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Mahesh Manjrekar marches on despite Saif

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Why does Saif Ali Khan change his mind so often?

He said yes to Aparna Sen's first Hindi film "Gulel", then said no and now she is looking for a replacement actor "for a role tailor made for Saif".

Saif is also no longer in Mahesh Manjrekar's "Viruddh" where Amitabh Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore play an autumnal couple battling the corrupt and bestial bureaucracy.

Saif as his own mother's son would've been quite a casting coup. But post "Hum Tum", he is riding high and doesn't want to play the brief but pivotal role.

Saif or not, Mahesh Manjrekar is forging ahead with the high profile project.

For the launch of "Viruddh" (postponed to next week after Yash Johar's demise), Mahesh and AB Corp Ltd co-producing the film have invited five prominent citizens who have gone against the system.

"We've specially invited Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare, Tarun Tejpal, Sundarlal Bahuguna and T.N. Seshan. Seshan can't come because he has fractured his leg. But he he'll send a video recording."

This is the first time that the mainstream film industry is actually honouring those who have made a difference to our social system.

Mahesh, who is in New Delhi shooting for a film called "Amavas" with Victor Bannerjee, Konkona Sen Sharma and Tara Sharma, says John who now plays the son in "Viruddh" is a "good actor, sincere and hardworking".

"Viruddh" will also feature Sanjay Dutt, an old Mahesh Manjrekar favourite, in a pivotal role.

"His role would be as pivotal as it is in his new release 'Deewaar'," says Mahesh.

Clearly, Mahesh is all set to make a comeback this year with three very different films -- Saif notwithstanding.

"I'm deeply fascinated by people who stand up against wrong," says Mahesh.

"Which is why my favourite film is 'Struggler'. It's a totally experimental film with just one character of an actor struggling in Bollywood. I've never been closer to any of my films," he confesses.

Amitabh Bachchan, epitomising the Bollywood dream come true, makes an appearance at the end.

"I've sent 'Struggler' to the Locarno and Venice film festivals. Everyone connected with the film loved it. It's just an hour and 35 minutes long," says Mahesh who hopes to release it in handpicked multiplexes later this year.

Besides "Struggler", Mahesh says he has got lots of acting assignments, including two of his own films "Padmashri Laloo Prasad Yadav" and "Deh" and Sanjay Gupta's "Musafir".

"But now no more acting roles for me. 'Amavas' will be the last film where I'll be seen on screen."

In the comedy "Padmashri Laloo Prasad Yadav", Mahesh wants the real-life Lalu Prasad to make a brief appearance.

"We plan to shoot as soon as he gives us a day. Suneil Shetty, Johnny Lever and I plan to fly down to wherever he wants us to."

Right now Mahesh is looking forward to the release of his next directorial venture "Rakht" which opens in the last week of July or first week of August.

"Though I'm not proud of the script because it isn't original, I'm very happy with the way it has shaped up. Bipasha has done a great job. And Dino Morea will shock audiences in 'Rakht'."


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