'Munnabhai' adds fuel to Kamal Haasan-Rajnikanth war

The game of one-upmanship between south Indian actors Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth has been fodder to cine watchers and the media.

Apparently reacting to criticism, Rajnikanth has changed the title of his film "Jaggubhai MBBS", said to be a retort to Kamal Haasan's role in the Tamil version of "Munnabhai MBBS".

With the name changed from "Jaggubhai" to "Shanta Jaggubhai", Rajninakth claims he's now making the film as a tribute to his mother.

Reacting to the shift, Kamal Haasan said: "Whatever the title and whatever he's making, I wish Rajnikanth all the best. Two years is a long time to be away from the screen. I welcome him back."

However, the back-to-school theme has caught on. First Sanjay Dutt in "Munnabhai MBBS", then Shah Rukh Khan in "Main Hoon Na", and now Kamal Haasan in the Tamil remake of "Munnabhai".

While he prepares to make a comeback to Hindi films, Kamal Haasan has green-signalled the proposal to star in the Tamil version of Raj Kumar Hirani's "Munnabbhai MBBS".

He had initially declined the offer. "I just didn't find the idea of doing a Hindi-remake in Tamil exciting at this time. And I wasn't sure if the Mumbai-centric humour would work in another language," he said.

"How would one translate terms like Jadoo ki jhappi? The whole underworld thing, the bhai-log plus Dutt Saab as the father...who'll play my father? I'm too young for the role," he laughs.

Though he has done Hindi-to-Tamil remakes like Manmohan Desai's "Chacha Bhatija", Kamal Haasan says he has been busy this year scripting and preparing the shooting for the new Hindi-Tamil movie to be directed by his old colleague and associate Singeeetham Srinivasa Rao, of "Pushpak" fame.

"The project will be delayed by a few months. In the meanwhile emotional pressure was put on me to do "Munnabhai" by none other than the producer Manohar Prasad who is my mentor L.V. Prasad's son."

L.V.Prasad not only produced some of Kamal Haasan's finest films in Tamil but also introduced him into Hindi cinema with "Ek Duuje Ke Liye".

The film, to be directed by an erstwhile assistant to K. Balachander named Charan, goes on the floors next month.

Gracy Singh's role will probably be played by Jyothika.

"Both Charan and I are from Balachander's stable. So there's a sense of affinity. We've to make sure that the remake is as good as the original. Half the job is done by Hirani. Only the acting has to be good," Kamal Haasan says.

Incidentally the Telugu version of "Munnabhai", featuring Chiranjeevi is almost complete.

Kamal Haasan has no regrets about turning down "Main Hoon Na" though Shah Rukh Khan had personally called him up to offer him the role.

"The role would've shown me in an unpatriotic light. An anti-national is something I don't want to do," he contends.

"I owe Shah Rukhji a debt. He had done my "Hey Ram" unquestioningly. Very rarely have I seen such generosity in showbiz.

"I'm going to find some way to repay him. Unfortunately it couldn't be in "Main Hoon Na". But I don't think I've let him down. I don't think my presence would've added in any way."

In the meanwhile the title of the Tamil "Munnabhai MBBS" has been changed to "Vasool Raja MBBS", since there are no extortionists, only money collectors, in Chennai.