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Return of the popular hunchback

THE BUCK-toothed hunchback who created quite a sensation in Malayalam films setting the cash registers ringing at the box office is set for a comeback. This time though he speaks a new language, keeping his basic features and mannerisms in tact. `Perazhagan', the Tamil version of the film `Kunjikkoonan' is now being canned at Kudayathoor, near Thodupuzha, a place which is turning out to be a much preferred film location.

Sasi Shankar, who directed the Dileepstarrer `Kunjikkoonan' will be doing the honours in the Tamil version also. Surya, who has skyrocketed to the top of the popularity charts after the huge hits like `Kaakha Kaakha' and `Pithamagan,' plays a dual along with Jyothika. The film is being produced by AVM.

Noted art director Thotta Tharani has created a small village, which in the film is supposed to be in Madurai. A few modest looking houses, a deity, a well, the remnants of some muddy houses, typical of a village make up the set. There is hectic activity all around and there a huge crowd has gathered in not time to watch the shoot. Amidst all this hustle and bustle Surya makes his appearance. The hunchback, dressed in tanned clothes, almost passes unnoticed. The focus is on the director and cinematographer R.Ratnavelu, who busy setting up the lights, smoke and the position of the actors.

"The story is based on Benny P. Nayarambalam's successful play `Vikalangavarsham'. The variations needed to suit the Tamil settings have been made in the script. The dialogues have been written by Singapuli," says Sasi Sankar.

Surya feels that the role is a real challenging. "It is challenging for me, especially since I am doing a double role for the first time. I have seen `Kunjikkoonan' and will be delighted even if I'm able to do at least fifty percent of what Dileep did in it."

Like Dileep, Surya plays the dual roles of Chinna, the hunchback and Kartik, the handsome college student. Jyothika enacts the roles of the blind street singer that Navya Nair did and also of the student that was played by Manya.

Ask Dileep on why he is not doing the Tamil remake of `Kunjikkoonan' and he grins, "I had thoroughly enjoyed playing the role for the first time. If I do it again, it will not come natural and will be mechanical."

The scenes for the day are mainly shot inside Chinna's one room hut. Veteran actress Manorama joins the crew. "Kerala is just like home for me," says she. After finishing her shot, she pulls up a chair and relaxes for a while. In a jiffy she is mobbed by the frleindly locals and Manorama seemed to be enjoying every moment of the adulation she was getting.

Bobby, a well-built young man who plays the villain, is turned really menacing Buji Babu, the make up man, who has been associated with such films like `Indian' and `Avvai Shanmughi.' "Saikumar has done a fantastic job in `Kunjikkoonan.' I know that this is a crucial role for me and I'm putting my best possible efforts to make it convincing," says Bobby.

Noted cinematographer Ratnavelu, whose recent films include `Tirumalai,' will be doing an Irish production after completing `Perazhagan.' "The locales match perfectly with the script," he says. Ratnavelu had earlier been to Alappuzha where he had shot the film `Nandhaa'. There is perfect discipline at the set and activities appear to be moving on schedule.

"Perazhagan' is AVM's 166th film. "It is, in fact, a privilege doing a film for such a big banner," says Sasi Shankar, whose profile includes films like `Narayam', `Punnaram' and `Manthra Mothiram'. His Aravind-Mannya starrer `White Collar Shiva Subramaniam' is also nearing completion.

The next day, the location shifts to a nearby junction where Chinna has his telephone booth. The whole area has nothing Malayali about it. With a teashop serving peculiar Tamilian dishes, pavement shops, a hair cutting saloon and cinema posters with faces ranging from MGR to Vijayakanth and Vikram, the place has a distinctive look. Big fans, of course of the electric variety, are switched on as Surya gets down from a jeep.

The bubbly Jyothika is also part of the scene. She is indeed delighted to do the double role in the film. After such hits as `Dhool', `Kaakha Kaakha' and `Tirumalai' recently, she is now shuttling between sets with films like `Arul' with Vikram, `Manmadhan' with Chilambarasan and `Manikanda' with Arjun. Her Malayalam movie `Seetha Kalyanam' is also awaiting release.

Vivek and Manobala complete the main cast for `Perazhagan.' Yuvan Shankar Raja has composed music for the film.

`Perazhagan', which has already evoked much curiosity by now, is all set to hit the movie halls in May.


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