level and form the government. The swearing in, proceeds in Rana’s voice. Move to the second and you are most powerful here and people want to buy you and then you move to the third level and win… You are declared the most faltoo politician and you have jootas flying at you,” he explains. Sure sounds funny, but when you finally get hit by the flying shoe, you also win a movie ticket to watch the film! Cross branding with popular products is another strategy that is relatively new in the southern industry, but is being widely used now. Film director, Sai Kiran Adivi of

galore. I do anything to promote my film, as I believe word of mouth is very important.” Vikram says that the central idea remains rooted to bringing the maximum number of people for the opening weekend. “For my Tamil film, Kanthaswamy (Mallana in Telugu), I went to all four southern capitals under 36 hours and interacted with the media and gave over 300 interviews. And this worked,” he says.

Something simple yet creative can do the trick often. When Suresh Productions was working on the promos of Namo Venkatesa, the marketing team came up with this: “Namo Venkatesa’s plot runs around the concept of finding a dream girl, so we decided to work on that theme and came up with the Dream Girl contest,” says Viren. “Venky wears some outlandish clothes. So we decided to have a ‘bid and win the apparel contest’ via SMS. Also we had fashion shows using the collection,” he adds. The largest Telugu grosser of 2007, Happy Days led to the creation of a comic book based on the characters in the film. Even though the book was released seven months later, it did help in post-release promotion. Unsurprisingly, the campaign sustained the interest in the film, especially among the college crowd. Come down to the Malayalam industry though, and you’ll find a different story brewing here. Noted producer Suja Pillai states, “In relation to the Malayalam industry, marketing and promotional strategies are still in their infancy. The younger generation of directors and technicians in Malayalam are starting to understand the need of hype before release and have come up with ideas such as interesting trailers and audience promotions, but it’s still nascent. Their productions, Robinhood and Classmate created lot of buzz for their promotion, especially through word of mouth.

There are, of course, time tested methods that ensure sustained interest. A lot of stars believe in giving many interviews, and being visible in public. Actor Vikram states, “I start promoting my film at least two weeks before release, with interviews

The marketing and publicity campaigns are but tools to reach out to the masses; the real success of the film depends on the audience. What then, influences aproducer’s marketing strategy? Director Krish answers that question, “A film with a strong concept is easier to market. Premiers for industry biggies are being organised off late. Since it’s a competitive world with many releases every week, one needs to become innovative.” Industry players agree that marketing strategies vary from project to project. Marketing also depends on the budget of the movie and its target audience. Public relations professional Saura Sen Gupta says, “Marketing should complement the film’s content. Even if the content isn’t great, any kind of publicity just about helps getting in the initial crowd.” As it turns out, one key strategy that still remains effective is not revealing details about a film, especially if it features a top star. Mohan Lal Menon, producer of the Malayalam film, Kerala Café agrees, “Maintaining secrecy is a great strategy and works well with films having a big star cast. But it’s really tough to keep the audiences’ pulse on hold and get them to theatres.” Menon says that at that point, keeping a low key keeps the buzz going on. Of course, you have to sometimes offset this by promoting the movie using different media. And sometimes, not revealing the basic plot also works!” Anything that creates hype and hoopla is good enough for the film. The more the better. Sometimes less is more and small is big. But finally, a marketing strategy is as good as the number of people it can attract to the film. Mar Jan 2010 southscopE 49 00


bULLEtS, BollYWood iMPortS oF VillaiNS doWN South arE MaKiNg, QuitE litErallY, a KilliNg! RAHUL GANGULY goES looKiNg For thE BaddiES. Inputs by Sridevi Sreedhar and Aravind G Shivkamal

babES anD bELL bOtS Think Amrish Puri’s rendition of Kalivardhan in the Rajinikath classic Thalapathi, to a more recent Ranadev Gill from Magadheera or Arundhati’s Pasupathi played by Sonu Sood. Southern cinema seems to have enough love left for its cigar-smoking-gun-toting villains. So what if Bollywood is so hung on ‘rounded’ characters and those shades of gray. So what if southern filmmakers actually import ‘pure’ villains from Bollywood. Though it’s been happening for years now, the trend of villains coming down from up north is peaking newer heights. Everyone’s favourite villain, Amrish Puri known for his distinctive screen presence and booming baritone featured in a character role in a 1973 Kannada film, Kaadu, directed by Girish Karnad. Cut to the 1990’s and we saw him acting in a number of Telugu films like Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Major Chandrakanth, Kondaveeti Donga, Aswamedham and Aakhari Poratam, among others. Puri also featured in the Tamil film Dalapathi (1991), directed by Mani Ratnam, with Rajnikanth and Mammootty in the lead roles. Post Dalapathi, he appeared in the Rajinkanth starrer-Baba (2002), playing the role of an evil wizard. We won’t be too off the mark if we said; Amrish Puri was also the big daddy of imported villains from Bollywood. The trend also goes vice versa. Consider Hindi film villain Ajit for example. Perchance you did not know this, the checkered-suit wearing baddie from the technicolour years happened to be a pukka Hyderabadi! As cinema evolved and characterisation grew more subtle and advanced, actors from Bollywood found a thrilling new opportunity to portray hatred evoking characters in southern films, while villains of the south found subtly negative and challenging roles appealing.

50 southscopE Mar 2010


Versatile veteran Prakash Raj, who started out by playing primarily negative roles in the south has made the shift across industries look effortless. It was probably the 2003 Telugu hit, Okkadu that cemented his position as a dashing villain. The film elicited a tremendous response across the market, which resulted in the Tamil remake, Ghilli, featuring noted Mumbai baddie Ashish Vidyarthi. The Telugu super hit Pokiri had him playing the bad guy with élan. He reprised the same role in the Hindi version, Wanted. Charting Vidyarthi’s career graph has one literally placing multiple pins on the map of the country! The Kerala-born actor tested the waters first with a character role in Kannada cinema. Soon enough, he migrated to Hindi films and became a staple addition to the villain brigade and broke the mould of the smooth-talker screen villain. Eventually, he began considering offers from the south. CID Moosa, the Malayalam actioncomedy romp marked his entry in the south. The Tamil Rajinikath-starrer Baba followed soon. Having covered the three industries, Vidyarthi won much acclaim in Pokiri (2006). He returned with the 2007 hit Athidhi (2007). For an actor of southern origin, this was a way of life coming full circle. Prabhakar or ‘Tiger Prabhakar’ as he was fondly known was a noted Kannada villain. He was mostly seen in action and thriller movies in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam. Another Kannadiga to strike villainous gold in Mumbai was ‘Fighter’ Shetty. The tall, bald and muscular villain was also a well known fight master. The towering Shetty was very popular in the Bollywood of the 70’s and 80’s. Thinking man’s actor Manoj Bajpai too, started off his film career with a distinct southern connection. Playing the underworld don in the Hindi version of Ram Gopal Varma’s Sathya, Bajpai has left a mark in his short stint in south cinema. The trait extends to his recent Telugu film, Komarum Puli. Move over to Chennai and you’ll see stars trooping in by the droves from other industries to play the baddies. Take the recent hit, Asal for instance. There are seven villains in the film but the two main bad guys are from Mumbai- Pradeep Rawat and Kelly Dorji! In Tamil films, it seems like a lot of character artistes from Bollywood are turning villains in a big way. Milind Soman, former super model and Bollywood’s “meaningful cinema” supporter and actor has got a new lease of life in Tamil cinema. After a successful debut in Gautham Menon’s Pachaikili Muthucharam, he is playing the stylish villain in Paiyya. Another lad from up north making waves in Chennai is Akashdeep Saigal, who played the solo villain in Suriya’s blockbuster Ayan. The high points of the film were the terrific actions scenes. Vijay roped in Dev Gill to play the bad guy in his 50th film, Sura. For Marathi actor Mahesh Manjarekar, the journey southward met with considerable success. The writer-filmmaker-actor shined in his performance as the ruthless mafia don Sonu bhai in the 2007 Telugu film Okkadunnadu. Playing a gangster in need of a heart transplant was a novel way of showing a negative character. Manjarekar, of course, shouldered the role with ease. As we recall names in no particular order, Sonu Sood comes to mind immediately. With an enviable footing in southern cinema today, he started out in the Telugu film industry with the 2005 hit Super. Quickly switching sides to play the baddie, Sood was an instant hit, with Athadu and Ashok rolling out between 2005 and 2006. The biggest break for him came with the 2009 super hit Arundhati, in which he played the role of the fearsome Aghora. The recent Ek Niranjan also proved to be a big favourite in Telugu screens. Sood’s peculiar mix of English and Telugu worked well with the audience, as did his intense performance. These days, Sood is hot property in the Telugu industry. While we are speaking of young guns, here’s Dev Gill and his intensity laden performance in Magadheera. The hunky lad from Pune was a model before entering the films with his first film in Telugu, Krishnarjuna. The film tanked and no one took much notice, until Magadheera, that is!

“South Indian actors like Prakash Raj and Suman refrained from playing the bad guy in our films, after some time. Prakash Raj also apparently did not like getting beaten up by guys half his size! The villains from up north are professional and they don’t care who beats them to pulp in the climax!” - A southern star who requested not to be named

Mar 2010 southscopE 51


And just how can you forget Pradeep Rawat from both versions of the superhit Ghajini? The Rajput actor has come a long way since then, breezing through the southern industries. After his villainous entry with the Telugu Sye, Rawat moved on to Malayalam films as well, with considerable success. In his kitty very recently is also the Telugu film Kasco, apart from films in Tamil as well. Speaking of hunks, for all purposes, Mukesh Rishi is a permanent fixture in the Telugu film industry. Ever since his initial days playing villainous roles, Rishi is these days comfortable doing character roles shuttling between sets in Mumbai and Hyderabad. The list of stars making it ‘villainously’ big in the south is aplenty. From Atul Kulkarni to Rahul Dev, these actors have set the audiences’ blood boiling with their sheer presence on south screens. And let’s admit it; we do love the bad boy charm! Move over to Aadhavan, and you’ll see Rahul Dev at his villainous best. Telugu films have also attracted actors like the talented Sayaji Shinde, who braved negative roles with enviable consistency. Though he did a character role in Super, Shinde is comfortable playing the bad guy. Have a dekko at Tagore, Veede, Gudumba Shankar or Nayudamma. As far as saving the best for last goes, the bold Tamil heartthrob, Vikram is also a part of the cross-directional shift. In the upcoming bilingual project spearheaded by Maniratnam, Vikram plays the hero and the villain! In the Tamil version, titled Ashokavanam Vikram plays the lead, while the Hindi version, Raavana would see him as the villain, with Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. Then there’s Aditya Pancholi, who is receiving rave reviews for his negative role in the average grosser, Striker. So where does this leave the audience? “In a better position,” is Sonu Sood’s take on the matter. Speaking to director Sekkhar Suri however, shows us another perspective. He feels that it is the requirement of the role alone that determines whether stars from up north are roped into south cinema. But even after the projector is dimmed, one fact holds good. Down south, we love our good guys; and our bad guys even more. Never mind where they’re from. Who is doing all the dhishoom dhishoom matters most!

“Today regional cinema is gaining ground, and it was a very realistic role that Gautham Menon gave me in Pachaikili Muthucharam. It subsequently got me Vithagan and Paiyya. I play a Hindi speaking gangster from Mumbai in Paiyya, while in Vithagan it is a gangster who rules the city sitting in Bangkok. For me the role is the most important, not my image or the length of the role. My image has not changed. Whatever I do people tend to believe that I’ m still a super model, though I have not done any modeling assignments for the last 15 years! The best part here is the payment!” - Milind Soman “The character could strike a chord with Tamil audiences, as there are many Tamil speaking north Indians in Chennai. I loved doing Tamil films as they are quick and fast.” - Akashdeep Saigal “The industries down south work creatively, investing a lot of time and effort in the stories. The roles here are well crafted and offer ample scope for exploring negative characters. The stories can appeal to even the common man sitting at a tea stall. To my mind, that’s good storytelling. After all, this (the south) has been my testing grounds, and I’ll keep coming back to it.” - Sonu Sood “At the core of any story lies conflict. As in real life, stories too are replete with obstacles, which often take the form of the good-evil conflict in films which becomes a metaphor of our inner struggles to come to terms with our goals and ambitions. The villain then becomes a projection of our desire to see the conflict on screen, in the south, in Hindi films or anywhere else” - Rahul Dev

“Keeping in mind the advancements in technique, language barriers too don’t matter. In a sense, no actor is alien to any industry so long as they can deliver.” - Shekhar Suri

52 southscopE Mar 2010


MuMbai exPreSS

PRIYANKA TO THE POW

ER OF INFI

54 southscopE Mar 2010

NITY! Photo courtesy: Levi’s

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Mar 2010 southscopE 55


Photo courtesy: Levi’s

/ irectors urite d o v fa r e you Who ar uth? han Lal, f the so e o r a s otty, Mo r h o s to m c o at a d m a , o am, M believe th y? If s ani Ratn e ay have aasan. I e poetr M th H it m l r in u a w t o m n y u a Do yo ikant, K st lines ce of tale n n ju ji a a r d m R n o O u . fr b m huge a f actors one poe e. ve of there is a re seeing a lot o Bollywood sometim m very protecti a in e d n a W penned rk a I . a south gam ally. But honing my skills th makin u d o o I do actu ll s o ti g n s w ’s do y! I’m ink it my poetr some when I th today. ted ! re e a e h s s d impac l to d wil rl o w g abroa e in ? th y r d ty li fo tu a s n enough How has g of your perso unded nitely ro apin eady fi h lr e s a d I e s e ? a th c g h in lo s me a d b a to n u ro e d o b ry e Do y has giv dying a l the ne . I am also ve e tu d fe S n the a ’t n o n onality life a d No. I d column ing platforms my pers pective about my regular rk s o a e I c e tw n re v e e e a h er pers social n k and Orkut wh ich influ h rg n w la o , e e v m acti boo und ter, Face eas. world aro everything. like Twit thoughts and id to h c a ro y thing app ou share m Seven y asculine m lm fi t e s o th d ut fin the m ore abo Did you What’s r? n of Tell us m ith Mohanlal. ven e s one so fa n your definitio a to d w d e g ie ’v r u in r o o o a y d d m e n e an ar you ays be n ld depe of a wom What made hat wou culine! I have alw T t fun, the idea ? trying ou iguing is mas e tr v t a in lo h es d w n n a me ? film sometim mboy out the r this film t have ff it of a to a o b th g is in s conside lly say much ab p g it thin m jum a l is that ho exciting boys! Fro rds to arm e I can’t re All I can revea w th l d ir re boa of a g w. even sca all! is t diving the life right no to do th ic heigh tty much done it ssion in e p s re m o g h ly ro c O p I l . re a s the p h d e is n v V a I’ b , n hus ings wrestling s g has seve se of three th ink of a hallengin c u a e c th e b d n ld you th wood? a u t o film p w ri c o s h W aj, the ple! on! But in Bolly Bharadw offered me. Sim ompetiti petition c m is o c ing e it veryon e worry role that r me e d ste tim o e a F job g w n y a ’t m r n r on a I do doing r frankly, our take anged o focus on ide! r y t r s s a t’ ju e a I b h it W at. dec about th e? Would audience marriag u. n of d let the o n ti a tu ll e ti o s w y in y outfit? ly love for believe in the arriage of a sex m a e v e ferab ly lo id g n r a I stro ual appy, pre ir of t’s you er it is id tr a s iv th h d d e W n h in a W . e y an sexy pa g short marriag is totall ere. Currently, omethin t with a S a d h e T g . n d a tch. Lots h re or arr ck or lassy wa r wrong have la c o I b t a h d ir! in d g n n a ri a s o -dried ha taires choice. N is my main focu ught. It is and blow eels, soli h s e o y r e th e e re r th my ca ge a firm iage for me. of kajal fo e n marria me to b ve marr w not give lo o n a k I e hops co b d C n me to y a a g y n ly n e ig t ti k P e w did most li r in des your p pen o e p s v H a t’ e h a li e h to b W t at an me? I’m a gre omething is me your na ns e? is w r hishek e that whe oth d by Ab te a re c l! il s it w of Bluff s wa ur gy Chop e shoot es of yo ig c th P n g ie since. r n e ri with me our exp han du Tamil. c y k h c in ll c e a a tu n c s B a s e h s a R iz I w it ha given m lm, Tham ster and shot for. d had ily have a d I m n M a fa debut fi s lm k fi d n n Pra ds a ess an e first My frien ames from PC to It was th new to the busin even how n k or ly many nic in between! complete t I needed to do et! I relied s ing ha w th lm a ry fi e e sses v a id e e o n on m nd actre ere done director to help actors a ? s lm d fi r things w a y k in Aw ly on m Do you th ning National n in our complete t. in io w g reli e deserve like a people find my fe rn to cinema talented to retu ’t t ry n e n to v a Is w e v r deserve We ha you eve ntry who ountry? u c I o c , Would ? p e a u th m ss mes n cine from acro ed. sting co souther g intere r it! nis in g o th c e re m o e e b If s onsid finitely c would de

56 southscopE Mar 2010


Around the world in 24 frames

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“Movie directors, or should I say people who create things, are very greedy and they can never be satisfied, That’s why they can keep on working. I’ve been able to work for so long because I think next time, I’ll make something good.”– Akira Kurosawa It starts with one man who goes against the grain of things. For Japanese director Akira Kurosawa too, life started on an off key. While on one hand you had people like Jean Luc Godard and a whole host of French and Italian filmmakers making films for the university educated elite, Kurosawa, in his own gentle way, begged to differ. While he borrowed heavily from the techniques of the classical Russian filmmakers like Eisentein and Pudovkin, Kurosawa was very clear about his stories. At the every core of his films, Kurosawa retained a degree of rawness and honesty that was masked in the works of his counterparts in the west. He was a filmmaker who paid more importance to the story rather than the subtext. And that’s where he shines as a visionary. Kurosawa weaved human relations, harsh everyday realities and restrained emotions in a neat package that was far removed from more “intellectual” filmmakers in Europe at the time. He preferred instead, the accessibility of western literature or American films by John Ford, unfailingly infused with a uniquely Japanese sensibility. Shakespeare and Russian authors like Dostoevsky shaped much of his films, melding into works of cinematic art that were epic in scale, yet warm enough to appeal to a large audience. And true enough, his grand stories retain a rustic aroma of the wilderness. Yet he never lost touch with the core of the film, the story that bound all the elements together. There was an unmistakably tender, poetic quality in his films. Consider the opening sequence of one of his best works, Rashomon. Heavy rain clouds dominate the monochromatic canvas. The rain is pitch black and sets up the tone of the events that would follow. Something has happened, and no one is sure of the exact details. The event is narrated by five different people, and we do not know who to trust. Thus begins a game of narrative hide and seek, which Kurosawa crafts to perfection. This was familiar terrain for the filmmaker - epic stories, everyday themes and characters that go beyond the settings of pre modern Japan. Kurosawa was forever panned by critics on the home front for being ‘too western’ in his sensibilities. It was however his cosmopolitan outlook that enabled Kurosawa to tap into a wider audience for his films. The spirit of the western, spliced with a healthy dose of Japanese history garnered global acclaim for Kurosawa’s films. And while we are speaking of his technique, let’s not forget that the Japanese filmmaker defied all cinematic conventions, resulting in a whole array of styles that many filmmakers across the globe later emulated. Kurosawa’s signature style was the use of the telephoto lens, which he believed was less intrusive for the actors. His camera was placed far away from the actual set, enabling a great deal of movement across the screen space. Kurosawa also pioneered the widespread use of multiple cameras, which resulted in a more sophisticated system of shooting and editing while it also enabled more natural acting. Incidentally, Kurosawa edited his films himself. After each day’s shoot, he would go to the cutting room and edit his footage. Kurosawa’s obsession with perfection often landed him in tiffs with his cast and crew. In the final scene of Throne of Blood, in which actor Mifune is shot by arrows, Kurosawa got real life archers to shoot at the actor, with the arrows missing Mifune’s body by centimeters. For Shakespeare’s King Lear, which Kurosawa adapted as Ran (1985), an entire castle set was constructed on the slopes of Mt Fuji, only to be burned to

the ground in the climax. It has been said that the director even demanded that a stream be made to run in the opposite direction for better visual effect. Kurosawa also ensured that his actors wore their designated costumes for weeks, even after the shoots were wrapped up. He took his obsession to a whole new level in Seven Samurai, where most of the cast portrayed poor farmers. The actors were told to keep wearing the clothes months in advance, so that the costumes were frayed and dirty by the time shooting started. The six-foot-something man literally dwarfed his contemporaries, while creating cinema with a degree of honesty yet unseen. And don’t call his films boring either! Kurosawa was hugely inspired by the dramatic conventions of Japanese Noh theatre. His action sequences were choreographed carefully and were replete with all the high drama that one expects in a John Woo movie. Indeed, Woo openly admitted to being indebted to Kurosawa for his growth as a filmmaker over the years. Move aside, Crouching Tiger, this is where it all started! Check out any film by Satyajit Ray and you’ll know where he derived certain stylistic elements from. Kurosawa was obsessed with kinetic shots of trains, a trait that was later picked up by Ray in some of his films. But then again, life never was easy for the struggling director, as he climbed the ropes of the film industry. Starting out as an assistant director, Kurosawa dabbled in virtually every aspect of film production, which was the norm in Japanese cinema back then. Among other things, he learned the intricacies of editing, set design, costume design and working with actors. Yet he didn’t lose focus from filmmaking. He turned heads with Rashomon, which bagged a prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. An academy award followed shortly after. His western-themed tale of Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven, with Yul Breinner and Steve McQueen. His influence on the west perhaps culminated in George Lucas’ epic space opera, Star Wars, the plot for which was inspired by Hidden Fortress. Following the lukewarm response to Red Beard, his first film in five years, Dodeska-den tanked. Frustrated with the inability to express himself fully, Kurosawa slashed his wrists! But the suicide bid was foiled and Kurosawa geared up to direct the Soviet-Japanese production, Dersu Uzala. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 and a gold medal at the Moscow Film Festival. In 1989 he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. At 72, Kurosawa was still very much a young passionate artist at heart. He had famously said, “Man is a genius when he is dreaming.” The dream to weave honest tales laced with compassion never withered. He kept chasing his celluloid desires, well into his advanced years. Kurosawa passed away in 1998. Mar 2010 southscopE 59


Pic: Manu

KaleiDOsCOPe

Pic: V Rajesh

Pic: Manu

Actress Ramya releasing a book written on the late actor Shankar Nag by journalist Ganesh Kasargod.

Members of the Akhila Karnataka Shivarajkumar Sena Samithi releasing the 2010 calendar featuring Shivarajkumar.

Pic: V Rajesh

The premiere of Jaggubhai was attended by superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. Suriya, Dhanush, Arjun, Prabhu, Vadivel, Silambarasan, Gautham Menon, Vivek, Trisha and Simran also walked the red carpet.

Actor Dhanush was the chief guest at the 3rd anniversary of Inox multiplex in Chennai. Director Radha Mohan, singer Anuradha Sriram and actor Roopa were also present.

60 southscopE Mar 2010

Pic: V Rajesh

Pic: V Rajesh

The Tamil film industry’s Pasa Thalaivar Parattu Vizha acknowledging the Chief Minister’s largesse to the film industry. The event was graced by the CM, Kanimozhi, Stalin, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan and Sharath Kumar.

The stars let their hair down and partied hard at Silambarasan’s big birthday bash at Taj Fisherman’s Cove, Chennai.


Good Ajith’s 49th film at two hours and five minutes is racy with a wafer thin story line. Asal might as well have been called Billa-2, as whatever Ajith did in the Vishnuvardhan film is replicated with more style and élan.

n

Antony’s editing commendable.

n

is

slick

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TAMIL

and

It’s got a rich glossy look with a stylish hero dressed smartly in designer outfits and is set in exotic locations.

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Technically, the movie is a visual treat. Prashant D’Misale’s camera work, sets by Prabhakar and stunt choreography by William Ong and Kanal Kannan are outstanding.

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The film belongs to Ajith. He is icy cool and plays the role of Shiva and his father Jeevanandam with subtly simmering charm.

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Both the girls Sameera and Bhavana add enough of the glam quotient.

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Could have been better... Don’t look for logic or reason, since this one seems to be only a stylish entertainer.

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The film starts with a bang, is interesting in the first half but doesn’t unfold quickly.

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With a huge star cast and perfect settings, one would expect fireworks. What we do get instead are intriguing situations and a predictable climax.

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asal Cast : Ajith Kumar, Sameera Reddy, Bhavana, Sampath, Kelly Dorjee, Pradeep Rawat Direction : Saran Music

: Bharadwaj

Picture courtesy : Sanjay Kishore & B A Raju

The music and background score is a letdown. Songs at regular intervals are speed breakers.

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Yugi Sethu as a dim wit don along with his side kicks fails to evoke any humour.

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Despite all the energy, the film falls flat due to lack of proper story and narration.

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- Sridevi Sreedhar Mar 2010 SOUTHSCOPE 61


bioscope

TAMIL

Theeradha Vilayattu Pillai Cast: Vishal, Neetu Chandra, Tanushree Dutta, Sarah Jane, Santhanam Director: Thiru Music: Yuvan Shankar Raja

Good The content is good and the production values are high. The film is a visual treat.

n

Aravind Krishna’s camerawork is good and so is T S Suresh’s editing. Thiru’s dialogue sparkles with wit and humour.

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Santhanam is a scream and his one-liners and antics with Satyan and Mayilsami are amazing and hold the film together in the first half.

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Mouli and Sudha as Vishal’s parents lend a unique touch to their respective roles.

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Could have been better... The film which promised to be a rollicking fun-entertainer falls flat in the second half.

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At two hours and 50 minutes, it is too lengthy and truly tests your patience.

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Yuvan’s music fails to impress and is heavily borrowed from his own earlier hits.

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Vishal earnestly struggles to shed his action-hero image, without much success. He imitates Suriya in body language and dialogue delivery.

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The script has been compromised at every turn, to accommodate Vishal’s star status.

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All the three heroines fail to impress. Among them, Neetu Chandra is just ok while Sarah Jane is a big let down as she looks wooden throughout and her lip sync is pathetic. Tanusree Dutta is not heroine material.

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Prakash Raj is made to play the usual loud dhoti-clad don and brother of the heroine all over again.

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-Sridevi Sreedhar 62 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


bioscope

malaYalam

AAGAthAn Cast

: Dileep, Sathyaraj, Zarina Wahab, Charmme

Director : Kamal Music

: Ouseppachan

Good n

n

n

n

n

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With a duration of less than two hours, the story moves at a brisk pace and is interesting in the first half. The music is pleasing and the songs are picturised beautifully. charmme looks pretty and Satyaraj who plays the character of a retired army man, with negative shades is a revelation. Saikumar’s dubbing suits him. it is an enjoyable watch for the sheer charm of its two leads - Dileep and charmme. ajayan Vincent’s mesmerising visuals truly stand out. The film looks upbeat, fresh and the locales are breathtakingly beautiful. if you don’t care about the holes in the script and decide to go with the flow, then it’s a pleasure to watch Aagathan.

could have been better... n

n

n

n

n

it starts on a promising note but loses grip in the second half. it has all the ingredients of an enjoyable movie, but they don’t come together as a perfect blend. The narrative goes forward in a predictable way and the climax is messed up. Dileep’s character, which promises to be different initially, becomes boring aſter a while due to a poor script. The backdrop of the story has traces of inspiration from Vidhu Vinod chopra’s Mission Kashmir. could have been more original.

-Sridevi Sreedhar Mar 2010 southscopE 63


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bollywood brouhaha

Sada the famous southern actor who is making her Bollywood debut in Sangeeth Sivan’s horror flick, Click is one hard working girl. We hear, Sada initially would take all the pains of having her Telugu film dialogues translated into English before the take. This normally does not happen with most other actors in Bollywood. But Sada is a bit of a perfectionist who needs to understand the words that she’s speaking to be able to emote accordingly. A lot of people would ask her why she puts in so much effort into getting the words right when a lot of girls doing other language films don’t bother so much. But Sada feels she would be less than honest if she didn’t put in the extra work. Besides, isn’t it easier to sync sound later if the lip movement is perfect? Now though, Sada has learnt Tamil and Telugu so it won’t be too much of a trouble. Some professionalism that is, we say.

Sada’s lips don’t lie!

Sharman’s 3 adorable idiots!

The last six months have been very good for Sharman Joshi. First, he turned papa all over again of twin boys (Rehan and Varryan) this time. Then 3 Idiots came along. One question everyone has been asking him is if his sons have been the harbinger of good luck for his success with 3 Idiots. But Sharman is clear that his destiny is different from theirs. And these (destinies) he is sure don’t get mixed up! For those of you who didn’t know, Sharman was first blessed with a daughter, Khyana who is now four and the twins will soon turn seven months. We hear the proud papa loves his daughter more than his sons, since she made him experience fatherhood the first time. “She is special and my sons will have to live with that!” he gushes. Someone asked him if he’s looking to have more kids. To this Sharman almost balked and said his home is quite a houseful and a noisy one too, what with his daughter constantly bullying her brothers! Cute…

No linkups, no hang ups 64 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010

Shreyas Talpade is among the very few Bollywood actors who has never been linked with any of his co-stars. “I can’t help it if most of them look at me as a brother!” he shrugs. On a more serous note, he is clear that he doesn’t want anything distracting him from work. Besides, he’s too much in love with his wife, Deepti to fool around. Shreyas is known to be good buddies with all his costars – Amrita Rao, Minisha Lamba and Celina Jaitley in particular. He even keeps pulling pranks on her. They often hang out at his pad along with his wife and two dogs. His clinical psychologist wife is friendlier with his female co-stars than he is. This kind of trust really keeps him going, we are told. Nice to know!


bollywood brouhaha

Katrina’s wild side Katrina Kaif seems to have a thing for all things wild (yes, Salman Khan included). She recently took to a leopard cub that was rescued by forest authorities in Bhopal. When she heard that the cat was named after her, she made enquires and found the cub – a rather cute little chubby kinda thing. She is apparently planning to adopt the cub and take care of its welfare. A case of Katrina calling Katrina?

When Salman turned Sikh

Neetu’s fear factor

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It’s sometimes really difficult to distinguish between actors in real life and reel life. Here’s what happened with Neetu Chandra: One of her film crew assistants from her latest release, Apartment would stay away from her out of pure fear! She plays a psychotic killer in this Jagmohan Mundra film. Possibly Neetu’s performance was so realistic that the girl from the film crew, who normally would chat with up with her suddenly started keeping a distance. Finally, Neetu had to call her one day and find out what the matter was. The girl admitted to feeling freaked out by Neetu’s character. It had Neetu in splits for a good ten minutes. It was only after much reassurance from Neetu that the girl finally started to relax around her. Since then, Neetu’s been constantly teasing this girl about it but reassured her that she didn’t have to be on the floors when Neetu’s part was being shot. Guess the movie must be real scary. Let’s find out.

For many, Salman Khan is a baddy. But let us tell you about this. He does respect other people’s cultural and religious sensibilities. According to a source, recently when Salman was shooting in Chandigarh, he wanted to catch a quick smoke. But he preferred not to since he was still in costume, dressed as a Sikh. The religious edicts of Sikhs prohibit smoking. Our source adds that Sallu could have easily smoked since he was sitting in the vanity van away from public and the press. But he chose not to. Kya ‘veer’ hai? Mar 2010 SOUTHSCOPE 65


hollywood hullabaloo

Christina’s dogged affair

Soon-to-be-mom Christina Milian has a whole lotta canine drama to deal with before she heads anywhere near the maternity ward. The singer’s aged neighbour is suing her after he was brutally attacked by Milian’s dog in 2008. It seems the pup attacked when the old man went to Christina’s home to talk to her. Apparently the dog escaped and bit a “huge chunk” off the neighbor’s arm which lead to 19 stitches and nine months of rehabilitation. The old timer claimed to be under medicinal treatment for fear and depression. Dunno what happened to the dog though…

Posh indeed Posh Victoria Beckham is freaked out about her public appearance! It so happens that when she first moved to Los Angeles, she would spend two hours getting ready to take her kids to school. The singer-turned-fashion designer and now mom of three apparently follows an elaborate grooming routine that stretches on for hours. It seems Posh has been obsessed about looking her best, even while performing everyday chores in Los Angeles. Quite the namesake, we’d say!

The buck stops at Anna Fresh government files reveal the kind of money troubles the fiery Anna Nicole Smith was in at the height of her notoriety. The charges range from millions in missing jewels, to unpaid utility bills. The files detail her 1996 plea for bankruptcy, and by the looks of it, it seems Anna had no understanding of her financial woes. Assets noted in her file include a necklace with a 500-carat sapphire and a $12,000 doll collection. A safety deposit box at a New York bank held nearly $1 million in jewelry, but also a bottle of her perfume and a copy of her calendar. Anna died of an accidental overdose of at least nine medications in February 2007 at a hotel in Florida. Sure was a tight mess she got tangled up in. 66 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


hollywood hullabaloo

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KYLie’s Not aussie

Turns out Aussie songstresses Kylie and Dannii Minogue have their roots in Britain! The pop sisters’ family history has been unearthed, revealing their mom, Carol was a Briton who emigrated down under in 1955 in search of a new life. The sisters discovered this from old emigration records. The stars’ mother was born in Wales, but moved to Australia when she was 12 years old. Carol married Kylie and Dannii’s father, Ron Minogue, before settling in Melbourne, where they still live. Looks like there’s more Brit than meets the eye with these swinging siblings!

KATY’S A PORN ADDICT! Didja know that pop diva Katy Perry is a porn addict? It seems her love for all things porn is playing havoc with the recording of her new album. The singer is apparently too busy with erotica to mind the business side of her recording sessions. Katy is also seen wasting songwriting time for x-rated internet sites. Her record producer, Lukasz Gottwald is of course, not too happy with her new obsession. Lukasz sent Perry a warning on Twitter, saying that unless she finished her job for they day, Katy would have to spend nights over at the studio. How she mixes pleasure with business, hmm.

SieNNA iS ‘LAw’fuLLY iN Love It sounds as if Jude Law and beau Sienna Miller are moving their relationship a notch higher. They are planning to move together, having already shifted a large chunk of their furniture in London. The couple earlier called off their engagement after Jude cheated on her with his children’s nanny. Though now he’s evidently made up with her while working on Broadway. A great deal of begging and pleading later, Sienna finally let her estranged man back on track. Sienna has already moved most of her stuff into Jude’s place, which is very close by. Living together just might seal the deal for this on-and-off (and on again) couple. What say?

Mar 2010 southscopE 67


Yen idhayam udaithai, norungavae? En maru idhayam, tharuvaen nee udaikavae! Ohhh ... Hosanna ... Hosanna ... Oh ho ho… Ohhh ... Hosanna ... Hosanna ... Oh ho ho… Antha neram andhi neram kan paarthu kanthalaagi pona neram edho aache... Oh vaanam theendi vanthaachu appavin thittu ellaam kaatrodu poye poche... Hosanna ... En vaasal thaandi ponaale ... Hosanna ... Verondrum seyyamale … Naan aadi pogiraen… Sukkoonooraagiraen ... Aval pona pinbu enthan nenjai thedi pogiraen... Hosanna... Vaazhvukkum pakkam vanthaen... Hosanna... Saavukkum pakkam nindraen... Hosanna... En endraal kaathal enbaen... Hosannah... Oh ho... Everybody wanna know how I feel like, feel like, I really wanna be here with you It’s not enough to say that we are made for each other its love that is Hosanna true Hosanna, will be there when you’re calling out my name Hosanna, feeling like my whole life has changed I never wanna be the same, its time we rearrange I take a step, you take a step and I’m here calling out to

you... Hello, Hallo, Hallo … Hosanna... Hosanna... Oh ho ho ho... Hosanna... Oh ho ho ho... Vanna vanna pattupoochi poothedi poothedi angum ingum alaigindrathey Oh sottu sottai thottu poga megam ondru megam ondru yengu yengo nagargindrathey Hosanna… Pattupoochi vanthachaa? Hosanna … Megam unnai thottaachaa Kilinjal aagirai naan kulanthai aagirean Naan unnai alli kaiyil vaithu pothi kolgirean Hello, Hallo, Hallo... Yooo ... Hosanna... Hosanna … En meethu anbu kola Hosanna … Ennodu serndhu sella Hosanna… Umm endru sollu podhum Hosanna, oh ho Yen idhayam udaithai, norungavae? En maru idhayam, tharuvaen nee udaikavae! Yen idhayam udaithai, norungavae? En maru idhayam, tharuvaen nee udaikavae! Naetru unnai paarthaene, paartha pinnae endhan kangal Unnizhalil otti chella Kangal thaedi kangal thaedi saalai ellaam selai thaedi Kandukondaen kaadhal kolla En anbe, Meendum ennai vittu odi Kannaamoochi, Vaendumendre neeyum aadi Irandhaen oar nodi, Pirappaen Naanadi Un mellidhazhil millimeter punnagai kasindhaalae Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello… Hosanna, Kaagidhamaai maarinaene Hosanna, Kaaladiyil kasangi naane Unnalae, Kaagidhappo pookkaadho… Hosanna…

Film : Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya Singers : Vijay Prakash, Blaaze Music : A R Rahman

68 SOUTHSCOPE Mar 2010


SCREENTEST

Photographer: Jayanth Janagan

Vedica

Her passion for cinema began ever since she started modelling fours years ago. She has walked the ramp for Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Wendell Rodricks and Asmita Marwa among others. She stood second in the Kingfisher Model Hunt’2006 and runner up in Sunsilk Miss India 2007. Vedica loves giving modelling lessons and enjoys watching movies in her free time.

Southscope invites aspiring actors to send in their portfolio pictures to vrinda@southscope.in

Mar 2010 SOUTHSCOPE 69


Looking

BAC K Pavithra Srinivasan goes down memory lane and comes away amazed with the power packed revolutionary feminist Tamil film, Mandhiri Kumari. This one’s a woman’s day special!

Movie: Mandhiri Kumari Director: Ellis R Dungan

Producer: t R sundaram, Modern theatres Story: Manivannan Music: G Ramanathan Cinematographer : K G Vijayan

70 southscopE Mar 2010

Cast: m g ramachandran s a natrajan m n nambiar g shakuntala madhuri devi


The sixties and seventies unleashed in Tamil cinema, a band of heroines who were pliant in the extreme: they had very little education (unless they were to be portrayed as stubborn, headstrong women who needed to be “cured”), were invariably trained to be efficient homemakers who mastered the arts of infant care and domestic management. And yes, they were taught to obey the men of the family, no matter how adversely that affected their present and future. That was the hallmark of the ‘perfect woman’ - a non-existent entity who could only redeem herself by endless service and sacrifice. Rare indeed was the woman who was portrayed as a strong, fearless person, capable of making her own decisions, with strong individuality and even stronger values. But Tamil cinema did produce women who lived up to this image too, and not just as rehashed Ranis of Jhansi, but characters with a solid role to play. Among the foremost of these was Mandhiri Kumari (The Minister’s Daughter), that practically revolutionised Tamil cinema in 1950, with its unique characterisations, sharp screenplay and searing dialogues that set the screens on fire. The film rebelled against established conventions in many ways. The story is set in the fictional Mullai Nadu. Its king prefers to confer his kingdom on his courageous general, Veera Mohan (M G Ramachandran) rather than his next of kin. Naturally, this decision has its detractors: the Raja Guru’s (M N Nambiar) son, Parthiban (S A Natarajan) who has designs on the kingdom himself. To this end, he decides that he’ll wed Mullai Nadu’s princess, Jeevarekha (G Sakunthala) by wooing her in earnest and sends her a note to meet him at midnight. And this is where fate plays a hand. The note doesn’t reach the princess – who’s already in love with Veera Mohan – but goes instead to Amudhavalli (Madhuri Devi), the minister’s daughter, and Jeevarekha’s dear friend. From hereon, the story focuses almost exclusively on the Raja Guru’s son, and the minister’s daughter. Parthiban might be a pious man by daylight, but he’s an unscrupulous dacoit by night and his dialogues, penned by the fiery M Karunanidhi, set the audience gasping in awe. Asked about why he’s a bandit, he replies that it’s an art! “But how is it an art?” queries the Raja Guru, shocked.

“If archery, even though it kills, is an art, as well as painting in the nude, which could normally be seen as obscene – then why not stealing?” For all his bravado, though, he’s caught by Veera Mohan and produced in the royal court, awaiting the judgement of the Goddess. This is where Amudhavalli, deciding that her future lies firmly with her lover, takes a hand. Well aware that Parthiban will never escape the clutches of law, she hides behind the Goddess’s image, pronouncing that he’s innocent, and gets him free. Needless to say, Parthiban plots elaborately to kill the king and marry the princess, but Amudhavalli stands in the way. The incredibly popular Vaarai, Nee Vaarai sung by Parthiban as he entices Amudhavalli to a cliff-top, presumably to show the beautiful view (as part of their impromptu honeymoon), is the high-point of the story, especially as Parthiban plans to push her to death. But then, Amudhavalli once again defies fate. And in one incredibly audacious, yet steely move that’s a demonstration of her mental strength, values and presence of mind, pushes him off the cliff instead! In a time when women were generally expected to submit meekly if their husbands so much as doubted them, this move, defying every societal edict was seen as daring – and though very controversial – welcomed. Yes, Amudhavalli later becomes a Buddhist nun to pay for her ‘sins,’ but the point was, she’d been proactive instead of waiting for divine intervention. And therein lay her salvation. Both S A Natarajan and Madhuri Devi, well aware of the scope of their characters, gave their very best. The scene where Madhuri finally figures her husband’s ploy, and decides to turn the tables on him, is a particularly impressive one. Mandhiri Kumari became a cult classic for many reasons - its spitfire dialogues, soothing melodies and innovative plot that focussed on well rounded characters rather than the heroes. But its chief callingcard was that it showed a woman as an independent entity, capable of knowing her own mind, and acting on it when required.

Mar 2010 southscopE 71


LEAVES OUT OF MY BOOK >> Suhasini Maniratnam

Beginning this month, actor extraordinaire Suhasini Maniratnam turns columnist to share her personal diary exclusively with Southscope readers.

IT IS MY WORLD NOW With Slumdog Millionaire sweeping all awards in the West, Indian films are in focus internationally. But we have to understand that India is always considered as exotica and something of a mystical land. Anything produced here, has to have that exotic quality. And they will appreciate things as long as they do not compete with the western genre of films. Slumdog is not like a western film. As genres go, it hardly fits that bill! So they let it go. Yet the film winning so many awards could scare them a little. It is something similar to the difference between north Indian and south Indian films. In the 60s and 70s, the Mumbai film industry was least bit threatened by southern films. They considered southern films to be loud and melodramatic. There were no exchanges between the north and the south in terms of cinematographers, art directors, musicians and the like. But today top directors, cinematographers, art directors and music directors in Hindi cinema come from the south and it is impossible to ignore people like AR Rahman, Sabu Syril, Ravi K Chandran, Manikandan, Santhosh Sivan, Prabhu Deva, Ram Gopal Varma, Priyadarshan, Mani Ratnam….. The list is getting long.

But how do foreigners see Indian movies? You will be surprised to know that a forty plus French woman weeps and cries watching Indian films at the Cannes Film Festival. People are the same everywhere, emotions are the same. But when I did watch a few Tamil films with a Western audience in Toronto, I couldn’t help noticing how certain formula scenes evoke strangely opposite reactions. The fight and song scene from Thevar Magan where Kamal dances and sings Chaandu pottu they laughed mockingly. Even the reunion scene on the bridge between Madhu and Arvind Swami in Roja. That is when we realise that Indian films do have clichés. Sometimes when you look at them like that, we do feel a bit foolish. Yet Indian sense of emotions and actors are adored in unexpected quarters. In Russia, Raj Kapoor was considered God. Guess who was the next idol? Mithun Chakravarthy! They loved him in the Disco Dancer as the Japanese loved Rajnikanth in Muthu. I remember going to Egypt and as we (a whole bunch of us) were getting down from our tour bus a young Egyptian wanted to know if we were Amitabh Bachchan’s sisters. The group decided to name me as the big B’s sister as I was the only one who had at least had a cup of coffee with him. And so all of us --Amitabh Bachchan’s sisters from India-- were given royal treatment then on. Slumdog Millionaire has done what a lot of other cross over films could not. Films such as Bride and Prejudice, Namesake are thought about but of all of them only Bend It Like Beckham was very very successful. But it is not as well made as Slumdog nor does it have the intensity of Slumdog. I would say thus Indian cinema has come of age with Slumdog. With a foreigner’s point of view; or an Indian’s young music track; or with an Indian bureaucrat’s story; or with the Indian ensemble cast; or with the harsh locales of Mumbai; or with the young spirit of India, Indian cinema has reached the West and has hoisted its flag. It is up to our wonderful writers and filmmakers to continue this trend and make Indian cinema something to sit up and take notice. Keep the Indian flag flying high, so to say. Especially when it comes to cinemas of the world! Adios, Suhasini Maniratnam

72 southscopE Mar 2010


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South Scope March 2010 Issue Side - B  

South Scope March 2010 Issue Side - B with Rahman Cover