Thursday, October 30, 2008

Memorable break: Shilpa Bala

Dubai-based girl Shilpa Bala makes her debut as a heroine in a double role in ORKKUKA VALLAPPOZHUM, writes KK Moidu

A 11th grade student of Indian High School, Dubai, Shilpa Bala is indeed lucky to portray a double role in her debut screen appearance in Orkkuka Vallappozhum (Remember once in a while). One of these roles is that of a 16-year-old girl, Parvathi aka Paru, against a 1947 backdrop. "It was a real challenge," recalls the newcomer, who is back in Dubai after completing shooting for the film. Born and raised in Dubai, her roots are in Kanjangad (Kasargode district) in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although the family does not boast any links with film personalities, her father Balagopal, a bank employee, is an ardent fan of Ottamthullal, a traditional folk art form. Her mother Indulekha is a trained dancer and works in a private firm in Dubai. Shilpa has a younger sister, Shwetha, studying in class 10 in Indian High School, Dubai. Says an exuberant Shilpa: "I am very happy that the film's director and my co-artistes were satisfied with my performance and now I am awaiting the verdict from the audience, the final judges." Sharing screen space with a legendary actor like Thilakan was a matter of luck for the beginner and it has given her fresh insights into acting techniques. "Although I am a debutante, the guidance of the director, the co-operation of other artistes and the experience gained on the small screen, helped me to deliver a good performance," says Shilpa. Sohanlal, the director of the film said: "Shilpa is an artiste with 100 per cent commitment and dedication. She dons a double role in the film, the two roles are entirely different and she did it fantastically. One of her character is too expressive and the other role demands underplay. Shilpa is talented and beautiful to become an artiste like Manju Varier. The industry is in need of new faces and I wish her a bright future." The fact that the director too is a debutant has not doused her enthusiasm one bit. It is pointed out to her that the film lacks the usual elements of commercial cinema or a saleable leading man. To this her argument is, "if the audience accepts my roles in Orkkuka Vallappozhum, I can perform any kind of role in future without difficulty. Had I made my debut in a superhit commercial entertainer without much importance for the heroine, I won't be able to shine in meaningful roles in the future." Shilpa's other role in the film is that of Devayani, a teenage girl in contemporary society who is the antithesis of Paru. Devayani is also different from other modern girls. When compared to Paru, portraying the role of Devayani was far easier, says the young actress. A good singer, Shilpa lent her voice to both characters. Orkkuka Vallappozhum is an old man's journey to the innocence of his past. Thilakan plays a 75-year-old Sethumadhavan, who after reaching an old bungalow in the high ranges one wintry night, recalls the sweet moments from his childhood and adolescence. The death of his wife has created a void in his life and along with it the endearing memories of Paru, his childhood companion of the same age as him, sends him on this journey down memory lane. But the bungalow's keeper, Kashi, tells him about the tragic end of his one-time sweetheart, hearing which the distraught old man rushes to the deep pit into which Paru had fallen and died. Renjith Menon of Goal fame plays the teenage Sethumadhavan and Jagadheesh portrays Kashi. The film is produced by Vinu YS under the banner of God's Own Moviz. M Jayachandran has scored the music. The film's three lovely songs have been penned by P Bhaskaran and Girish Puthencheri. The music director himself sings one of the songs. The other playback singers are P Jayachandran, Rajalakshmi and Anand, the anchor of Amrita TV's dancing competition Let's Dance. Orkkuka Vallappozhum is written and directed by Sohanlal of the mini-screen fame. The film is due to hit the screens in Kerala in November, introducing one more graceful heroine. The very first impression one gets after watching Shilpa is that she has the right blend of beauty and talent, something the audience looks for in a heroine. The gorgeous looks are accompanied by an impressive smile and the attractive eyes have a tinge of innocence in them. Without doubt Malayalam cinema has its new girl-next-door. The debutante has won much appreciation for her dancing and has participated in various youth festivals. She won a Kalathilakam at the Arabia Youth Festival 2005. She is a student of dance master Sasi Kottakkal and began training at the age of four. In addition to winning a scholarship at the school level for dancing, she has also won prizes for other art forms like mono act, light music, classical music and dramatics both at school and outside. Says Shilpa: "Dance has always been my passion and to learn more than what I have is the goal I look forward to achieve in every field I venture into." Since fifth grade she has anchored several shows on Malayalam TV channels like Asianet, Kairali and Jeevan TV etc during DSF. "The role of an anchor has helped in building up my confidence and has given me a different view about the world and people I come across. It has given me a lot of experience and the confidence to carry out stage programmes all by myself with ease," says Shilpa. She is also a bursary winner for oratory (public speaking), which is a training given by professionals to students, who have won prizes outside school in the elocution category. Shilpa is also an RJ at the school radio station, which airs 15 minutes on working days at school. She is the cultural secretary of the school and has been the captain both at the junior as well as senior school. Although she is facing the arc lights for the first time, Shilpa has appeared in the advertisements of Anashwara Jewellery, Solar Furniture, UAE Exchange Centre, Pardha House and Churidhar House etc. Smilingly Shilpa gives all the credit to her parents, relatives and friends. She says: "the encouragement and support given by them at all times gave me success and I think nothing would be complete without a thank you to God for his blessings." Expatriate girls making a debut in films is nothing new and leading South Indian heroine Sneha, was also raised in Dubai. She made her debut in the Malayalam film Ingane Oru Nilapkashi. Although her debut film Ingane Oru Nilapkashi opposite Kunjacko Boban bombed at the box office, she is a much sought-after actress in the industry. Sneha has already acted as the leading lady in over 50 films in all south Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. However, Shilpa Bala, a fan of Tamil films, is only interested in meaningful roles though language is not a problem. Shilpa's favourite actor is Mohanlal and among actresses it is Shobhana and Urvashi. After completing the 12th grade, Shilpa wants to specialise in fashion designing for graduation. Her other interest is psychology. A dearth of screen leading ladies has been one of the biggest problems faced by the Malayalam film industry. Along with the migration of heroines to neighbouring states for better remuneration, early retirement by established actresses has aggravated this problem. The latest heroine to hint at retirement is Kavya Madhavan. Her retirement after marriage will definitely create a void. Although Shilpa hails from the same district as Kavya, she lacks the native accent, which endeared Kavya to the audience. But as far as talent is concerned, Shilpa is second to none and the audience will get a taste of this in November and most probably receive her into their hearts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fireworks for fans-Diwali Releases

This Diwali will be special for fans of Tamil cinema. Four big films that offer wholesome entertainment are being released, writes KK Moidu

The festive season is a good time for the release of films. This Diwali, four young actors Ajith, Surya, Madhavan and Bharath will be competing at the box office. Ajith's Aegan, Suriya's Vaaranam Aayiram, Bharath's Seval and Madhavan's Guru En Aalu are the films that will add sparkle to the festival of lights.

Ajith Kumar's fans are eagerly awaiting the release of Aegan after the roaring success of Billa. Ajith always entertains with his marvelous all-round performances whether it is action, humour or romance. He plays a powerful action role in the big budget film Aegan produced by Ayngaran International. His fights for justice and winning the battle is gripping. The movie will delight the fans of Thala, as he is affectionately called by his fans. Aegan is inspired by the Shah Rukh Khan superhit Main Hoon Na. The film is directed by popular choreographer Raju Sundaram. Thala once again romances glamorous actress Nayantara. His pairing with Nayantara, the dashing actress of the South Indian film industry in Billa was a money spinner at the box-office. However, Aegan is all about a former army officer and his attempts to destroy a terrorist and his gang. The bold soldier's attempt for helping the estranged wife of his father and step-brother complicates the situation. For added value, foreign locations are included in the film. In fact, Ajith's appearance in the film was canned in Hong Kong. Arindhum Ariyamalum fame Navdeep plays Ajith's younger brother. Piya, who played the female lead in Poi Solla Porom is his lady love. Other prominent roles are played by Suhasini Manirathnam, Jayaram, Suman, Nasser, MS Bhasker and Sriman. Yuvan Shankar Raja, who won acclaim for the mind-blowing songs of Ajith's previous hit Billa is back with cheerful tunes for Aegan.

Vaaranam Aayiram

Expectations are, as usual, high for Vaaranam Aayiram, which succeeded in re-uniting front-line hero Surya and successful filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon after Kaakha Kaakha. Surya plays a double role in the film and looks younger. He was on a very strict diet of greens for more than a year, just to be fit for the role of a 17-year-old boy. No other actor in the industry has done this before. Sameera Reddy, Simran and Divya Spandana are the leading ladies of the film. Vaaranam Aayriam is all about the life of an ordinary man from his birth to his retirement, from 16 to 60. The ups and downs of his life, school days, first love, marriage with a dream girl, love and bonding with parents and family, relationships with neighbours etc. The relationship between father and son is very touching since the father is not only the biggest hero of all sons, but also a role model and inspiration. Vaaranam Aayiram is inspired by the director's own feelings after his father's death. Harris Jeyaraj tunes music for the lyrics of Thamarai and the film has seven songs. Produced by V Ravi Chandran, the art director is Rajeevan and editing is by Antony.

Bharath plays an action oriented role in director Hari's Seval. Bharath started his career as a romantic hero and was repeatedly cast as a sweet lover in romantic musical hits. The success of Palani and Nepali made him a favourite action hero. After the success of these films, veterans of the industry started casting him in action roles. Bharath's forthcoming film Seval is directed by Hari, who is known for making racy entertainers with rural backdrops. This is the first time Hari is casting Bharath, his previous films with Vikram, Surya and Vishal were box-office hits. His recently released Surya starrer Vel also did well at the box-office. Hari succeeded in finding a catchy title, Seval, for the action entertainer with comedy and sentiments. Poonam Bajwa is the heroine of the film. Simran plays a meaningful role in the film and this is her second film with Hari. She played the heroine in Hari's maiden directorial venture Tamizh. Hari's favourite actor Vadivelu plays the hero's room-mate. Chittappa Sampathraj, the favourite bad boy, and Shanmugharajan, will terrorise the audience as villains. Hari has included his favourite regulars in the technical team like cameraman Priyan, editor VT Vijayan, art director Kadhir and stunt master Rocky Rajesh. Seval is produced by leading film distributor Jinna Creations. GV Prakash Kumar has composed the songs.

Guru En Aalu

Director Selva's Guru En Aalu is a remake of the Bollywood hit film Yes Boss. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla played the lead roles and Aditya Pancholi did a supporting role in the film. Guru En Aalu is a light-hearted comedy produced by KRG who is back to production after a hiatus of five years. The film tells the story of a young and energetic Guru (Madhavan) and model Seema (Mamtha Mohandas). Guru works in a reputed company, earns a handsome salary and is the right hand of the boss also. The story becomes interesting when Guru starts dreaming of starting his own ad agency. His boss Krishna (Abbas) promises all the necessary help for starting his own company with certain conditions. As an obedient staffer, Guru does everything to please his boss and everything turns upside down when Guru falls in love with a charming model. Seema is a model from a middle class family and her dream is to reach on the top of the glamorous world. Guru's womaniser boss decides to add Seema's name to the list of his concubines. If Guru fails to please the boss, his dream project will never be fulfilled. Otherwise, his sweetheart will lose him forever and enter into a false relationship. Madhavan dons the role of Guru, which was played by Shah Rukh Khan and Mamta plays the role enacted by Juhi Chawla in the original. Other artistes are Vivek, MS Bhaskar, Manobala, Mayilswamy etc. Vivek plays a woman's role in the romantic comedy. Srikanth Deva scores music for the film and cinematography is by UK Senthil Kumar. All the four films are directed by famed directors and have all the elements of commercial cinema like action, romance, comedy and sentiments. A new movie, Samida, joins the race at the box-office with biggies by telling the story of a woman who made changes in the life of a gangster. The film has been shot mainly in Kasi and various other locations outside the state. The cast, crew and the producer are newcomers. Sembi and Tanushya plays the lead roles in the film and Senu is the villain. The highlight of the film is the screenplay and the way the subject has been handled. A former assistant of veteran director Shaji Kailas's assistant Vadivudaiyan pens the story and songs, screenplay, dialogues. He himself directs the film and a talented newcomer Indrajith scores music. The wholesome entertainers with established actors in the lead roles are always an attraction for film-goers. But the success of the recently released Tamil film Subramaniapuram with a debutante director and less-known artists is an encouragement to new entrants. Debutante director Vadivudaiyan joins the box- office race with the quality entertainer that goes deep into the life of a ruffian and the love of a girl that changes his life forever.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Impressive debutante-Sheela

Sheela has earned a name as a talented actress with the release of MAYA BAZAAR, her debut film in Malayalam opposite Mammootty. KK Moidu writes

The celebrity heroine from the neighbouring state, Sheela, has made her debut in Malayalam cinema playing superstar Mammootty's heroine in Maya Bazaar. The pretty actress with a girl-next-door image, comely smile and gorgeous looks has emoted well and won rave reviews for her performance in the recently released film. Sheela won the hearts of the audience with her role as a tea shop girl, Maya, in the film. She was blessed with a dream debut opposite Mammootty, the front line hero of the Malayalam film industry. Most of the heroines from the Malayalam industry are shifting their base to Tamil and Telugu films for higher remuneration. The lack of heroines in the Malayalam industry compels film makers to cast leading ladies from other states. Established heroines and newcomers are making their debut in Malayalam films and they are succeeding in winning the hearts of the audience. But these heroines do not continue for long and soon disappear, disappointing their fans. Although Sheela is a newcomer in the Malayalam industry, the charming actress is not facing the arc lights primarily. She is not only a busy heroine of Tamil and Telugu films, she is also a strong competitor for the top slot position. The former child artiste made her debut in Illavattam directed by AR Raja opposite Navadeep. She played an important role in Vijay T Rajendar's Veerasamy. Her meaty roles opposite young heroes like Prasanna and Allu Arjun in Cheena Thana and Parugu respectively made her a favourite among the youngsters. Sheela's pairing opposite young heroes in big banner films made her noticeable in the industry. Although Sheela is a reputable heroine of the industry, she never had the luck to pair opposite senior South Indian heroes like Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Vijayakanth, Sarath Kumar, Arjun etc. But finally lady luck smiled on the actress and she plays the love interest of cutting-edge actor Mammootty in Maya Bazaar. Pairing opposite a versatile actor like Mammootty is a dream for every actress and it is a rare opportunity for her to acquire new skills in acting. Maya Bazaar was not released in 'A' centres following the controversy in the Malayalam film industry between the Kerala Film Producers Association and Film Exhibitors Association. The decision of Kerala Film Producers Association for showing the new releases in maximum centres in the first week and the Film Exhibitors association's disagreement to the move is the reason for the controversy. But the makers of the film succeeded in screening the film in government owned theatres in major cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Thrissur. A few other 'A' centres in Alleppey and Attingal also screened the film. Maya Bazaar was released on the occasion of Eid in 'B' and 'C' class theatres with house-full shows. However, Mammootty did not disappoint his fans like the other superstar of Malayalam films, Mohanlal. He failed to satisfy his fans by not releasing the big budget war film Kurukshethra on Eid day. The film, directed by Major Ravi, was planned as a festival release and the fans of the hero were disappointed without a new release from their favourite hero. Megastar Mammootty treated his fans with a colourful entertainer Maya Bazaar. Sheela plays the role of Maya in the film, a charming girl besotted with the courageous and freaky-haired heroe's designer attire. Mammootty dons a larger than life hero's role in the film as Rameshan with a silver ear-ring. He is a scrap dealer in the market 'Maya Bazaar' in Mayannoor, where the scrap or parts of worn out vehicles are sold. Rameshan is a favourite for everybody in the market and he buys useless vehicles at for cheap and sells the parts. He is the son of Akri Damodaran, who migrated to Maya Bazaar of Mayannoor from another town Cherppulasserry. Rameshan is different from his rival gang of Bhadran played by Kalabhavan Mani, who unnecessarily creates problems for others. He helps the poor and needy and regularly supplies lunch to ailing patients in the nearby hospital. The lead character is inspired from the real-life story of a philanthropist who used to give food to poor patients. Maya Bazaar is the maiden directorial venture of Thomas Sebastian and is produced by Saji S Mangalath under the banner of Akhil Cinema. Manoj Pillai is the cinematographer and Prashanth Madhav is the art director. Bijith Balla Edits the film and Rahul Raj is the composer. The story, penned by Govind-Ramdas, is scripted to suit the screen by TA Razack. Salim Kumar, Suraj Venjaramoodu, TG Ravi, Lalu Alex, Biju Kuttan, Anoop Chandran etc. plays important roles in the film. Stardust Best Supporting Actress Award winner Tisca Chopra of Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par fame is the other heroine of the film. Although the film was not released in all the 'A' theatres, the collections from 'B' and 'C' centres continues. This will definitely make Sheela the most popular actress of the industry and one to watch out for.