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Yaavarum Kaelir!

Things have been fairly quiet on the Kamal front, though he has been highly visible, participating in various functions and events. After each movie is out, fans like us await the announcement of his next move. Unlike earlier when we knew of the next movie even before the current one released, projects have been spaced out in the past couple of years. So, after Unnaipol Oruvan / Eenadu, what?

After quite a lot of speculation, all we know is Yaavarum Kaelir. Details haven’t yet been announced officially, but we have some pieces confirmed here and there. In addition to what we have heard from Kamal himself and KSR, we have the tweets (1 | 2) of Nikil Murugan, Kamal’s PRO. The movie will be directed by KS Ravikumar and produced by Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Red Giant Movies, with Trisha co-starring. Thaman is said to be the music director. Shooting is planned to start in April for a Deepavali release.

The title, meaning “Everyone is a relative”, is from a Tamil poem by Kaniyan Poongundrunaar. Also, it reminds us of the classic song from Ninaithaalae Inikkum.

Sample the mix of news and rumours from Sify.com, OneIndia, IndiaGlitz, (1 | 2), Ayngaran, The Hindu, Galatta.com, Top10Cinema.com, Thaindian, WebduniaChennaiOnline, Dinamalar, Dinakaran, SivajiTV.com and The Times of India.

Trisha is said to be thrilled at the prospect of sharing screen space with Kamal, according to Thatstamil, Dinakaran and other media outlets.

If you think the picture is still not clear, what do you say about the massive speculation preceding this?

Anyway, we await for Kamal to get going and grace the silver screen yet again!

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Kamal on NDTV’s Walk The Talk

Check out Kamal’s interview on NDTV’s Walk the Talk — not a great interview, but interesting to see him in a casual chat. Kamal talks about Rajnikanth, Jayalalitha, MGR, etc.

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Kamal Haasan: a life on screen

Editor’s Note: It was necessary for the 500th post to be special. For that, we have a truly special author, National Awardee Baradwaj Rangan! Thanx for his co-operation and to Qalandar who helped make it happen!

And on the occasion, gratitude is due to all those helped us reach this stage and readers who have been supportive and patient.

Fifty years. That’s five decades. There are people who don’t live that long – so it’s entirely understandable, this extraordinary (bordering, at times, on the excessive) hysteria enveloping us as Kamal Haasan celebrates his mammoth milestone. After so many years, with so many movies and so many memories, it would seem the easiest of things to compose an ode to his achievements – but it’s the opposite actually.

Where do you begin? What do you pick? Do you, for instance, write about him as a young god of romance, about how he single-handedly changed the way the hero goes about the business of courting the heroine? Or do you regard these facets as mere frivolities and begin to delve into the acting dimension, about how he represents the perfect middle point between the completely externalised melodramatics of a Sivaji Ganesan and the completely internalised Methodisms of a Naseeruddin Shah, giving just enough of a “performance” to make even the most unsophisticated audience member tune in, but without alienating the sophisticates?

The time-honoured rules of writing endorse a trajectory of the outside to the inside, from the general to the particular – but why not, instead, employ a particular to illustrate the general? Why not talk about the one film that brings to my mind all that’s special about this sakalakalavallavan? In that vein, I opted for Aboorva Sagotharargal, simply because the film is Kamal’s single greatest achievement. (It’s also, coincidentally, twenty years since the film’s release in 1989, which possibly warrants a commemoration of its own.)

In pure cinematic terms, the film is a stupendous success. It’s easily the best screenplay he’s ever written. (Thevar Magan comes close, but there’s the shadow of The Godfather that looms large over it. Perhaps, like the Oscars, I could say that Aboorva Sagotharargal is Kamal’s Best Original Screenplay, and Thevar Magan is his Best Adapted Screenplay.) If the success of a film lies in how well it ends up doing what it sets out to do, Aboorva Sagotharargal is Kamal Haasan’s finest hour as actor-screenwriter-producer.

It wants to be a crackling masala entertainer, in the grand tradition of Tamil cinema’s escapist entertainment, and it becomes this through inspired riffs on some of the most cherished of masala-movie tropes. The hero playing multiple roles (with a moustache, and without), the twin brothers who are separated at childbirth and eventually reunited, the son who avenges a father’s murder, the brothers on opposite sides of the law, the heroine being the daughter of a villain – it’s all here, alongside affectionate homages (intended or otherwise) to images from older masala cinema, like the duet staged around a stationary car that echoes the staging of Pesuvadhu kiliya in Panathottam, or the kadi joke where Appu anoints himself Ulagam Suttrum Vaaliban while perched on a globe.

And if you want to get all meta on the film, you could note that it captures the quintessence of the many facets of Kamal Haasan – the actor who can play roguish Madras-Tamil-speaking lover boys in his sleep, the actor who would go on to increasingly hack away at his handsomeness through makeup-enhanced grotesquerie (though here, he merely hacks away half his legs), the star who’d grow excessively fond of playing multiple characters (one being the regular hero, the other representing the “unusual,” the film’s USP) the writer who’s never happy unless submerging himself in subversion (what is it if not at least slightly subversive that the adorable, kid-friendly Appu, whom we first see clowning around on a toy train, is ever-so-gradually transformed into a freakish homicidal maniac?), and the producer who’s never afraid to put his money where his mouth is (how hypocritical would it have been if Kamal had merely spouted off about quality cinema without actually bothering to invest in it?).

There are far too many thoughts swimming around in my head when it comes to Aboorva Sagotharargal – they’d warrant a collegiate thesis instead of a casually commemorative blog post – so I’ll focus on the one aspect of this remarkable film that never fails to amaze me: the character (and the characterisation) of the dwarf Appu.

I suppose I should be politically correct and say “little person,” but that phrase doesn’t carry the pejorative weight that “dwarf” does. And Appu is a dwarf in practically every sense of the world – not just because everyone’s taller than him, but also because a “normal life” (love, a respectable career) remains frustratingly out of his reach. And it’s not till the Unnai nenachen song sequence that we see how truly the world at large – or to put it another way, the “larger” world – has imprisoned him. In a succession of shots, we see Appu inside the motorcycle cage, inside the lions’ cage, and finally, inside the worst prison of all, the clown mask, forever doomed to laughing through tears.

The tragicomic travails of a clown aren’t new to the cultural scenario, whether as far back as Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci or as recently as Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, but there’s an unusually demonic perspective to Appu. Rejected by the girl he loves, ridiculed by the mother he worships, he pours his heart out in that song, and at the end, when he flings the mask away, it lands on the branch of a nearby tree and dangles by its strap. That’s when we witness Appu’s transformation from benign to bedeviled, thanks to the morbidly crazed gleam in Kamal’s eyes, the spectral lighting of the scene, and the chilling sound effects that Ilayaraja provides in the background.

Appu attempts suicide, but his mother intervenes and tells him the whole story, and you see a fiendish resolve descend upon him as he decides to become executioner. (He later mocks the hapless lawyer played by Jaishankar, “Idhu high court illa… my court.”) There’s finally a purpose to Appu’s life. He’s now a man possessed, and the grand conceit of the film is that he dispatches the villains through means that are as freakish, as “abnormal” as he is – the double-edged stunt gun, the funhouse rig that conceals an arrow, and his animal friends from the circus. (You can imagine Kamal murmuring while stooped over his screenplay draft, “Feed him to the lions.”)

This sense of the freakish, the macabre, is the aspect that elevates Aboorva Sagotharargal from being just another masala movie (though it’s a testament to Kamal’s intelligence and skills that he suffuses the film with so much “traditional” entertainment that these Grand Guignol excursions in no way impede the enjoyment of the causal viewer). At first, it appeared to me that Kamal stumbled upon playing a dwarf simply because he pretended to be one in Punnagai Mannan, and he must have seen the gimmicky potential in a full-fledged extrapolation of such a character – but Appu is no mere gimmick. This dwarf is one the many, many reasons Kamal Haasan towers over much of what passes under the guise of Tamil cinema.

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Kanagavel Kaakka audio launch

Kamal recently launched the audio of Kanagavel Kaakka starring Karan. We all remember Karan’s rocking debut in Nammavar, don’t we?

The video here, from Behindwoods, covers the audio launch and also crew members talking about the movie. It also includes an endorsement from Kamal. Check out more photos from Behindwoods, IndiaGlitz and Chennai365. IndiaGlitz too has the same video. Thenaali.com carried a short report.

[With inputs from Ananth]

[Video, picture courtesy: Behindwoods]

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Kamal’s new poem on Srilankan Tamil issue

Here’s a brilliant new poem from Kamal, that appears as the first one in a collection titled “Eezham — Mounathin Vali“. Thanks to Envazhi for bringing it to us!

காக்க ஒரு கனக (AK) 47

நோக்கவும் தாக்கவும் ஒரு நொடி நேரம்

தோற்கவும் அதே கண நேரம்தான்

ஈயம் துளைத்துக் கசிந்து சிவந்த

காயம் தொட்டுக் கையை நனைத்து

விண்ணே தெரிய மண்ணில் சாய்ந்தேன்

முன் காக்க மறந்த அமைதியைக் காத்து.

மாட்டுத் தோலில் தாய்மண் அறைபட

பூட்ஸுக் கால்களால் கடந்தனர் பகைவர்.

விட்ட இடத்தில் கதையைத் துவங்கச்

சட்டென இன்னொரு குழந்தை பிறக்கும்

அதுவரை பொறுத்திரு தாயே, தமிழே

உதிரம் வடியும் கவிதை படித்து…

[With inputs from Ananth]

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What after Unnaipol Oruvan / Eenadu?

After a succesful outing with Unnaipol Oruvan / Eenadu, fans await the announcement of Kamal’s next venture. Usually, even before one movie releases, we would know what’s coming up next. But this time has been an exception. With Kamal back after spending a few weeks in USA, we expect to hear something concrete very soon. But let’s check out what’s been coming through confirmed and unconfirmed channels.

The strongest contender is the movie with Mysskin. After several rounds of rumours, Kamal confirmed that he has indeed ‘booked’ Mysskin on behalf of Raajkamal Films, but has not yet confirmed if that will be his next movie. It started with Mysskin meeting Kamal after the latter watched his yet-to-be-released Nandhalala and praised it (The Times of India | Yahoo | Behindwoods | Thenaali.com | CineSouth | SivajiTV.com | Dinamani | TamilCinema.com). One strong rumour regarding this is that the movie will be a historical — stories have ranged from Buddha’s tooth (Kumudam | Sify.com | The Times of India | MSN | SivajiTV.com | Behindwoods | Thenaali.com) to even a revival of Marmayogi (Thatstamil | SivajiTV.com)! Rumour-mills generated creative titles, brought in AR Rahman — you name it! Read more, if you care, from The Times of India, Sify.com, ChennaiOnline, Thatstamil, Behindwoods, Thenaali.com, TamilCinema.com.

Other directors who have been rumoured to be in the fray were Ameer (Behindwoods), KS Ravikumar (IndiaGlitz | Galatta.com), AR Murugadoss (The Times of India | Thenaali.com), Balu Mahendra (CineSouth) and Priyadarshan (Sify.com). Kamal’s meeting with these various directors was reported by Webdunia and SivajiTV.com. Moving beyond directors, this speculation has extended to heroines too (ChennaiOnline).

Another plan of Kamal is to do a movie with K Balachander — no, not under his direction (after 2 decades), but Kamal acting with and directing KB! This project too is not confirmed yet. Check out reports from Express Buzz, IndiaGlitz, Thenaali.com and Dinamalar.

[With extensive inputs from Ananth]

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Birthday Poem, 2009

50 in 55 - wow!
‘Tis amazing that not even five years of your life
Has been outside the world of arts.
But legend has it that your father
Started preparing even before you were born!

The seventh day of November!
‘Tis not that we think of you only this one day.
You’re a constant undercurrent in our thoughts –
We relate any remote possible thing to you.
But today, you’re at the top of our minds.

Ah, the positive waves!
We wish you well today.
We are grateful for the glorious past, and
Our desire is you entertain and
Educate us for years to come.

What you mean to us!
You are the man who raised the level of
Appreciation, Knowledge and Passion
For movies amongst us.
Even outside that sphere, you astound and inspire us.

Sometimes, greed feels good!
We want more from you,
We want more of you.
We are a voracious lot.
Our good wishes have that innate selfishness.

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Photographer Muthukumar interview & new Marudhanayagam still

Here’s an interview with S Muthukumar, photographer and son of DNS (long-time associate of Kamal), which appeared in Express Buzz a while ago. He has worked with Kamal in many movies — Hey Ram, Marudhanayagam, Mumbai Xpress, Dasavathaaram and upto Unnaipol Oruvan. In addition to his experiences with Kamal, you also get to see a very new still from Marudhanayagam! Below is a snippet from the interview before you click away!

Kamal Haasan is a great person to work with. He ensures that everyone eats at the same time and the same food is served to all. Every moment spent with Kamal Haasan’s crew is a learning experience.You can pick up so much by just being around them.

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Unnaipol Oruvan / Eenadu: release & response

With Unnaipol Oruvan and Eenadu on their final leg in theatres, let us have a round-up of the release and response over the past few weeks.

Rajnikanth, as usual, praised Kamal’s effort, as reported by IndiaGlitz and Thatstamil. He was among the several special invitees who watched Unnaipol Oruvan. In addition to the below video from Behindwoods, check out the video from IndiaGlitz too.

OneIndia published photos of film reel boxes arriving in USA. IndiaGlitz featured first-day-first-show celebrations. Check out the collection of old posters put up on the occasion.

Initial reports on the response came in from OneIndia and Webdunia. After topping the Tamil box-office charts for 4 weeks (before Diwali), Unnaipol Oruvan is said to have garnered terrific profits. Check out other reports from Webdunia (1 | 2) and IndiaGlitz. There was a record in the Mayajaal multiplex in the Chennai area too. Eenadu is said to have had a decent run too.

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Unnaipol Oruvan: more reviews

Here are a few more reviews of Unnaipol Oruvan that are worth mentioning.

Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu was pleased with the effort overall.

Knowing the taste of the Tamil audience, the actor hasn’t stuck to the completely underplayed performance of Naseeruddin Shah. Kamal’s is original and it is appealing.

S. Shivakumar made a few comments in the Bangalore edition of the same newspaper.

What works is the fact that Kamal has not changed anything drastically. I thought a lesser known actor like Nasser would have suited the protagonist’s role better but if the crowds are thronging, it’s because of Kamal and Lal. Was Naseer better in the original? This role is a cakewalk for Kamal though he could have cut down on the use of English with the fake accent. Mohanlal definitely walks away with the acting honours. People who accuse Kamal of being narcissistic should watch the film just to appreciate the way Lal’s role has been lengthened and the fact that he gets the better lines. It’s a chance to watch two of our most consummate performers, not sparring but complementing each other.

The last review is from a magazine in Canada. The reviewer was thrilled to see a meaningful Tamil movie for a change! Below is the scanned version (click to see full-size image).

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