The invite to the launch of Abhay stuns you only Kamal Haasan had the guts to strike a pose in the raw. Yes, Kamal has posed stark nude (not frontal), sitting on his heels, head shaven He has developed a great physique and also huge biceps. But there's a reason to it. The actor has gone in for this drastic transformation of looks thanks to his enthusiasm for his latest venture, the Hindi-Tamil bilingual Abhay (Aalavandaan in Tamil).
In Abhay, his latest film launched in Chennai, the actor is attempting something novel that he has not attempted in a career that spans three decades. He enacts a double role, but with a difference!
Although Kamal has attempted dual roles in over fifteen films, this one is different. "Abhay revolves around sibling rivalry. It is about two people with similar faces, but divergent beliefs. We hope to peel the layers and get into the psyche of the two important characters. That is where the true challenge for me as the writer and actor lies," Kamal tells me.
Abhay, being produced by Kalaippuli S. Thanu (who recently produced the Tabu-Aishwarya-Ajith-Abbas-Pooja Batra starrer Kandukondain Kandukondain) and directed by Suresh Krishna, will be shot in its first phase in Chennai and later in the capital New Delhi. "Actually, we want to capture the winter in New Delhi, specially the mist, which forms a significant part of the film," Suresh Krishna informs.
The seeds of the story of Abhay were sown almost seventeen years ago. "The idea of the film is inspired by a novel I had written while shooting for a film, which was later serialised by a newspaper. Of course, we have altered the story to an extent, keeping the changing times and current tastes of the viewers in mind. But the quintessence remains the same," Kamal divulges.
Another facet that impelled Kamal to take up this subject was the challenge to portray the evil aspect that lurks inside all of us. But he adds quickly, "The fact still remains that there is a monkey lurching inside all of us."
Abhay is one of the most expensive projects embarked on by Kamal Haasan. The film will have special effects by Cutting Edge, an Australian company, and stunts by Grant Page, who had co-ordinated stunts for Mad Max and several Hollywood films.
David Peers, the Visual Effects Supervisor of Cutting Edge and who has specially flown from South Brisbane, will oversee the entire shooting of the film. "The scenes will be shot in the film format, unlike the trend here of shooting on the video format. The film will have the two Kamal Haasans coming face to face, as if they are two separate people," he updates us.
Suresh Krishna, who started his career with a Kamal Haasan film, has earlier directed two Hindi films, Jaagruti and Love, both starring Salman Khan. Besides directing Baasha and Annamalai with Rajnikant in the intervening period, Suresh is once again directing a film with Kamal in the lead.
Raveena Tandon is excited about her role in Abhay. But with two Kamal Haasans in the project, does she have a role of substance? "Of course, it is an important role. The key factor in the story is me and while one Kamal is out to kill me, the other is out to protect me," she spills the beans about one aspect of the film.
With Kamal directing Chachi 420 and Hey! Ram, one would've expected the actor to direct Abhay himself. "I needed a break," Kamal replies honestly, "Besides, it is important me for me to concentrate on acting too. The money has to flow in as well." Besides acting in Abhay, Kamal is also writing the story and screenplay of the film.
Abhay has music by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and lyrics by Javed Akhtar. Two songs have already been recorded.
A few hours later, the focus shifts to the Nehru Indoor Stadium, where a massive stage has been erected for the launch of the film. But this launch is indeed different! For, before the launch of the film, several top-ranking directors Mani Ratnam, Priyadarshan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ramesh Sippy, Bharati Raja, K. Vishwanath -- and technicians (of Abhay) felicitate each other.
But the crowd (of approx. 6,000) goes bonkers the moment they catch a glimpse of Padmashri Kamal Haasan on stage. Thanking his fans for supporting him all through, Kamal requests all the distinguished guests for a keepsake photograph.
The celebrations over, the unit of Abhay shifts to Hotel Le Meridian to celebrate the launch. The very next morning, it's back to 'Lights', 'Camera', 'Action' for the unit. Abhay is being readied for an April 2001 release.
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