September 12, 2002 
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Tanuja Chandra
Tanuja sets the tune
But is her Sur a remake of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic Abhimaan?

Subhash K Jha

Hindi films nowadays seem to be adaptations of either Hollywood films or old Hindi classics. Last week's release, Kundan Shah's Dil Hai Tumhaara did a slick spin on Bimal Roy's Sujata. This week, it's Roy protege Hrishikesh Mukherjee whose 1970s classic Abhimaan gets a makeover with Tanuja Chandra's Sur.

Chandra, struggling to get a foothold in the male-dominated industry, seems to have hit on the perfect theme to project her angst. Her latest film, scheduled for release on September 13, is about the male ego.

The story of 40-something music teacher Vikramaditya Singh (Lucky Ali) who grooms a musical prodigy Tina Marie (debutante Gauri Karnik) only to feel threatened by her prodigious talent seems to have direct antecedents in Mukherjee's Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bhaduri starrer Abhimaan.

While famous singer Subir (Bachchan) found the untainted singer Uma (Bhaduri) in complete harmony with nature singing Nadiya kinare in Lata Mangeshkar's pristine voice, in Sur, Vikramaditya discovers his musical nemesis in a church in Goa.

Chandra denies any conscious similarity between the two films. "My previous film Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar and my latest one Sur have original screenplays," she insists. "I'm very proud of them. There's no vulgarity or crowd-pulling devices in Sur. Yet, it's a gripping emotional drama with a perfectly pitched performance by Lucky Ali. I couldn't have signed a better actor for the role of a tortured musician. I guess I got Lucky!"

Chandra's earlier films Dushman and Sangharsh were adapted from Hollywood films, An Eye For An Eye and The Silence Of The Lambs, respectively.

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Sur is a step forward for all women filmmakers, who rarely make films with male protagonists. Tanuja Chandra's own Dushman revolved around Kajol, Sangharsh around Preity Zinta and Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar around Amisha Patel. So the question naturally arises: will she do justice to her male protagonist in Sur? More importantly, has Lucky Ali done justice to the complex role?

For the singer-turned-actor, Sur is a crucial film. He has an author-backed role and also sings his own songs. Music director M M Kreem (who worked in Mahesh Bhatt's Criminal and Zakhm) has come up with imaginative violin-based tunes. But S D Burman's music in Abhimaan is regarded a classic to this day. Comparisons with Mukherjee's work at any level could hamper Sur's chances at the box-office. And yet, when the film is released by Columbia-Tristar, it is bound to be compared with Abhimaan.

Incidentally, Chandra is no stranger to Hindi classics. She adapted Amiya Chakravarty's Balraj Sahni-Nutan starrer Seema of the 1950s as a teleplay with Ashutosh Rana and singer Raageshwari.

Sur is critical for Chandra who's yet to give Bollywood a hit. The film, produced jointly by Pooja Bhatt and Pritish Nandy Communications, has no box-office ingredients to fall back on. Its leading lady is a much-visible face on television. Karnik played the second lead in Shobhaa De's daily soap Sukanya and also in Soni Razdan's Hamare Tumhare.

But would audiences want to see a singer and television actress locked in a passionate jugalbandi? "I don't know," shrugs Chandra. "But it's straight from the heart."


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