August 29, 2002 
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Manisha Koirala
What do Manisha and Karisma have in common?
A look at the women-oriented films to hit the marquee

Subhash K Jha

This year seems to highlight the competitive spirit in the Hindi film industry. Just when Sanjay Leela Bhansali was readying his Devdas, veteran Shakti Samanta sneaked his own Devdas in Bengali.

It is another matter that the Bengali Devdas flopped, while Bhansali's Devdas blossomed, prompting poet-lyricist-director Gulzar to wonder, "If the purists were so affronted by Bhansali's Devdas, why didn't they accept the faithful rendition in the other new adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's epic?"

Earlier this year, we had the notorious battle of the Bhagat Singhs where everyone lost. Now it seems Hindi cinema is gearing up for another bout of self-limiting competition. Two new directors --- Bengal cinema's Ujjwal Chatterjee and Telugu cinema's K Vamsi are all set to make their feature film debuts.

Chatterjee's Escape From Taliban and Vamsi's Shakti -- The Power share some similarities. Taliban tells the true-life story of a Bengali woman, played by Manisha Koirala, who marries into a radical Muslim family in Afghanistan's Taliban regime. She finally flees from the suffocating conservatism of her in-laws.

Vamsi's Shakti, inspired by Brian Gilbert's Not Without My Daughter, is also a true-life story about a newly married woman's tryst with radicalism. Gilbert's film was about a Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody, who married an Iranian doctor and migrated to her husband’s country, only to flee the tyranny of her new home with her daughter.

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Shakti duly Indianises the theme. The wife (Karisma Kapoor) marries into a fundamentalist Hindu family, headed by Nana Patekar. She finally makes a run with the help of a guide played by Shah Rukh Khan (played by Roshan Seth in the Hollywood film).

Both films are essentially twins in theme, mood and message. And chances are that the films will hit theatres at around the same time. They are tentatively scheduled to release around the third week of September.

Even as Koirala and Kapoor women prepare for a battle at the box-office, several other leading ladies are preparing to squeeze the tears out of the audience by standing up against patriarchal dominance. Raveena Tandon in Madhur Bhandarkar's Satta, Aishwarya Rai in Naresh Malhotra's Dil Ka Rishta, Kareena Kapoor in S J Surya's Khushi and Urmila Matondkar in Sreeram Raghavan's Ek Haseena Thi are also getting ready to give the heroes a run for their money.


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