Jeans is a 1998 Tamil musical and romantic film. Directed and co-written by Shankar and produced by Ashok Amritraj and Murali Manohar, its stars Prashanth Thyagarajan, Aishwarya Rai and Nassar in multiple lead roles. Raju Sundaram and Lakshmi, prominent actors from the south Indian film industry, played the roles of the lead characters' relatives in the movie.
The film revolves around a Non-resident Indian man, Rajamani, who has twin sons, Vishwanathan and Ramamoorthy, and as a result of his separation from his twin wants his sons to be married to twins. However Vishwanathan falls in love with a woman, Madhumitha, who visits the USA to help her grandmother remove a brain tumour. Vishwanathan, after helping the woman's grandmother to live, tells her his father's plea. Eventually Vishwanathan and Madhumitha put on a double act attempting to deceive the father, however their plans are foiled. How the couple manages to change his father's decision to marry his sons to twins forms the crux of the story.
The film opened to Indian audiences after several delays, on 24 April 1998 just after the Tamil New Year, and in the process, became the most expensive film to be made in India at the time. Despite receiving mixed reviews on the actors' performances and the basic storyline, the film became a major hit at the South Indian box office. Owing to its success, it was later dubbed into the Hindi and Telugu language and released with the same name. The film was nominated by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1998.
Rajamani (Nassar) is a restaurateur in Los Angeles, USA. His twin sons Vishwanathan and Ramamoorthy (both played by Prashanth Thyagarajan), are both medical students, who help him out in the evenings and on weekends alongside with the restaurant's chief cook, Gino (Senthil). One evening, Vishwanathan goes to the airport to check on the family's supply concession and sees that some fellow Indians – Madhumitha (Aishwarya Rai), her brother Madhesh (Raju Sundaram) and their grandmother Krishnaveny (Lakshmi) – have difficulty with an address. He pitches in to help and learns that they just flew in from India so that Krishnaveny can undergo a crucial surgery to remove her brain tumour.
The story shifts to the hospital where Vishwanathan, an intern, visits Krishnaveny's room after the operation, and notices she has been operated on the wrong side. Vishwanathan appeals aggressively to the doctors and has the error corrected by another surgery and then spearheads an angry fight for compensation the hospital gives in preference to avoid a messy court case.
When the grandmother realises that Vishwanathan and Madhumitha have fallen in love, she extends the family's stay in the United States and takes a liking to Vishwanathan's good nature. However, Rajamani objects to the budding romance and wants his sons to marry identical twins because he himself has an identical twin brother. They both had married for love in their youth, but are now estranged because the wife of Rajamani's brother showed such tyrannical behaviour towards Rajamani's wife (Sundaramba, played by Raadhika) that Sundaramba perished.
Krishnaveny solves the problem by telling Rajamani that Madhumitha has an identical twin, Vaishnavi. The story spun by Krishnaveny is that Vaishnavi has been brought up in an orthodox Brahmin household. At this point they ring in Madhumitha's alter ego, contrasting Madhumitha with a very demure, typically traditional Indian version. Ramanathan, falls for the act, unaware that Vaishnavi and Madhumitha are the same person. The secret finally explodes, with Vishwanathan breaking his relationship with Madhumitha finding out that his brother has come out depressed. Following eventual consultations, the pair are reunited.
The cast featured three actors, who all appeared in multiple roles. Like in previous films by Shankar, the supporting cast was elaborate with guest appearances from prominent artistes.
The entire production of the movie took about a year and a half to be completed and released. Prior to Jeans, Shankar had directed three films, Gentleman, Kadhalan and Indian, all three of which had been successful ventures at the box-office. Jeans, unlike the others, was his first film which was shot outside of India, for the majority of the film.
Producers Ashok Amritraj, Michael Soloman and Murali Manohar all made their Tamil film debuts with Jeans, respectively, in producing the most expensive film til date in 1998. Critics felt that Jeans, if it became a hit like Shankar's previous films, would capitulate him into the top bracket of directors as both the lead actors, Prashanth and Aishwarya Rai had been labelled as "flop" actors. The film was made by many of the same filmmakers involved in Indian which won several National Film Awards. The casting of the film was left to Shankar after he had finalized the story. Genes was the title selected but Shankar felt it would not apply to the masses so he used the homonym, Jeans.
The film's launch was held at the AVM Studios in Vadapalani, Chennai in December 1996. The Jeans invitation was printed, wrapped in Jeans cloth and was hand delivered by Shankar to his close colleagues and friends in Chennai, which included prominent actors in the Tamil filmdom, making it the grandest Tamil film launch to date in 1996. Aishwarya Rai, Prashanth, and S. Shankar and just about anyone else associated with the shooting of the film, wore their favorite pair of blue jeans as per request from the producers.
The other substitution in the project involved the cinematographer. Despite popular belief that Shankar would again sign on Jeeva, whom he had worked with in Kadhalan, Gentleman and Indian. However Santhosh Sivan was announced as the cinematographer for the film but between the time of the announcement and the finishing stages of the film, cinematographer Ashok Kumar was publicized as the official cinematographer for the film. In mid-1997, film organisation FEFSI striked and in the midst of this, the film's art director Thotta Tharani, a FEFSI supporter, refused to sacrifice his position in FEFSI in order to continue filming Jeans. Without much choice, Shankar signed a newcomer Bala to take over the set design and art work for the film. The film's art direction is credited with both Thotta Tharani and Bala. Venki was signed up to deal with the special-effects in the film, with Jeans containing the most number of minutes of special effects amongst any film made til 1998, including Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. The film also were assisted in graphics of having the effects created by the Pentafour company in Hollywood.
The filming of Jeans, broke the record for the number of different foreign locations featured in an Indian film. The initial scenes of the Rajamani family's catering company was filmed in Las Vegas. Other scenes were shot in California at the Universal Studios, who usually does not grant permission for foreign films to conduct shooting there. However with influence from the film's producer Ashok Amritraj they were able to obtain special permission to film a few scenes inside. Besides the King Kong set, Jeans was also shot in the "simulated earthquake experience" sets. The filming in Los Angeles received much publicity as well as the filming at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Other Jeans shooting locations in the United States of America included the Valley of Fire, Manhattan Beach, Malibu Lake and many scenic spots throughout California. The song Columbus was picturized at the shores of Venice Beach, California with some foreign male and female dancers. Shankar also filmed in New York at the World Trade Center when co-producer Michael Salomon and his wife, Luciana Balusia visited the sets of Jeans.
After a 45 day schedule in the United States, Shankar and the team returned to India to film a couple of scenes in the climax. The team then visited several other countries to picturize the song Poovukul, with featured scenes with six prolific buildings in the world, dubbing Aishwarya Rai as the "seventh wonder of the world". Shankar admitted that due to no real list being present, thought had been put into which wonders were selected. The team made a thirty day trip around the world stopping to can scenes at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Empire State Building, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower. During the shooting in Paris the death of Princess Diana had taken place and shooting was delayed in the France, due to her death. For the most part, Jeans was surrounded by world events of all sorts and for Shankar, the cast and crew of the film described the experiences as "tremendously vivid and memorable". Three week prior to the release of the film, on 1 April 1998 a screening was held labelled the Making of Jeans with prominent personalities invited, however the short film showed the real manufacture of jeans. The prank was claimed by Shankar and his crew who utilized an April Fools joke.
Jeans was released worldwide on 24 April 1998 soon after Tamil New Year's Day, over three months after its original release date of 14 January 1998. With 240 prints, the films holds the 1998 record for a Tamil film. Upon release the film was subsequently dubbed into two languages, Telugu and Hindi. Owing to the success of the film, the number of reels grew, it was estimated that the film garnered about Rs. 5 crores (50 million) in India. The film completed 100 days of screening in the theaters in the state of Tamil Nadu. In local parlance, this is considered to be one of the measures for a film's success. The reception for Jeans in Malaysia was equally as celebrated, releasing in six major metropolises for a run which lasted up to 9 weeks, collecting $114,883 (then approximately Rs. 5 million) within its 50 day run. In Singapore, $ 125,000 on its opening day setting a nine year record, before the figure for the biggest Tamil film opening was surpassed by Sivaji. Furthermore, the film was nominated by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1998.
Jeans opened to positive reviews from most critics, however the film was also negatively reviewed by others. Rediff praised the lead characters Prashanth, Aishwarya Rai and Nassar as "ever dependable", whilst singling out praise for Radhika whom she describes that " with her startling cameo, sweeps the acting honours". Rediff praises the technical crew describing Venky's FX as a "virtual reality", Ashok Kumar's cinematography as "throughout and outstanding", Raju Sundaram's choreography as "memorable" and A. R. Rahman's score as "entirely hummable". Shankar's directorial attributes were described to be to a "perfect flow of narrative and a penchant for demanding and getting perfection out of every element of his cast and crew" and that the film was an "easy fit".
Balaji Balasubramaniam, a prominent critic, labels Jeans as "glossy and extravagant" and comments that the "film clicks". The lead actors were mixed with Prashanth labelled as "impressive", while Aishwarya Rai is described as "pretty" and that she "exhibits grace in dancing" but that "her performance leaves lots of room for improvement" and that she "overacts" iin the character of Vaishnavi. Nassar, Lakshmi and Raju Sundaram were all appreciated for their roles. Rahman's musical composition of the film was described as "one of his best soundtracks", whilst Vairamuthu's "terrific lyrics" also stood in the song Poovukkul.
The Jeans soundtrack was released by Westop on 1 April 1998. The original scores from the film's composer, A. R. Rahman, form the tracks on the album. The lyrics are by Vairamuthu. The songs were dubbed into Hindi, using Javed Akhtar's lyrics when it was released in North India.
|Song title||Singers|| Length|
|"Ennake Ennaka"||Unnikrishnan, Pallavi||7:11||Romantic interlude pictured around various cities in America with the lead pair.|
|"Columbus Columbus"||A. R. Rahman||4:55||Introduction song picturized in Los Angeles featuring the dual roles of Prashanth.|
|"Poovukul"||Unnikrishnan, Sujatha||6:56||Romantic interlude featuring the seven wonders of the world as the backdrop for the lead pair.|
|"Kannodu Kaanberallam"||Nithyashree||5:12||Comedy sequence where Aishwarya Rai's and Raju Sundaram's ploys are discovered.|
|"Varaya Thozhi"||Sonu Nigam, Shahul Hameed, Harini, Sangeetha||5:51||Montage song of Rai's family and Prashanth in Los Angeles.|
|"Anbe Anbe"||Hariharan, Anuradha Sriram||5:34||Romantic interlude, picturized in sets.|