Gemini (2002 Tamil film)
|Edited by||Suresh Urs|
|Release date(s)||12 April 2002|
|Running time||157 minutes|
|Box office||210 million|
Gemini is a 2002 Indian Tamil masala film written and directed by Saran. It features Vikram in the title role and Kiran Rathod as his love interest, with Kalabhavan Mani portraying the main antagonist. Murali, Vinu Chakravarthy, Manorama, Thennavan, Rani and Ilavarasu play supporting roles. The film was produced by M. Saravanan, M. Balasubramaniam, M. S. Guhan and B. Gurunath. Its narrative, thematically based on gang wars in Chennai, is loosely inspired by the true stories of criminals "Vellai" Ravi and Chera. When Gemini, an outlaw and aspiring don, falls in love with a woman named Manisha, he decides to change himself for the better. While his attempts at reforming are backed by an inspirational police officer, another officer tries to thwart them.
Early in its production, the film was entitled Erumugham, with Ajith intended to play the lead role. However, when Ajith lost interest and left, the project was temporarily shelved. Saran rewrote the script, retitled the production Gemini and cast the new leads. Production began shortly afterwards in December 2001 and was completed by March 2002. Apart from two song sequences which were shot in Switzerland, the film was shot at AVM Studios, Chennai. Cinematography was by A. Venkatesh and the film was edited by Suresh Urs. The soundtrack was composed by Bharathwaj and the lyrics were written by Vairamuthu.
Gemini was released on 12 April 2002—two days prior to the Tamil New Year. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, who praised the performances of Vikram and Mani but criticised the script by Saran, it became the most commercially successful Tamil film of the year; its success was largely attributed to the popularity of the song "O Podu". Gemini resurrected the Tamil film industry, which was experiencing difficulties after a string of box office failures. It won three South Filmfare Awards, three International Tamil Film Awards and four Cinema Express Awards. Encouraged by its success, Saran remade the film in Telugu as Gemeni, which was released later the same year.
Teja (Kalabhavan Mani), an influential gangster, arrives with his gang at a magistrates' court to attend a hearing. He retaliates when his animal antics are mocked at by "Chintai" Jeeva, another accused. A fight ensues, resulting in the death of Jeeva. Jeeva was a member of the rival gang, which is headed by Gemini (Vikram), an up-and-coming goon from Chintadripet who aspires to become a big don. To avenge Jeeva's death, Gemini and his gang hunt down the murderer, Pandian. Isaac, one of Gemini's men, kills Pandian, leading to a feud between Gemini and Teja. Pandian's mother Annamma (Manorama) becomes the gang's cook, posing as an old woman who must work to pay for an eye operation, and plots to poison them.
Gemini meets and falls in love with Manisha Natwarlal (Kiran Rathod), a Marwari woman. To pursue her, he joins an evening class at the college that she attends and she falls in love with him, unaware of his true identity. Two businessmen approach Gemini to evict traders from a market so that a shopping complex can be built in its place. As the market is in his control, Gemini refuses the offer and the businessmen approach Teja to carry out the job. Feigning an altercation with Gemini, his sidekick Kai (Thennavan) joins Teja's gang, acts as the inside man and foils the plan. Teja is enraged at being outsmarted by Gemini.
Singaperumal (Murali), an astute police officer, is promoted to the position of Director General of Police (DGP). Keen on eradicating crime, he arrests both Gemini and Teja. Owing to their political influence, the arrests are made "off the record". Understanding their rivalry, Singaperumal puts them in a private cell so they can beat each other to death. While Teja tries to exact revenge for the market issue, Gemini does not fight back but persuades Teja to trick Singaperumal by pleading guilty and requesting a chance to reform. Gemini's trick works and they are released.
Because Gemini was arrested at the college, Manisha discovers his identity and starts ignoring him. To regain her attention, Gemini reforms his ways. Though his gang initially disapprove of it, they relent. As Gemini and his gang regret their actions, Annamma reveals her true identity and forgives them. Singaperumal helps Gemini to get back into college and reunite with Manisha. Teja returns to his gang and continues his illegal activities. He pesters Gemini to help him in his business. Gemini informs Singaperumal of Teja's activities; Teja is caught smuggling narcotics, is prosecuted and serves a term in prison.
A few months later, Singaperumal is transferred to the transport department and a corrupt officer (Vinu Chakravarthy) takes his place. The new DGP releases Teja and together they urge Gemini to help them in their business. Gemini refuses; to force him to return to his old ways, Teja persuades Isaac to conspire against Gemini. With Isaac's help, Teja plots and kills Kai. Gemini is infuriated and decides to settle the issue, confronting Teja. During the fight, Gemini beats up Teja and swaps their clothes, leaving Teja bound and gagged. The DGP arrives and shoots Teja, disguised as Gemini, dead. While the DGP grieves over Teja's death, he receives news that he has been transferred to the Sewage Control Board.
- Vikram as Gemini, an aspiring don who reforms later
- Kiran Rathod as Manisha Natwarlal, a free-spirited Marwari woman
- Kalabhavan Mani as Teja, a don who mimics animals
- Vinu Chakravarthy as a power-obsessed and corrupt police officer
- Murali as Singaperumal, a sincere and dignified police officer
- Charle as Chinna Salem, a pimp operating a mobile brothel
- Ramesh Khanna as Gopal M.A., a professor at the evening college
- Dhamu as the owner of an auto mechanic shed, Auto Hospital, from where the gang operates
- Vaiyapuri as Oberoi, Dawood's sidekick
- Rani as Kamini, a divorcée and Gemini's classmate who lusts for him
- Thennavan as Kai, Gemini's loyal deputy
- Isaac as Isaac, Gemini's gang member who betrays him later
- Thyagu as Sammandham, a police officer
- Madhan Bob as R. Anilwal I.P.S, a police officer trying to eradicate prostitution
- Ilavarasu as Commissioner of Police
- Omakuchi Narasimhan as Bombay Dawood, a butcher
- Gemini Ganesan in a cameo as himself
- Manorama as Annamma, a woman who seeks to avenge her son's death
During the making of the film Alli Arjuna (2002) in early 2001, its director Saran announced his next venture. The film would mark his third collaboration with Ajith in the lead after the success of Kaadhal Mannan (1998) and Amarkalam (1999). According to the director, it was a "modern day rags to riches story" in which the protagonist rises from humble origins to an enviable position. The film was titled Erumugham ("Upward mobility") and was to be produced by A. Purnachandra Rao for Lakshmi Productions. As with most of Saran's films, Erumugham was a gangster film. Laila Mehdin and Richa Pallod, who played the heroine in Saran's Parthen Rasithen (2000) and Alli Arjuna respectively, were to play the female lead roles. It was reported that the song recording began on 16 March 2001; shooting was to start in mid-June and continue until August that year, followed by post-production work in September. The project was planned for a Diwali release, but after a week of shooting Ajith found a more engaging story in Red and lost interest in the project; Ajith left and the project was shelved. After this incident, Saran stated that he would never do another film with Ajith. The pair would however reconcile their differences later, and collaborate on Attahasam (2004) and Aasal (2010).
Saran rewrote the script and began the project again. The film, as yet untitled, was announced in August 2001. The plot, which was based on gang wars in Chennai, was loosely inspired by a real life incident involving North Madras gangsters "Vellai" Ravi and Chera. The film was the 162nd production of AVM Productions, and their first film after a five-year hiatus. Their last production before the hiatus was Minsara Kanavu (1997), the release of which marked fifty years since its first production Naam Iruvar (1947).[b] By producing Gemini, AVM became one of the four film studios that had been producing films for over fifty years. While titling the film, producer M. Saravanan chose Gemini among the many titles suggested to him, but because Gemini Studios was the name of a major production house, Saravanan wrote to S. Balasubramanian, editor of Ananda Vikatan and son of Gemini Studios founder S. S. Vasan, requesting permission to use the title. In response, Balasubramanian gave his consent.
Cast and crew
With Vikram cast in the title role, Saran was searching for a newcomer to play the female lead role of a Marwari woman. Speculations that Sneha would be playing the heroine were proven untrue. Kiran Rathod is a native of Rajasthan, the place where the Marwaris originate from. She is a relative of actress Raveena Tandon, whose manager brought Rathod the offer to act in Gemini. Saran was convinced after seeing a photograph of Rathod and added her to the cast; Gemini thus became her debut Tamil film.
Malayalam actors Kalabhavan Mani and Murali were approached to play significant roles. Gemini is widely believed to be Mani's first Tamil film, though he had already starred in Vaanchinathan (2001). There have been conflicting theories on how he was cast: while Vikram claims to have suggested Mani for the role of Teja, Saran said in one interview that casting Mani was his idea, and contradicted this in another interview, saying that Mani was chosen on his wife's recommendation. While searching for an unfamiliar face for the DGP's role, Saran saw Murali in Dumm Dumm Dumm (2001) and found him "very dignified". He chose Murali as he wanted that dignity for the role. Though he had planned to make Murali a villain at the end of the film, Saran decided against it because he was "amazed to see awe in everyone's eyes when Murali entered the sets and performed".
Thennavan, Vinu Chakravarthy, Ilavarasu, Charle, Dhamu, Ramesh Khanna, Vaiyapuri, Madhan Bob, Thyagu and Manorama form the supporting cast. A cameo appearance by Gemini Ganesan was his last film appearance before his death in March 2005. The technical departments were handled by Saran's regular crew, which consisted of cinematographer A. Venkatesh, editor Suresh Urs, production designer Thotta Tharani and costume designers Sai and Nalini Sriram. The choreography was by Super Subbarayan (action) and Suchitra, Brinda and Ashok Raja (dance). The music was composed by Bharathwaj and the lyrics were written by Vairamuthu.
Gemini was formally launched on 21 November 2001 at the Hotel Connemara, Chennai in the presence of celebrities including Rajinikanth (through video conferencing) and Kamal Haasan. The launch function was marked by the submission of the script, songs and lyrics. Principal photography was scheduled to begin in mid-December that year, but commenced a little early. Vikram shot for the film simultaneously with Samurai (2002). When Kalabhavan Mani was hesitant in accepting the film due to other commitments in Malayalam, shooting was re-scheduled to film Mani's scenes first. Saran persuaded Mani to allot dates for twelve days to complete his scenes. Since Mani was a mimicry artist, Saran asked him to exhibit his talents; Mani aped the behaviour of a few animals and Saran chose among them, which were added to the film.
Gemini, with the exception of two songs which were filmed in Switzerland, was shot at AVM Studios. One of the songs, "Penn Oruthi", was shot at Jungfraujoch, the highest point in Europe. Travel Masters, a Chennai-based company owned by former actor N. Ramji, arranged the overseas shoots. Part of the song sequence was filmed on a sledge in Switzerland, making it the second Indian film to have done so after the Bollywood film Sangam (1964). Though there were problems in acquiring permission, executive producer M. S. Guhan persisted. Gemini was completed on schedule and M. Saravanan praised the director, saying, "... we felt like we were working with S. P. Muthuraman himself, such was Saran's efficiency".
The characters of Gemini and Teja were modelled on "Vellai" Ravi and Chera respectively—Tamil-Burma repatriates who settled in Bhaktavatsalam colony (B.V. Colony) in Vyasarpadi, North Madras. They were members of rival gangs headed by Benjamin and Subbhaiah respectively. Their rivalry began when Benjamin, a DYFI member, questioned the illegal activities of Subbhaiah who, apart from running a plastics and iron ore business, held kangaroo courts. When their feud developed into a Christian-Hindu conflict, they recruited jobless men and formed gangs to wage wars against each other. While Subbhaih's nephew Chera became his right-hand man, "Vellai" Ravi became Benjamin's aide. Benjamin and Ravi's gang killed Subbaiah in 1991. A year later, Chera's gang retaliated by killing Benjamin with the help of another gang member, Asaithambi. Another gangster, Kabilan, joined Chera's gang and they killed more than fourteen people to avenge Subbaiah's murder. One of the murders took place inside the Egmore court in early 2000 when Chera's gang killed Ravi's aide Vijayakumar, leading to a police crackdown on the gangsters. Fearing an encounter, both "Vellai" Ravi and Chera decided to give up their lives of crime and reform. The then-DCP of Flower Bazaar, Shakeel Akhter, held the "transition ceremony" in February 2001. "Vellai" Ravi and Chera were re-arrested under Goondas Act during the film's pre-production.
When asked about his fascination for "rowdy themes", Saran said:
I come from a lower middle class background and have lived all my life in 'Singara Chennai'. I used to go to college from my house in Aminjikkarai by bus and many of the incidents that you see in my films are inspired by those days. Chennai city and its newspapers have been my source material.
The characters of DGP Singaperumal and "Chintai" Jeeva were based on Shakeel Akhter and Vijayakumar respectively. Since the criminals were re-arrested after being given a chance, the initial script had Singaperumal turning villainous during the climax. When Saran felt that the audience would not be kind to him and that it would damage the film, he added another corrupt police officer to do the job while maintaining Singaperumal as a "very strong, good police officer".
The soundtrack album and film score were composed by Bharathwaj. Since making his entry into Tamil films with Saran's directorial debut Kaadhal Mannan, he has scored the music for most films directed by Saran. The lyrics were written by poet-lyricist Vairamuthu.
"O Podu" was a popular expression among college students in Tamil Nadu. When Saran wanted a catchphrase for a song, Vairamuthu suggested using this term and building on it. On Saran's insistence, the term was then incorporated into and mixed with the title song, resulting in the track "O Podu", an item number. It was sung by Anuradha Sriram, choreographed by Ashok Raja and picturised on Rani and Vikram. For the song, Vikram did the "Savu Koothu" dance, which is commonly performed in Tamil Nadu while accompanying the dead. The lyrics of "Deewana", sung by Sadhana Sargam, had some Hindi words as it was picturised on the heroine, a typical Marwari woman from Sowcarpet for whom Hindi comes naturally. In an interview to The Hindu, Vairamuthu revealed that the track "Naattu Katta" was based on a folk song.[c]
|Soundtrack album to Gemini by Bharathwaj|
|1.||"Thala Keezha"||Manikka Vinayagam||04:10|
|3.||"Penn Oruthi"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam||05:11|
|5.||"Kaadhal Enbatha – Sad"||Bharathwaj||01:16|
|6.||"O Podu"||Anuradha Sriram, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam||04:03|
|7.||"Naattu Katta"||Shankar Mahadevan, Swarnalatha||04:52|
|8.||"O Podu"||Anuradha Sriram, Vikram||04:00|
The music received positive reviews from critics. Sify wrote that Bharadwaj's music was "the only saving grace in the otherwise utterly lamebrain film". Writing for Rediff, Pearl stated that the music director was "impressive". The songs were well received by the audience and the track "O Podu", in particular, was a hit. Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu said that the song by Anuradha Sriram has given the term "O! Podu!", which has been part of the "local lingo" for years, a "new, crazy dimension". It earned Rani—on whom the song was picturised—the moniker "O Podu Rani". The song enjoyed anthem-like popularity and according to V. Paramesh, a dealer of film music for 23 years, sold like "hot cakes". In 2009, Mid Day wrote, "O podu is still considered the cornerstone of the rambunctious koothu dance". "O Podu" belongs to only a small collection of South Indian songs, including "Appadi Podu", "Nakka Mukka", "Why This Kolaveri Di" and "Ringa Ringa", that are considered a "national rage" in India. Despite rampant piracy, the album sold more than 100,000 cassettes before the film's release. It was one of the biggest hits in Bharathwaj's career and earned him his first Filmfare Award for Best Music Director – Tamil.
Following the song's success, Vikram was greeted everywhere with screams of "O Podu". He was overwhelmed by the response and, having already worked as a voice artist and singer, offered to sing his version of the song. According to Vikram, the song was recorded and filmed the same morning, and was added to the soundtrack album a month after its initial release. The film had been completed by then and the additional track was featured during the closing credits. Dissatisfied with the shortened version of the song provided initially, the audience forced theatre owners to rewind the song and play it again. After receiving calls from distributors and theatre owners, the makers eventually sent the entire song.
The music also received some unexpected reactions. The high-energy track "O Podu" drove people mad; some resorting to violence, enraging villagers in Tamil Nadu and leading to public property damage in Malaysia. Vairamuthu's lyrics, which are typically in pure Tamil, contained slang terms and words from other languages such as "Deewana" (Hindi). This departure was criticised by film journalist Sreedhar Pillai, who derided the lyrics of "O Podu" as "pure gibberish".
Release and reception
The film, which was supposed to be released on 14 April 2002 coinciding with the Tamil New Year, was released two days early on 12 April, apparently to capitalise on weekend collections. Gemini was released alongside Vijay's Thamizhan, Prashanth's Thamizh and Vijayakanth's Raajjiyam. The film released across Tamil Nadu with 104 prints, the most for a Vikram film at the time of release. On the day of release, the film premiered in Singapore with the hero, heroine, director and producer in attendance. AVM sold the film to distributors for a "reasonable profit" and marketed it aggressively. They organised promotional events at Music World in Chennai's Spencer Plaza, Landmark and Sankara Hall, where Vikram publicised the film and signed autographs. Since "O Podu" was such a hit among children, AVM invited young children to write reviews, and gave away prizes. In 2006, Saran revealed in a conversation with director S. P. Jananathan that his nervousness rendered him sleepless for four days until the film was released.
Gemini received mixed reviews from critics. Malathi Rangarajan praised Vikram and stated, "Be it action or sensitive enactment, Vikram lends a natural touch. Thus even though the credibility level of Saran's storyline is low, Vikram helps Gemini score." Kalabhavan Mani received unanimous critical acclaim for his mimicry and portrayal of a villain with a comic sense. Rediff wrote, "The highlight in Gemini is undoubtedly Kalabhavan Mani's performance ... As the paan-chewing Gemini, Vikram too delivers a convincing performance" and that "Gemini is your typical 'masala' potboiler. And it works." In contrast, Sify said, "Saran should be blamed for this inept movie, which has no storyline and has scant regard for logic or sense ... Vikram as Gemini is unimpressive ... Top character actor Murali is also wasted in the film".
Following the film's success, Vikram was compared with actor Rajinikanth. D. Govardan of The Economic Times wrote, "The film's success has catapulted its hero, Vikram as the most sought after hero after Rajinikanth in the Tamil film industry today". Rajinikanth, who saw the film, met Vikram and praised his performance. Saran told in an interview that Rajinikanth was so impressed with the songs, he predicted the film's success in addition to considering Rathod for a role in his film Baba (2002). The film's premise of an outlaw reforming his ways was appreciated. D. Ramanaidu of Suresh Productions—the co-producer of the Telugu remake—said, "The story of a rowdy sheeter turning into a good man is a good theme".
In an article discussing the rise of the gangster-based film becoming a genre in itself, Sreedhar Pillai wrote in a reference to Gemini:
The hero is an all out villain, who is daringly different but the director makes him dream of those lush Switzerland songs (our hero then is clad in designer wear). The rowdies in the film have very highly educated girls from affluent family lusting after them ... Bachchan of "Deewar" or Shah Rukh of "Baazigar" took to crime because they were wronged. Nowadays the Geminis and Nandas of Tamil cinema indulge in crime for the heck of it.
Gemini was a box office success and became the biggest hit of the year in Tamil. Because most films that were released on Diwali and Pongal were not successful, Gemini helped the industry recover. Made on a budget of 40 million (equivalent to 84 million or US$1.4 million in 2014), the film grossed more than 200 million (equivalent to 420 million or US$7.0 million in 2014). The film's success was largely attributed to the popularity of the song "O Podu". D. Govardan stated, "A neatly made 'masala' (spice) film, with the song O Podu.. as its USP, it took off from day one and has since then not looked back". Vikram, who was a struggling actor for almost a decade, credited Gemini as his first real blockbuster. Sreedhar Pillai said that a good story, presentation and peppy music made it a "winning formula" and said that "Gemini has been the biggest hit among Tamil films in the last two years".
The film ran successfully in theatres for more than 125 days. The box office collections revived the fortunes of theatres that were on the verge of closure. AVM received a letter from the owner of New Cinema, a theatre in Cuddalore, who repaid his debts with the revenue the film generated. Abirami Ramanathan, owner of the multiplex Abhirami Mega Mall, said that Gemini's success would slow down the rapid closure of theatres from 2,500 to 2,000. Following the success of the film, Saran named his production house "Gemini Productions", under which he produced films including Aaru (2005), Vattaram (2006) and Muni (2007).
|Filmfare Awards South||50th Filmfare Awards South||Best Music Director||Bharathwaj||Won|
|Best Female Playback Singer||Anuradha Sriram||Won|
|Best Villain||Kalabhavan Mani||Won|
|International Tamil Film Awards||1st International Tamil Film Awards||Best Actor||Vikram||Won|
|Best Villain||Kalabhavan Mani||Won|
|Best Singer Female||Anuradha Sriram||Won|
|Cinema Express Awards||22nd Cinema Express Awards||Best New Face Actress||Kiran Rathod||Won|
|Best Music Director||Bharathwaj||Won|
|Best Dialogue Writer||Saran||Won|
|Best Singer Female||Anuradha Sriram||Won|
Following the success and popularity of Gemini, Saran remade the film in Telugu as Gemeni. It is the only film Saran made in a language other than Tamil.[d] The remake starred Venkatesh and Namitha in the lead roles, while Kalabhavan Mani and Murali reprised their roles from the Tamil version. Most of the crew members were retained. Posani Krishna Murali translated the dialogues to Telugu. The soundtrack was composed by R. P. Patnaik, who reused most of the tunes from the original film. Released in October 2002, the film received lukewarm response and failed to repeat the success of the original. In 2013, a Kannada remake was reported to have been planned with Upendra in the lead, but he dismissed the reports as rumours.
In September 2002, Gemini was screened as part of a six-day workshop conducted jointly by the Department of Journalism and Communication, and the Mass Communication Alumni Association, of the University of Madras; it focussed on the impact of cinema on society. In a comical sequence, Dhamu's character says that he knows about a martial art named "Maan Karate" (Maan means "Deer"), which is actually the art of running away like a deer when in danger. The phrase became famous and was used to name the 2014 action comedy film Maan Karate because whenever there is a problem in his life, the hero (played by Sivakarthikeyan) fails to face them and instead runs for cover.
A game-based reality show for children was titled "O Podu". AVM was involved in the show, which was produced by Vikatan Televistas and directed by Gerald. The show was broadcast for 26 weeks on Sun TV on Sundays with Raaghav as its anchor. During the run-up to the 2006 assembly election, Chennai-based journalist Gnani Sankaran began a social awareness movement to prevent electoral fraud and named it "O Podu" as a short form of "Oatu Podu" meaning "cast your vote". The movement urged the electorate to exercise the right to reject candidates under Section 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, wherein a voter, who has decided not to vote for anyone, can record the fact. For this purpose, the people behind "O Podu" also urged the election commission to facilitate a separate button on the electronic voting machine. In July 2011, Vikram inaugurated an initiative called "Liver 4 Life", which was launched by MIOT Hospitals to create awareness of the Hepatitis B virus. As the campaign was targeted at school and college students, the organisers tweaked the term "O Podu" into "B Podu" and made it the event's tagline to capitalise on the song's immense appeal.
- Writing for The Hindu, film journalist Sreedhar Pillai claimed that the budget was 35 million (equivalent to 74 million or US$1.2 million in 2014) while D. Govardan, writing for The Economic Times, claimed it to be 40 million (equivalent to 84 million or US$1.4 million in 2014).
- While AVM have been producing films since 1931 under different names such as Saraswathi Sound Productions, Saraswathi Talkies Producing Company and Pragati Pictures, Naam Iruvar (1947) was the first film produced under the name AVM Productions.
- The claim by Vairamuthu does not mention the name of the song on which "Naattu Katta" is based.
- Saran had planned to remake Amarkalam in Hindi after the completion of the former, with Vivek Oberoi in the lead. The project however failed to take off.
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