Mani Ratnam's unique experiment: will it work?
Innovative directors are hard to come by in India. But what the southern maverick Mani Ratnam is about to do this Friday is unique by all criteria of international cinema.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Ratnam releases two versions of the same film in Hindi and Tamil - "Yuva" and "Ayutha Ezhuthu" respectively - on the same day with a different cast, but the same crew and technical team.
Why two separate versions of the same film? Wouldn't it have been easier to release a dubbed version of the Tamil film in Hindi? After all, Ratnam's "Roja" and "Bombay", both in Tamil, were successful in their dubbed Hindi versions.
Ratnam seems to disagree. "The idea was to make two different films, not one film extended into two languages. To that extent 'Yuva' and 'Ayutha Ezhuthu' are separate entities."
So apart from the star cast what's different about the two versions of the film? Ratnam agrees they are very similar.
"To the average viewer the two versions may look the same. In fact many portions, including the song sequences, are identical in Hindi and Tamil except that different actors enact the two versions and therefore bring in their own unique sensibilities."
Bilingual versions of the same film have been made simultaneously in India before, but never been released together.
For instance, Shakti Samanta's "Amanush" and "Anand Ashram" featuring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, and Pramod Chakrvarty's "Jagir", starring Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman and Mithun Chakbraborty, were made in Bengali and Hindi but released separately.
Kamal Haasan's "Aalabandhan" in Tamil was shot as "Abhay" in Hindi. But the release dates were different.
Never before have two versions of the same film come on the same Friday. In Tamil Nadu, when "Yuva" and "Ayutha Ezhuthu" open together this week, how would audiences judge the two films as two separate experiences?
"Obviously, they'd feel partial towards the Tamil film," says Madhavan, who plays the role of a hired assassin in "Ayuthu Ezhuthu".
Madhavan is all praise for his Hindi counterpart Abhishek Bachchan in "Yuva". "I've seen portions of Abhishek's work. I can't say if he's better than me. But he's outstanding."
Says Abhishek, "Strangely, we three actors in 'Yuva' - Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi and me - felt no sense of rivalry. But we kept thinking about our counterparts in Tamil. Are we as good as the actors in 'Ayuthu Ezhuthu'?"
The answer will be out Thursday when both the versions of Mani Ratnam's opus premiere at the IIFA awards in Singapore.
For Ratnam, both "Yuva" and "Ayuthu Ezhuthu" are equally important.
"Actually we should've finished the Hindi version and then gone into the Tamil. But since Vivek Oberoi had an accident during 'Yuva', we were suddenly left with a longish vacant gap. I decided to get into the Tamil version and complete it together with the Hindi version."