Why Disha Patani playing Sangamithra hurts my Tamil sensibilities

It is really unfortunate that Shruti Haasan walked out of the movie.

 |  3-minute read |   28-10-2017
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Believe me, I am no language chauvinist. No Tamil chauvinist. But as I wrote in my column a few days ago, I strongly feel that no matter how great an actor may be, if he or she does not speak the language of the film, he or she is bound to face a certain impediment.

Words help one emote. How do you let your eyes or face express "I love you" when you do not understand what you are saying. It beats me.

Well, I saw a piece of news in this morning's newspapers which said Disha Patani, from Uttar Pradesh, would be playing the title role in Sundar C's Tamil movie, Sangamithra. Now, as far as I know, she has acted in one Telugu film (Loafer) and several Hindi movies, including the one in which I quite liked her, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. She was pretty and fascinating, and had a natural charm that was bewitching, to say the least.

But can Disha act in a Tamil movie, a language she is not familiar with?

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It is really unfortunate that Shruti Haasan (daughter of one of India's finest actors, Kamal Haasan) should have walked out of Sangamithra. She was the original choice, the right choice, because she speaks Tamil and can deliver an impressive performance.

Also, I was peeved about the way Shruti quit the project. Sundar and his cast - Shruti, Tamil actors Arya and Jayam Ravi, as well as AR Rahman - came to the Cannes Film Festival last May, and organised a grand show, where they launched Sangamithra. The producer had also co-sponsored the opening night party - a glitzy affair, which would have cost quite a pie.

(Now do not ask me why Indian producers, directors and actors fly down to the French Riviera during the festival to announce their projects. Mani Ratnam did this with his bilingual Raavan/Raavanan, Madhur Bhandarkar and Aishwarya Rai did this with Heroine, and many summers ago, Shekhar Kapur did this as well with his yet-to-take-off Paani, an interesting story about famine and water wars.)

But days later, when Shruti was back in Chennai, she said she was walking out of Sangamithra because a proper script and firm dates had not been given to her. If I had been the producer concerned here, I would have certainly been angry with Shruti. Why at all did she go to Cannes, if she was unsure about the script and the dates?

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Rai had done something similar some years ago after she and Bhandarkar had launched Heroine at Cannes. She told the helmer a few weeks after returning from Cannes that she was pregnant and could not therefore act for a considerable period of time. Reports then spoke of how this drove Bhandarkar to depression - till he pulled himself together and got Kareena Kapoor to be his Heroine.

Of course, an actress has the right to decide what she wants to do. But, I think it is unfair to let the producer foot her bill for a fancy jaunt to Cannes - or wherever - and then do an about-turn.

Be that as it may, I still feel it is a pity that Shruti is not playing Sangamithra.

A few things are known about this film at this point in time. Produced by Sri Thenandal Studios, Sangamithra (which will have a sequel) is set in the eighth century AD, and will have both Ravi and Arya staring in lead roles. Incidentally, the plot is not about emperor Ashoka's daughter, Sangamithra, who travelled far and wide - after her father renounced war (post Kalinga) - to spread the peace and goodwill of Buddhism.

Sundar's Sangamithra will talk about a brave warrior princess out to save her kingdom. Disha is all set to characterise her, handicapped though she may be with a lack of Tamil language fluency.

Also read: Netflix's 'Sacred Games' is Saif Ali Khan's attempt at finding a lost audience

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Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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