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Sanjay Dutt, Aishwarya are changing tracks

Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Sanjay Dutt and Aishwarya Rai seem to have gone into an experimental mode.

First the whacked out pseudo-medico in "Munnabhai M.B.B.S.", then the mind-reader in "Rudraksha"...and now he has been signed on to play an extremely unusual role in Pritish Nandy Communications' "Shabd".

The project to be directed by debutante Leena Bajaj was in the news when Aishwarya agreed to star in it. Zayed Khan was finalised for one male lead.

But the hunt was on for the main male protagonist. Ajay Devgan and Akshay Kumar were under consideration. But the prized role of an author caught in an extremely bizarre and delectable predicament has now gone to Sanjay.

Confirming the casting coup, director Leena Bajaj says: "When I narrated the subject to Sanjay, I could see the pain and maturity of experience in his eyes. These are the qualities I needed for my hero. I couldn't have hoped for a better actor."

The shooting will begin in June.

"I intend to complete the film in 45 days. Since 'Shabd' is very character-driven, there's no other way of filming it," says Leena whose husband, the eminently talented Aseem Bajaj, will be doing the cinematography of "Shabd".

Leena knows doing a film with such a formidable cast is a challenge. "I'm aware of what a responsibility it is. But I've signed Sanjay and Aishwarya primarily as actors and then as stars."

Incidentally, Leena wasn't aware that Sanjay and Aishwarya had earlier appeared together in David Dhawan's "Hum Kissise Kam Nahin".

As for Aishwarya, after completing Rituparno Ghosh's "Raincoat" - she's dubbing for it in Mumbai right now - "Shabd" would be her second experimental-mainstream film this year.

At the end of the year, she goes into Tanuja Chandra's reality-based drama. So it's two female directors for Aishwarya in one year.

Confirming the developments, producer Pritish Nandy says: "Sanjay Dutt-Aishwarya-Zayed is unusual casting. 'Shabd' is about relationships, a drama, but also a thriller. Leena Bajaj has an unusual vision. There isn't the slightest error in the script."

Pritish Nandy Communications seems to have gone into big-budget star-driven projects in a big way.

"We want to make commercial films with songs, music, dance and stars. 'Shabd' is completely commercial with Vishal-Shekhar's music and all. I think we've taken our multiplex movies as far as we can. Now we want to go into single theatres."

Stars seem to have taken over Pritish Nandy Communications productions.

Explains Nandy: "I'd like to believe the stars diminish a film's cost on promotions and publicity. Stars bring a lot of money on the table. The problem is many of our stars are scared to try new roles. Sanjay Dutt is certainly crossing the boundaries. He blurred the line between hero and villain in 'Khalnaayak' more than a decade ago.

"Another problem with stars is their dates are always in a mess unless you've a star as disciplined as Kareena Kapoor. We had a marvellous experience working with Kareena in 'Chameli'."

Kareena and Shahid Kapoor will get together to play star and fan - a la Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in "Notting Hill" - for Pritish Nandy Communications' "Chalo Dildar Chalo".

The film, to go on the floors in the next three to four months, will be directed by Tarun Mansukhani, the associate director of "Kal Ho Na Ho".

In November, Deepa Mehta shoots "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam" for Pritish Nandy Communications.

On Tuesday actor-turned-director Kabir Sadanand starts shooting the wacky "Popcorn Khao Mast Ho Jao" for PNC. It features Tanisha, model Rashmi Nigam and Sunny Yasheel.

Claims Pritish Nandy: "'Popcorn Khao...' will out 'Jhankar Jhankar Beats'."


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