The Hindu
[ November 30 , -0001]
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   Change of image 
                                                     - SREEDHAR PILLAI

Navya Nair has struck gold in Tamil. With three films ready for release, the talented actor is all set to go places.  

     Navya Nair with the girl-next-door image is one of the leading ladies in Malayalam films who took a strategic decision last year to try out Tamil films. The award-winning actor was just testing the waters, but it seemed to have paid off handsomely.

     Her debut film in Tamil, `Azhagiya Theeye' gave her recognition as an actor of substance followed by `Chidambarathil Oru Appasamy' for which she got rave reviews for her performance.

     Now she has three films ready for release in Tamil and the first of the lot is `Pasakilikal' written by DMK leader and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, releasing on Pongal Day (January 15). The story reportedly revolves around Navya and she is all excited about the film. After a hectic schedule and dubbing for T.V. Chandran's new Tamil film `Aadum Koothu,' Navya took a break to dwell upon her career. Excerpts


You seem to be busy in Tamil these days. Have you left Malayalam films?

     I am getting good offers in Tamil from reputed directors with good subjects and enough scope for me to perform. Today, only good scripts excite me and not the language. There used to be a time when I was adamant about sticking to Malayalam films and most of my well-wishers also advised me not to do Tamil films. But sadly the result was disappointing as I got roles that were neither challenging nor satisfying.

    Then, I got this offer from actor-producer Prakash Raj to be the heroine in his `Azhagiya Theeye' with new faces, which gave me a lot of confidence.

    It was my stepping stone to Tamil films. But I have not left Malayalam films. I am doing `Saira' written and directed by debutant Biju Kumar. It is a female-oriented film in which I play the title role of a bold news correspondent of a television channel. And in `Kadalpole' I am paired with Sunil.

In Tamil films you have the image of a serious actress. Please comment.
    I am very happy to know that. And let me tell you that this image suits me well as there are enough girls to be glamorous. After `Azhagiya Theeye' I did `Chidambarathil Oru Appasamy,' the Tamil remake of Sreeni chettan's critically acclaimed `Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala.'

    Initially, I was hesitant to do a role that was made memorable by another actor, but took it up as a challenge. I have not seen the film so far but I am relieved after reading all the rave reviews about my performance. And all the three films that I have completed are not the typical run-of-the-mill commercials but slightly off-beat.

There is a lot of hype about `Pasakilikal' releasing for Pongal..

    Yes... the film has grabbed a lot of attention as it has story, screenplay, dialogues and lyrics written by M. Karunanidhi sir. My character is the pivot around which the story revolves. Prabhu and Murali (Tamil heroes) play my brothers who are very possessive about me and it is an emotional drama.

But there is criticism that you have also turned glamorous in the film.

   (Laughs) A still of me in a pavadai taking a dip in a river was splashed in Tamil magazines and they wrote that `Navya has turned glamorous.' Let me tell you that it is one of the scenes in my introductory song in `Pasakilikal' and there is nothing vulgar about it. I know my limitations and as a heroine I am committed to my job.

Tell us about T.V. Chandran's Tamil film `Aadum Koothu,' in which you have an amazing role?

   I consider myself lucky and blessed to be a part of Chandrettan's `Aadum Koothu,' which has been completed. I worked very hard for this period film in which I play Manimeghala, a girl who gets intuitions and sees crimes before they really happen. I worked with great actors like Cheran, Prakash Raj and Manorama. Madhu Ambat is the cameraman and the film was shot in Kuttralam and Tenkasi.

What are your plans?

    I am 20 now and I plan to be around for another four to five years. I am a very relaxed person with no tensions. I hope to complete my graduation in English Literature this year. Though I have done about 25 films, my role in `Nandanam' will remain close to my heart and I consider myself blessed to have done that role as Guruvayoorappan is my favourite deity. I will continue to do Malayalam and Tamil films depending on the script.

Your next releases?

   `Pasakilikal' is releasing for Pongal. `Amirtham,' again an off-beat film, in which I play an Iyengar girl who is a classical singer and is directed by Kannan and `Aadum Koothu' is complete. I will be doing a new film to be directed and produced by Cheran. I am getting a few good offers from Telugu, but I want to establish myself in Tamil first.


   Reflection of society 
                                                     -VIJAY GEORGE

`Achanurangatha Veedu' takes a hard look at some of the ills that are plaguing society.

     A modest little house in the midst of tea plantations in mist-clad Peerumedu gives an inkling of the melancholy in the minds of the residents."Welcome to `Achanurangatha Veedu,"' smiles director Lal Jose, as he opens the door of the house. The shooting of the movie is going on there.Salim Kumar, who has made his mark as a comedian, appears in an entirely different avatar - as the protagonist, Samuel, an employee of the Irrigation Department who is on the verge of retirement.

"Although Samuel is a Christian, he was never really included in the fold by certain sections in the community as he was a recent convert. His wife had died earlier and he had pinned all his hopes on his three daughters. His eldest daughter, Treesa (Suja Karthika), is married to a driver. Harisree Asokan enacts the role of the drunkard driver, Johnykutty. Samuel's second daughter Sherly (Samvritha Sunil) is in love with her cousin. However, as Christians frown upon marriage between first cousins, things take a tragic turn. Samuel wants his youngest daughter, Lisamma (debutant Muktha) to be a doctor. But the Plus Two student does not return home in the evening. The issues that ensue is the focus of the story," says Lal Jose.



.Showing reality

   Babu Janardhanan, the scriptwriter, agrees that the film is "influenced by some serious happenings that we witness around us in society. While sensationalising those issues, we never spare a thought to how all these will affect those involved in the tragic events. The film attempts just that." Salimkumar feels that Samuel's apathetic attitude reflect those of many people we see around us.

   One of the songs in the film has been in the news and speculations are rife whether it shows some sections in a poor light. Lal Jose is quick to dismiss such rumours.
"We have dealt with some highly realistic subjects, but our attempt is genuine and will not hurt anyone," says he. Lal Jose believes that films should never preach, "But this film definitely is a wake-up call for society."

    When the whole industry was vying to work with him after the whopping success of `Chanthupottu,' why did he decide to go ahead with this film?
"We have been thinking about this film for sometime now. It was the success of `Chanthupottu' that gave me the courage to take up a realistic film."


    Muktha Elsa George is thrilled by the whole experience. The Class Eight student from Kothamangalam says, ""I wish to pursue acting if I get the right kind of homely roles." The film also stars Murali, Prithviraj, Indrajit and Madhu Warrier."Though my character only lasts for a couple of scenes in the film, I am really excited to be a part of such a venture," says Prithviraj.

`  Achanurangatha Veedu' is being produced under the banner of Griha Mithra productions. Lyrics are by Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma and music by Alex Paul. Manoj Pillai, who belongs to the Santosh Sivan school, wields the camera. The film is slated to hit the theatres in the second week of January.




   Forgetting the family bond?


'Tanmathra' shows the strength of family support in the wake of an adversity that strikes the unit. PREMA MANMADHAN says it's time for such realistic cinema along with fantasy

    .The general lament that values are being diluted and the nuclear family is getting more and more self centred in Kaliyug will remain a lament minus action if nothing is done, howsoever small, to arrest the trend. It is not enough for people to wait till they reach their golden years to sit on judgement on a society that they helped shape. People have to act and in any which way you please, to address any situation. `Tanmathra' tackles this malaise in aesthetic mode.

      When the subject matter of cinema has travelled from the sublime to the ridiculous and the middle path is getting overgrown with weeds, here is a movie that is both for the masses and the connoisseurs. The news is that `Tanmathra' has story, content, technical finesse, values, great histrionic moments and emotion. It's a reflection of life, besides.
"The number of old age homes is increasing and children forget the sacrifices that parents make for them, when they grow up. This trend is catching on and selfishness is widespread. Changes in lifestyle first affect the city and then percolate to the rural areas. That is why my story is based in a city. The middle class is most affected by such changes. Their dreams are often trampled upon, but how they overcome adversities by sticking together as a family is the core theme of the movie," says Blessy, the director, whose oeuvre consists of just two films, `Kazhcha' and `Tanmathra'

Present ills

    Many of the present ills that society faces spring from a disintegration of family values, he believes. Consumerism and one-upmanship have robbed many of positive feelings and money bulldozes finer sentiments like plain kindness and empathy into empty jargon, christened `senti' in topical parlance. People steer clear of realistic movies for fear of facing realistic situations from which they willfully run away. Slowly, finer sentiments move away from tyhem, mostly urbanites. `Tanmathra' is an attempt to rejuvenate those finer sentiments, says Blessy.

he script is tight. "I took three months to write the script, though I have been doing research for 10 years on it, from the time I toyed with the idea of making a movie with Alzheimer's Disease, after reading Padmarajan's `Orma'. When I write the script, I do it at one go. Fortunately, I have not had to redraft it, for both my movies," Blessy revealed.
     Alzheimer's is a disease that scares all the generations and that it can strike anyone is particularly disturbing. Blessy has linked awareness of this disease with how it can be dealt with, provided there is family support as in `Tanmathra'. The commonest symptoms that strike are woven into the story deftly.

    The casting of the movie is a story by itself. Mohanlal in the lead is once again an actor who has shed the super star tag. Last week, his first movie, `Manjil Virinja Pookkal', was screened on the small screen. His last movie, 25 years later, `Thanmatra', also a Christmas release, shows the evolution of the actor. In `Manjil Virinja Pookkal', Mohanlal, as the villain, hardly out of his teens, made sure he stood out, albeit in villainy. His body language and his very presence, showed his determination to make it good in the field. In `Thanmatra', his body language is that of a Secretariat employee. The intensity of the actor remains the same in both movies, but the experience of 25 years shows in the natural actor, with even a slight movement of the facial muscles contributing to making the Alzheimer's patient a real natural.

      Meera Vasudevan as the leading lady, is just 23 and this is her maiden Malayalam film. "Imagine, I had to play mother to an 18-year-old boy. It was a deglamourised role and I knew it was risky, but when I heard the story, I said yes, because I knew it was a role of a lifetime," says the Mumbai based actor who is an Iyengar and has acted in the Bollywood movie, `Rules' and two Tamil films too. "I had to put on 15 kg to suit the role. When Director Blessy saw me, I had my hair-streaked blonde and was wearing a sari as directed by him. I just cannot understand how he cast me. But he had the foresight and look how the movie has turned out," says Meera, now shooting for a Tamil movie, after shedding those kilos, of course. A graduate in Psychology and English, she says the film was a learning experience as the combination scenes with Mohanlal warranted equally intense acting and she was happy to be able to do it according to the director's expectations. The shooting of the movie was a roller coaster ride, she says. "I am actually a confident and extrovert person, quite the opposite of my role. And my name is Meera Vasudevan. I don't know why many refer to me as Vasudev," she complains.

     "For the role of the boy, Manu, we put out an ad and over 1,000 applied. I did not find any one suitable. We did the same in Dubai and Arjun was selected," says Blessy. It is certainly a plum role and Arjun, a Std XII boy, whose parents are from Chalakkudy, simply stands out. Though the bearded IAS aspirant he portrays in the last few scenes belies his age, he carries the big role with élan and shows the kind of promise his father in the movie showed in his first film. 

      Some of the frames in `Tanmathra', cinematographed by Sethu Sriram, like the empty house when they move and intimate scenes are not on trodden path. They jell with the story's mood. 

      Talking of moods, the same mood does make boring souls of people. Just as life will get monotonous and health decline if you eat chicken and chicken for every meal, entertainment too must be balanced for a healthy cine viewer.

      That is why producers going behind trends sometimes bite the dust. We need the slapstick as well as the realistic to cater to our different moods, to really make the world tick. Balanced entertainment demands movies whose subjects range from comedy to the serious. A `Tanmathra' feeds the soul, while a `Rajamanikyam' tickles the funny bone.

Why were those scenes cut, asks Mohanlal

     "A few intimate bedroom scenes that very academically point out the helplessness and pain that an Alzheimer's Disease patient and family go through have been scissored in the prints that are screened in theatres. I do not know why, but I thought Kerala audiences are educated and aware enough to understand those scenes in the right perspective," says Mohanlal. The character of Rameshan that he essays is one of his best to date.

    "In one of those shots in the bedroom, Rameshan forgets even `the act' and drifts away from his wife Lekha, distracted by a lizard on a wall. That is a very traumatic situation, both for the man and the woman," he continues, on the scenes that do not figure in the movie. 

     The pain and passion of being a middle class Government employee who wants his son to be an IAS officer and then the family's plight after Alzheimer's overpowers him are emotions few actors can take on confidently. "The team was good. That is why it has come out well," he insists. The chemistry between the leading lady and man and the family certainly worked, on screen. 


Hope of a revival for Malayalam film industry                                        -

Return of popular banners that gifted memorable movies for the audience will be one of the major highlights of the Malayalam industry in 2006. After keeping away from the industry for various reasons, veteran producers and distributors are making a comeback thanks to the buoyant mood prevailing in the industry.

If Blessy's Thanmatra brought Century back into action, Sheelabathi paved way for the return of P.K.R.Pillai of Shirdisai films that made chartbusters including Priyardarsan's Chitram. Liberty films is returning with I.V.Sasi's Balram versus Taradas in which Mammootty plays the double role of a police officer and an underworld don. Other big and small banners are also getting ready to announce their new ventures.

From severe financial loss at the box office to the waning quality of films in general, producers of yesteryears had taken a break from the industry for various reasons. Some had to quit the scene after their big budget films failed to click at the box office.

Producers like Raju Mathew of Century took a break after realising that the industry was going behind movies different from what they were making in the golden times. "We were actually waiting for a good script," says Mr. Mathew, who returned with Thanmatra after a seven year break. Century had made popular movies such as Aalkootathil Thaniye, Aakashadooth and Santhwanam besides distributing several other films. Mr. Mathew says that he will think of the next project based on Thanmatra's performance at the box-office. "The film had been well received by the audience giving us the encouragement to think of producing more family-oriented movies," he adds.

Producer-distributor P.K.R. Pillai announced his return by undertaking the distribution of Sarath's Sheelabathi. The producer of one of the highest grosser (Chitram, starring Mohanlal, Nedumudi Venu and Ranjini) in the industry, Mr. Pillai left the scene after suffering huge loss in films that he made and distributed after Chitram. But the story of Sheelabathi inspired him to make a comeback. Boxoffice returns of flicks to be released in the coming days will seal the fate or both old and new banners in the industry.

G. Krishnakumar

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