Kamal Haasan, Rajnikant vie to remake 'Munnabhai...'

With "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." and its Hindi slang-speaking middle-aged hero being a hit, aging superstars in the south are now vying to remake it.

Kamal Haasan, heady with the success of "Virumaandi", has pipped superstar Rajnikant to post, at least when it comes to the name of the film.

While Kamal Haasan is arranging a Tamil remake of "Munnabhai...", Rajnikant is planning "Jaggubhai".

Industry sources say the key to "Munnabhai's" success was the dialect used by its hero Sanjay Dutt. Therefore, the southern remakes inspired by it are likely to use colloquial urban Tamil.

In "Virumaandi", Kamal Haasan showcased "then Tamil" - the language spoken in the deep south - and in the "Munnabhai" makeover, he is expected to use "kochai Tamil" - Tamil slang spoken in big cities.

Older than the Hindi version's hero Sanjay Dutt, Kamal Haasan, who has stepped into his 50s, is expected to play the lead role in his film. He is said to have chosen actress Sneha for the Tamil version of the film.

A story doing the rounds is that director K.S. Ravikumar was supposed to direct the Tamil "Munnabhai", but opted out of Kamal Haasan's project because of Rajnikant.

Sources say "Jaggubhai" will be Rajnikant's home production and the storyline will be scripted by the superstar himself and directed by Ravikumar.

Shooting is to begin in July and the tentative schedule for the film's release is the Pongal festival. Rajnikant has not decided on the heroine of his film yet.

The two films are being seen as another instance of rivalry between the two southern superstars.

Kamal Haasan and Rajnikant once acted together in a film called "16 Vayathinile" but those days of bonhomie are a distant memory. For the last two decades, each has been trying to nudge the other away from the superstar slot.

Rajnikant's much hyped-film "Baba", made with a budget of more than Rs.500 million, bombed at the box office two years ago. That was his last film.

Kamal Haasan released "Hey Ram", which brought him critical acclaim two years ago, and more recently "Virumaandi".