|Directed by||P. Vasu|
|Produced by||G. P. Vijay Kumar
|Written by||P. Vasu
Marudhuri Raja (Telugu dialogues)
|Music by||G. V. Prakash Kumar|
|1 August 2008|
|Budget||₹650 million (US$10 million)|
|Box office||₹200 million (US$3.2 million)|
Kuselan (Tamil: குசேலன்) is a 2008 Tamil drama film directed by P. Vasu. A remake of the Malayalam film Kadha Parayumbol, it was produced by Pushpa Kandaswamy, Aswani Dutt and G. P. Vijayakumar in two languages. Kuselan stars Pasupathy and Meena in lead roles. Rajinikanth plays an extended cameo role, as does Nayantara. The film was simultaneously made in Telugu as Kathanayakudu with a slightly different cast.
The plot revolves around a villager, who had shared a strong friendship with a popular cinema actor in his youth. However, due to their different careers they were forced to part ways, one becoming a national figure, the other, a village barber. Decades later, the actor returns to the village to participate in his film's shooting. Whilst the entire village become excited about the prospect of seeing the actor, the barber fears that his old friend would have forgotten him and would neglect him.
Kuselan opened to audiences on 1 August 2008, taking the third largest opening for a Tamil film up until the date of release. Despite the hype before release, the film ended up evoking negative reviews, mainly because it was termed as a Rajinikanth-starrer, although he made it clear that it was a guest appearance.
Balakrishnan (Pasupathy) is the owner of a barber shop in a remote village. His family consists of his wife Sridevi (Meena) and three children. Balakrishnan struggles to persuade customers to visit his barber shop while his competitor Shanmugham (Vadivelu), former worker of Balakrishnan who has his own barber shop across from Balakrishnan's, uses cunning means to make business in haircutting. Balakrishnan's downfall in business causes him to neglect paying his children's school fees. Although he struggles to make a living, he still enjoys spending time with his family.
News spreads through the village by Nagaraj (Santhanam) that superstar Ashok Kumar (Rajinikanth), a popular film actor, will be arriving for a shooting schedule. While the rest of the village celebrates in shock and excitement, the news does not impress Balakrishnan, who was best friends with the actor during their childhood days. The two have not met one another for nearly 25 years. Balakrishnan is often bothered by Sridevi, and his children to introduce them to Ashok Kumar. Kuppuswamy (Livingston), a financier who is keen on making a film and who was once disgusted by Balakrishnan's barber shop, tries to woo him into introducing him to Ashok Kumar so that he can make a film with him. Meanwhile, Sridevi spends her time bragging to her neighbours about her husband being friends with the super star.
In the other part of town, Ashok Kumar is given tight security, led by the deputy commissioner Senthilnathan (Prabhu Ganesan) due to the possibility of misbehaviour among the crowd who spend their time hanging out in front of every shoot location, eager to get a glimpse of the superstar. Ashok Kumar is shown taking part in the filmings of Annamalai: Part 2, Chandramukhi: Part 2, (fictional sequels of Annamalai and Chandramukhi) and Kuselan, along with his co-star Nayantara (Nayantara). Balakrishnan tries to meet with his childhood friend, but he is never able to make it to him through the large crowd. Shanmugham also tries every possible way to meet with the superstar so that he can get a photo with him and humorously fails.
The headmistress of the local convent school (Geetha) visits Balakrishnan and asks him if he could get Ashok Kumar to attend their school's upcoming annual function. Balakrishnan hesitates at first but later agrees to do so. Balakrishnan continues to attempt to confront the superstar, however with no success. On the other hand, Shanmugham finally falls into Ashok Kumar's backyard by accident and, and to his utmost surprise, gets the chance to speak with the celebrity.
Days pass by and the staff and parents of the school complain to Balakrishnan during their parents meeting about inviting the superstar. Balakrishnan, again, agrees to confront the actor but goes without doing so. The headmistress decides that it is only better if she invites the superstar. She visits him, with two other school secretaries, which includes Mr. Srinivasan (R. Sundarrajan), who arrogantly questions Ashok Kumar about his films and his personal decisions. Despite the irritation received from Srinivasan, the star accepts their invitation to and agrees to attend, as long as Srinivasan isn't around.
The day of the school function arrives and the school prepares for the arrival of Ashok Kumar. Back at Balakrishnan's house, Balakrishnan who is saddened because of his children; they are angry at him father for not taking them to see the super star, does not want to attend the school function. Sridevi shows her admiration for Ashok Kumar and her willingness to attend the function. Balakrishnan shows his willingness to grant at least her wish to see the super star and agrees to attend the function. At the school, Balakrishnan and Sridevi are wide-eyed to see Ashok Kumar walk across the stage. In his speech, Ashok Kumar praises the students and teachers of the school and receives many applauses. Srinivasan then learns that Ashok Kumar had a great respect for teachers. He brings forth his past, as a child. He explains his poor and harsh lifestyle during his childhood days. On that note, he then recalls his memories of his childhood friend, Balakrishnan, who, according to Ashok Kumar, cared for him so much and spent a lot for him. Ashok Kumar tells the audience that it was Balakrishnan who sold his own jewelry to send him to Madras to join a film institute. Ashok Kumar wipes away his tears as he expresses his sorrow for not being able to see his friend since then. Ashok Kumar then apologizes to the audience and ends his speech on a happy note. A broken-hearted Balakrishnan, returns home in tears after seeing his best friend cry on stage for him. As he weeps to his wife and children, he sees Ashok Kumar at his doorstep, forming the climax of the film. Balakrishnan slowly walks up to his long-lost friend and the two embrace and wipe away their tears.
After they settle down, Ashok Kumar tells Balakrishnan that him and his family must live with him thereafter. When Balakrishnan declines the offer, Ashok Kumar and the children utter one of his famous punch dialogues (from Badsha)"Nenu oka sari chepithe vanda sarlu cheppinattu". Ashok Kumar takes Balakrishnan outside, and to Balakrishnan's surprise, he sees the entire village crowded in front of his house. Ashok Kumar yells out to everyone in happiness that Balakrishnan is his best friend. Just when Ashok Kumar leaves, Balakrishnan feeds his favourite snack which Ashok Kumar feeds him back – a sentimental scene. The film ends showing Balakrishnan and Ashok Kumar walking away together and a moral of friendship is given (voiced by Rajinikanth).
Following P. Vasu and Rajinikanth's film, Chandramukhi in 2005, Vasu had been keen to re-cast Rajinikanth in another role and, before signing Kuselan, he had narrated a story titled Vettaiyan, which would have been a sequel of a character featured in Chandramukhi. Early in 2008, Rajinikanth signed up for S. Shankar's Enthiran, while Kuselan was launched at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai on 14 January 2008 coinciding with Pongal. The director, P. Vasu signed up Rajinikanth and Pasupathy to portray the lead roles, while director K. Balachandar agreed to produce the Tamil version of the film along with G.P. Vijayakumar's Seven Arts Productions, while Aswani Dutt agreed to produce the film in Telugu with Rajinikanth and Jagapati Babu in the lead roles. The film is a remake of the Malayalam movie, Kadha Parayumbol which was written by Sreenivasan who also played the lead role in the movie.
Vasu made it clear that Rajinikanth would not be doing an honorary role in the film, which Mammooty had portrayed in the original, but will play a full role, describing that "the whole story revolves around him [Rajnikanth]". The film's launch was halted on 7 March 2008 at the AVM Studios in Chennai with the leading artistes present. P. Vasu, while talking to the media mentioned that the shooting lasted 82 days with the versions being shot simultaneously and that most of the movie was shot inside the Ramoji Rao film city, with other destinations including Kerala and Pollachi.
Apart from the role of Rajinikanth, Vasu intended to use entirely different casts in either version of the bilingual film.Livingston, Manobala and Santhana Bharathi were added to the cast of the Tamil version, along with Vadivelu who pipped Vivek, Santhanam and Goundamani to land the role, even though Santhanam managed another role in the film. Furthermore, director S. P. Muthuraman agreed to play a guest role in the film. Despite Trisha Krishnan's request to appear opposite Rajinikanth, Nayantara accepted the role, however finding a female lead opposite Pasupathy was more difficult for the director, with Simran Bagga, Tabu and Sneha all being considered for the role in the Tamil version. However, Meena who played the role in the original, was offered the role in early February 2008 and accepted it. Throughout the production stages, it had been indicated that several prominent film personalities will appear in cameo appearances throughout the film, however no leading actors were approached. Indications later revealed that five actresses would appear opposite Rajinikanth in a song with the selected being Nayantara, Mamta Mohandas, Kushboo, Suja and Sneha all of whom apart from Nayantara, play minor roles. G. V. Prakash Kumar operated as the music composer while Arvind Krishna was the cinematographer.
|Kuselan: The Official Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by G. V. Prakash Kumar|
|Released||1 July 2008|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
|Producer||G. V. Prakash Kumar|
The soundtrack of Kuselan was released on 30 June 2008. The background score has been composed by G. V. Prakash Kumar along with five songs. The song Cinema Cinema commemorates the 75th anniversary of Tamil cinema. S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Sneha, Mamta Mohandas, Dhanush, Kushboo Sundar and Soundarya Rajinikanth appear in this song along with Rajinikanth, Nayantara and Vijayakumar. Sivaji Ganesan, M. G. Ramachandran, Rajkumar and N. T. Rama Rao, are also shown in this song.
|Soundtrack album by G. V. Prakash Kumar|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
|G. V. Prakash Kumar chronology|
|1||Cinema Cinema||6:08||Vaali||The song commemorates the 75th anniversary of Telugu and Tamil cinemas. Prominent actors play cameos in the song.|
|2||Sollamma||Hariharan, Sujatha Mohan, Baby Ranjini & Baby Pooja||6:13||Pa. Vijay||A melody picturized on Balakrishnan's family|
|3||Om Zaarare||Daler Mehndi, K. S. Chithra & Sadhana Sargam||7:12||Vaali||A song on the sets of the film, featuring Rajinikanth and Nayantara|
|4||Chaaral||Shreya Ghoshal||4:34||Kiruthiya||A song featuring Nayantara, picturized in Alappuzha|
|5||Perinba Pechukaran||Kailash Kher, V. Prasanna||5:36||Yugabharathi||An interlude with the villagers singing in praise of Balakrishnan after discovering his links with Ashok Kumar.|
Kuselan became the third largest release in the history of Tamil cinema, extracting 1000 prints worldwide, numbers exceeded only by Rajinikanth's previous venture, Sivaji. The film upon release, despite the initial hype before release, received negative reviews and unexpectedly took a lukewarm opening at the box office. Unlike previous Rajinikanth films, on day two of its release, tickets were available in almost all theatres across Tamil Nadu, with the film failing to get advance bookings. Traders blamed the producers for using Rajinikanth's "larger than life image" to sell it to distributors, Pyramid Saimira for $12 million, when they knew very well that he was only doing a special appearance. More than $1 million worth of pirated DVDs were seized around India featuring Kuselan. In Karnataka, Rajinikanth's home state, Kuselan failed to bring in $300,000, despite being sold for $600,000.
Pyramid Saimeera declared a loss of ₹403.2 million in the 3rd financial quarter of 2008 (a loss of nearly US $8 million, the highest loss for a single film in the Tamil film industry's 100-year history).
The film, upon release, garnered mainly negative reviews. Rediff.com criticized the film as "rushed", however praised Pasupathy mentioning that he comes "out the winner" in acting scenes, citing that his portrayal was "poetic". Meena is criticized, with the reviewer claiming that she "tries hard to re-create the original version's magic, but perhaps she has been told to over-do it for Tamil: she wears lipstick and pastel shades of saris for every other scene, while trying to prove that they have no idea where the next meal's going to come from". As for the script, "the freshness of the original has been denuded a little to accommodate dialogues that extol the many virtues of the superstar", becoming worse than that of the original. Whilst labelling Vadivelu as providing "antics are the ones that really make you grin", the rest of the supporting actors Manobala, M. S. Baskar, Livingston and Vaiyapuri "are absolutely wasted". Director P. Vasu is criticized by claiming that his "script must shoulder the responsibility of how Kuselan has ultimately turned out" with the only saving grace being "the original story, which pulls the screenplay from descending into nothing". G. V. Prakash Kumar and Thotta Tharani were also singled out by the Rediff reviewer for their adequate performances in their respective fields.
Reviewers also claimed that the producers and P. Vasu had attempted to capitalize on Rajinikanth's fan following in the film. The Deccan Herald reported that "It’s a big con to exploit brand Rajni and make a quick buck. He himself gallops in on a flying horse almost half way through the tortuous proceedings. His oneliners and quirks fall flat. If at all we are able to see flashes of the Rajni of yore, it’s towards the dying moments. By then it’s too late". This claim was echoed by one Sify.com review claiming the film "tries desperately to glorify Rajinikanth’s larger than life superstardom and create a halo around him as a do-gooder and a saint in real life. It loses its focus and moves away from the gist of the original, which was a simple story about human emotions, based on friendship between an ordinary barber and a superstar." In contrast, another Sify.com review praised the film labelling it as "above average". It claims that "Rajinikanth towers above all others, especially in the climax scene where there is a lot of melodrama and the human emotions are well etched out". Pasupathy has a "pained expression throughout" whilst "Meena just repeats her performance in the Malayalam version". It however criticizes Vadivelu who is described as "a bit crass and below-the-belt", in reference to his scenes with Sona Heiden. It adds that "Kuselan is quite an enjoyable watch and is different from previous Rajinikanth films" and that the "touching climax will leave a lump in your throat".
During the 2008 hunger strike organised by SIFAA against Karnataka's stance on the Hogenakkal Falls water dispute, he reprimanded politicians in Karnataka. Further, he appealed to leaders not to inflame the water project issue for political gains and requested that the issue should be resolved soon. He urged the Karnataka politicians "to speak the truth". "They cannot be fooled and will not remain silent if you continue to act in such manner," he stated. Vatal Nagaraj, a Kannada activist and leader of the Kannada Chaluvali Paksha, demanded an apology from Rajinikanth and threatened that he would not be allowed in the state of Karnataka and all his films would be boycotted. In an effort to save the economy of Tamil cinema in Karnataka and ensure welfare of Tamil Nadu-based filmmakers, Rajinikanth made a brief media appearance on the news channel TV9 Kannada and clarified his speech, issuing an apology. Following the release of Kuselan in Karnataka, Rajinikanth thanked the Kannada film industry for allowing the release of the film and lifting the ban. Fellow actors R. Sarathkumar, Sathyaraj and Radha Ravi condemned the apology, with the latter calling it a "disgrace to Tamils".
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