In a current interview to The Hindu, cinematographer-director Rajiv Menon, reminiscing on his movie Kandukondain Kandukondain (the movie accomplished 20 years since launch on May 4), revealed an fascinating nugget of data.

Menon had approached actor Prashanth for the position performed by Ajith Kumar in his movie, just for the previous to show it down as a result of he most well-liked to behave alongside Aishwarya Rai and never Tabu. This throwback story, written by a colleague, gained eagle-eyed netizens’ consideration, lots of whom felt the necessity to touch upon Prashanth’s now close to non-existent movie profession in Tamil cinema — an astonishing, albeit not fully stunning, climb down the ladder of fame and affect from the heights he occupied within the 1990s.

For the uninitiated, Prashanth is certainly one of solely three actors (the opposite two are Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan), to have acted in a movie directed by three of the highest filmmakers ever produced by Tamil cinema — the late Balu Mahendra, Mani Ratnam and S Shankar.

A number of days earlier than Menon’s Kandukondain Kandukondain reveal, it was reported in vernacular media that Prashanth’s father, the actor-filmmaker Thiagarajan, is in talks with actor Tabu to reprise her position from the Hindi movie, Andhadhun, which is being remade in Tamil with Prashanth within the lead, and I assumed life and its ironies have a wierd means of taking part in out.

The standard opinion amongst Tamil film buffs is that it was Prashanth’s poor alternative of movies in early 2000s that led to the collapse of a once-promising profession.

I discovered this line of argument intriguing. When Twitter commentary rages about how verbal duels on the social networking website must have been waged between followers of Prashanth, Vijay and Ajith (versus between Vijay and Ajith followers), it comes throughout as an thought pushed by emotion quite than one primarily based on details.

The different two too suffered colossal failures of their careers and have managed to bounce again. All three actors did romantic movies within the 1990s as a result of it simply was the pattern then. The new millennium made all three graduate to motion movies, however solely two managed to outlive the transition and continued their foray into superstardom.

The forged of ‘Jeans’ included Lakshmi (far proper), Nasser (second from proper) and Senthil (far left)
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In my opinion, nonetheless, Prashanth’s route down the forgotten lane began a lot sooner than the 2000s. A superb instance is definitely the blockbuster movie — Jeans (which launched 22 years in the past in April 1998); a movie I made a decision to look at just lately on Amazon Prime Video amid these developments. At the tip of the movie, there was just one thought: Jeans has not aged properly, and it has to rank amongst the weakest movies from S Shankar’s secure (there aren’t many entries in that listing, happily).

Jeans is certainly one of solely three Shankar movies that doesn’t match his mould or trademark: the do-gooder who has been wronged and is out to hunt revenge. The coming-of-age movie Boys and the remake movie Nanban are the opposite two. Jeans, nonetheless, did mild the filmmaker’s nonetheless burning need to exploit visible results to the utmost in his movies.

Let’s rundown the movie’s broad story framework: twin brothers rising up within the US, an Indian household flies into Los Angeles for a surgical procedure, by means of a botched operation a romance brews however there’s an fascinating underscore to this love, a flashback and a few ridiculous plot twists later we arrive on the climax. The movie, although, had some beautifully-shot music sequences with the maestro AR Rahman’s tunes amplifying its girth.

Prashanth performs twin roles — Viswanathan and Ramamurthy. The latter must be probably the most ineffective twin character written in Tamil movies since even the instances of MGR-Sivaji. Come to consider it, what precisely does Ramamurthy deliver to the script other than his refusal to develop a stubble, at the least, or tattoo his higher arms (possibly an ear piercing).

Watching the movie with the biased lenses of 2020, it’s robust to seek out it convincing that two Indian-Americans who had grown up within the US all their life live a Karaikudi way of life in Los Angeles, the place the movie is initially staged, and are subservient to their father who instructions that they put on the identical pair of garments.

Aishwarya Rai and Prashanth within the 1998 movie ‘Jeans’ directed by S Shankar
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Even weirder is that when Ramamurthy hits the heights of desperation, as he lusts after the non-existent twin named Vaishnavi, which is what the music ‘Anbe Anbe’ is, he sticks on a pretend moustache! (yeah, yeah… the interval issue of the music has been thought-about.) By comparability, and fairly amusingly, the dual Nassers had a number of persona and character variations.

A cursory take a look at the way in which Prashanth’s twin characters have been developed and the way Aishwarya Rai’s invented twin characters have been developed, it’s straightforward to notice that the movie is extra “female-centric” (a time period that was thrown round liberally by each second Tamil filmmaker, purely for goal of promotion, till the pandemic began) than many different movies that includes the hero in a twin position.

Whether it’s Vijay in Mersal or Ajith in Vaali or Villain or Rajini in Moondru Mugam and Kamal Haasan in a handful of movies, a Tamil movie hero, when he opts to play a twin character in a movie, has all the time seemed to leverage the utmost potential (learn as: mass) from every of the characters. Prashanth, himself, tried doing the identical in his later movies however to not a lot success. In this regard, Jeans is an oddity.

Except, Jeans had a number of points with its writing. Here is one scene I’d like to supply for example. The “smitten in love” Madhumitha (performed by Aishwarya Rai) is stopped on the baggage verify at Los Angeles airport, the place the officer picks out an empty Coca Cola can, bits of betel leaves and discarded wraps of sweets. Shankar justifies this scene as exhibiting the girl is loopy, head over heels in love with Viswanathan! (On a facet observe, isn’t this the identical scene in Anniyan, when Vivekh stumbles upon rubber band and greeting playing cards held by Vikram’s Ambi character addressed to Nandini (performed by Sada)? A meals for thought: upcycling, at instances, is healthier than recycling.)

The Antakshari sequence within the first half of the movie felt like one thing that ought to have been edited out. Also, it is a movie the place a person working towards medication gives naturopathy remedy to a lady he supposedly is in love with for “women’s problem”, get that?

The main difficulty over its lengthy runtime was Jeans had solely a single character who may push the viewer in you emotionally, and made you wish to react to the character’s histrionics (belief me, all of the characters are histrionic on this movie!). That particular person is Radikaa’s Sundarambal, the conniving, mean-spirited spouse of Nasser’s harmless twin brother. In roughly 5 minutes of display screen time, Radikaa does what the remainder of the movie’s characters fail to do regardless of being in entrance of our faces for over two-and-a-half hours.

Aishwarya Rai and Prashanth within the 1998 movie ‘Jeans’ directed by S Shankar. One music within the movie was shot in entrance of seven wonders of the world.
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Besides, being the most costly Indian movie to be produced on the time of its launch (with a manufacturing finances of ₹20 crore), Jeans rode on its magnum opus promotional piece — the music that was shot in entrance of seven wonders of the world. No different cause justifies the location of that music with simply seven minutes or so left to run within the movie; that music was the “main event” and would make the ‘90s audience sit through the film’s runtime simply to catch a glimpse of the wonders and Aishwarya Rai in gorgeous outfits.

All of this nonetheless doesn’t make sense as to how and why was Jeans chosen as India’s official entry to the Academy Awards in 1998. Predictably, it didn’t make the shortlist, and the decision-makers’ logic of pushing Jeans stays a thriller.