It's a different garb this time
After playing prominent roles in more than 120 films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, Ramesh Arvind turns director.
COMEDY IN KANNADA: Kamal Hassan and Ramesh Arvind (centre) team up again for the remake of Sathi Leelavathi.
Actor Ramesh Arvind is in the news for his new avatar as director. He is now wielding the baton for the Kannada version of the Tamil hit, `Sathi Leelavathi,' that had him playing the philandering husband, with Kamal Hassan as his doctor friend. The flick was a runaway hit.
The two now team up again for the remake. Kamal returns to the Kannada screen after nearly two decades, with `Rama Shaama Bhama' (that's what `Sathi... ' will be called in Kannada.) The last was the silent film, `Pushpaka Vimana.'
"The news of Kamal's comeback was a sensation here in Bangalore. You must have seen the media's response... it was wonderful. The man's popularity is incredible yaar," says a joyous Ramesh Arvind. His camaraderie is contagious and so is his cheerfulness! And Ramesh has every reason to be, because generally it's been a season of downpour for this actor-director.
Progress is fast
`Rama... ' is progressing at a fast pace and Kamal is in the Garden City for the shoot. An August 18 release is being planned. And despite the busy schedule the gregarious actor allots time for a chat.
Mention Kamal Hassan to Ramesh and what you get to hear is paeans galore! "Our friendship has matured and become better with every passing year, like old wine," he smiles. For quite some time Kamal Hassan had been telling Ramesh to take up direction. "I've always had the urge but it was Kamal's goading that actually got me started," he smiles.
Ramesh has free access to Kamal's office, and whenever in Chennai gets to see the best of world cinema on Kamal's big screen. "He has been so nice to me. From my association with him to my directing him myself, I feel everything is ordained," are Ramesh's earnest words.
Unlike his friend, Ramesh sounds a theist... "I am. As individuals we are very different. Cinema is our common platform. We only discuss films... gossip or grapevine has no place on our agenda. And the mobile is a boon... we talk for hours on end, though we live in different cities," he says.
The debut venture
The name of the film sounds rather intriguing. "We've given it a touch of irony. Though I'm not a faithful husband, my name is Rama (Ramesh is repeating the Tamil role) and despite being absolutely true to his wife, Kamal's name is Shaama," he quips. Directing an actor of Kamal's experience can be tightrope walk. "Not at all ... it's an honour and my comfort level with him is very high. Before he turns up on the sets, I shoot the scenes for the day on a handy cam with a dummy. He watches the scenes and we go for the take," Ramesh explains. And does he interfere? "I would love him to... but he doesn't. People mistake his passion for cinema as interference. It's so unfair."
Actually Ramesh had a script titled `KG' (short for Kempegowda) ready. But the two felt that the first attempt should have a proven viable line. So `Sathi Leelavathi' was chosen. "I'm sure people here will love it," says a confident Ramesh.
The cast has Urvasi playing Ramesh's wife (in Tamil it was her sister Kalpana), Shruti (remember K. Balachandar's `Kalki?') is paired with Kamal for the role `Kovai' Sarala did and Daisy Bopanna will be seen as Ramesh's girl friend (Who can forget the ravishing Heera in the Tamil version?)
And just as `Sathi... ' had Kamal talking the Coimbatore dialect, `Rama... ' will have him adopting the Hubli accent. "Kamal's Kannada is amazing and his zest for learning is immense. So he has easily mastered the Hubli tongue," certifies Ramesh.
Henceforth will it be more of direction and less of acting assignments for Ramesh? "Acting is my bread and butter. I can't afford to go slow on that," he says. The actor has the rare distinction of having been introduced by K. Balachandar in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. `Aaptamitra' (`Chandramukhi' in Kannada in which Ramesh has done Prabhu's role) has been running in Bangalore for the past one year.
Then there have been the successful Kannada flicks, `Joke (!) Falls' (remake of `Chupke Chupke') and `Varsha.' Ramesh has also entered the Hindi scene with `Mumbai Xpress.' "Yes ... But with the buck tooth and thick glasses I looked so different that people there don't recognise me when they see me in person," he laughs.
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More than the clean, healthy fun that `Sathi Leelavathi' (1995) offered, perfect casting also contributed in great measure to its success.
`Sathi ... ' had a winning formula with Kamal playing a doctor and Kovai Sarala, his wife.
They made a nice, though crude twosome, with both excelling in the Coimbatore dialect.
Ramesh Arvind played the other hero, a much-married man with kids, who falls in love with Heera. Kalpana acted as his wife.
"Remakes in Hindi and Telugu were a hit. The Kannada version will also win," says Ramesh Arvind.
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