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Next movie with Saran

Kamal’s follow-up to Dasavatharam with Saran seems to be confirmed now. Saran talks of working with Kamal:

Recalling his early days, Saran says,” Working with Kamal Haasan in Vasool Raja MBBS was a relishing experience. We are coming together next year.”
“Though Vasoolraja was a remake, I had made certain alterations to the story to suit the local audience. You need experience to handle an actor of Kamal’s calibre and years of working under KB sir certainly came in handy,” says Saran, who also adds that he has no plans of remaking the Hindi-sequel Lage Raho Munnabhai.

The biggest Tamil movie of 2006

Rediff.com, among its year-end lists, has one on “Best of Tamil movies”. Guess which one topped the list?

Gowtham Menon is one of the hottest young filmmakers in Tamil. Kamal Haasan is an actor par excellence. As a school boy, Menon was enamoured of Kamal’s award winning portrayal of Velu Naykar in Nayakan. When the two decided to come together, and that too Kamal playing his age, as a middle aged cop, expectations were sky high. The film didn’t disappoint anyone. It turned out to be a blockbuster. Weak hearted men and especially women could not digest the raw violence in the film. But the film was appreciated by the mass and the class. It is the number one Tamil film of 2006.

That’s a terrific result after a lot of trouble that VV went through. Also, it was a suitable reply for those who had written off Kamal as a spent force in the box-office.
[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

The Dasavatharam-back-from-USA look

Here’s a new Kamal look, being sported after he returned from the USA leg of Dasavatharam shooting. Not sure if this is a result of tonsuring or just a close hair-cut to make it easy for various wigs. Let’s wait and watch.

This photo was taken during the Vijay TV awards ceremony. Check out other photos and related news on IndiaGlitz, at the VV 100th day event and Periyar audio release function.

From the Vijay TV awards function again, check out Kamal with Vikram.

Finally, we have a family photo. In the middle is Aksharaa, of course. If I’m right, she’s flanked by Chandrahasan (Kamal’s brother) and Shruthi.

Check out more photos at BehindWoods.
[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

Vijay TV awards

Here comes the announcement of Vijay TV’s Ungal Favourite Yaar? (who’s your favourite?) awards. Kamal has been ‘honoured’ with the “Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Award for Excellence in Cinema” (!). While the voting using phone and Internet is bound to be skewed, the true intent of marketing is made obvious by providing “consolation prizes” to Vijay and Vikram (with Ajith becoming the “Favourite Hero”).

Meanwhile, Kamal is busy with his movies and events. Saran is said to be scouting for locations for his and Kamal’s next movie.

VV 100th day celebrations?

With Kamal returning to India, it seems like we’ll be seeing quite a few events. After reports of audio release of Dasavatharam (so early?), now there is news of 100th day celebrations of Vaettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. The 100th day was actually on 2 December, if my calculation is right; also, I saw the posters around the city. Guess they waited for Kamal to be back in Chennai.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

Oldie and newbie praise…

SP Balasubramaniam, the singer who is fondly referred to as ‘SPB’ or ‘Balu’, has been associated with Kamal for long. In fact, in many movies, he served as the voice of Kamal. In a concent arranged by the Bay Area Telugu Association, SPB had some nice words to say:

Balu said that there very few actors who can completely justify all his songs with a right mixture of emotions, feelings, dances, and body language and that Kamal Hassan is one of them.

Bharat Kumar played the funny kid with a hole in his heart (whose father was played by Jayaram) in Panchatantiram, alongside Kamal. In an interview, he had this to say about his experience:

Kamal Haasan is a big artiste. In fact, I am afraid of doing a role along with him. But he is quite free with me. He always keeps calling me a friend. Whenever, I did a scene accurately, he used to kiss me.

Dasavatharam & other news

We’re really starved for news, for about a month now, ever since Kamal and crew flew off to the US.

There is some talk of Kamal having only liquid food during shooting to preserve his heavy make-up.

Another item not related to Dasavatharam is that Kamal will act in a movie produced by the Chennai city police to commemorate their 150 years completion. With 10 lakhs as budget and release in January, I guess it would be like a documentary which features prominent people.

IFFI Press Conference, 1996

The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) concluded recently in Goa, amidst several controversies. Kamal has been a regular at these festivals. Here, we go back a whole ten years to New Delhi, when his Kurudhippunal (remake of Drohkaal) featured in the festival.

Excerpts from the The Hindu news item:

Kamal Hassan was against the difference between art and commercial cinema. He also asked why they must have two sections like the Indian Panorama and Mainstream cinema at the festival here. He was not scheduled to address the press till the morning and was suddenly roped in to address presspersons at the Siri Fort complex as he was to leave for Madras later. `Kuruthippunal’ directed by P. C. Sriram is in the mainstream section of the festival which saw a full house at a regular commercial screening, as he was a popular star in north India also.

Talking about his film, Kamal Hassan said he was happy that his film was in the mainstream section. “I do not know why we are trying to have two different sections in this festival. I think we must try to bridge the gap between them which was created years ago. I am doing it and Mani Ratnam is trying it and other younger generation directors are also doing their best to prove this point.”

Answering a question on his film being nominated for an Oscar, Kamal said he was happy that his film had travelled so far. “The film I acted has been selected for Oscars. This is not the first time. `Sagar’ (Hindi), `Sagara Sangamam’ (Telugu), `Nayagan’, `Devar Magan’ and the recent one `Kuruthippunal’ all from Tamil have had the privilege of going to Oscars. You must put it this way. They were not my films except `Devar Magan’ and `Kuruthippunal’ which was produced by me. Sagar was a Sippy film, and `Nayagan’ was Mani Ratnam’s and `Sagara Sangamam’ was K. Viswanath’s brain child. I happened to act in all these films.”

[Source: Jagadish’s Kamal site]

What Nayakan means to me

Some films are impossible to review in themselves: such is their impact, so thorough their influence, that when one re-visits them, even if after a deliberately long lapse of time, one is unable to view them afresh, for in them the film as it must have been back when it was released is only dimly discernible, and the prism of the film’s history and what it has come to mean almost the only vantage point that affords a view any longer. Almost. For the great film (like the great book, painting, or any other work of art) is not merely reducible to the history of its reception, even if it is inextricable from it.Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan (Tamil; 1987) is such a film, and it would be no exaggeration to cite it as the one Tamil film that even Indians who have never seen any Tamil film are likely to have heard of. Yet its status as one of the seminal works of Indian popular cinema rests on more than this, on more than the fact that it was commercially successful or that the film arguably represents the high point in the storied career of its lead actor, Kamal Haasan, on more even than the sort of acclaim that saw it win a place in Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss’ list of the 100 greatest movies ever. Nayakan deserves its place in the annals of Indian film history because it changed what we came to expect from our movies, and thus in time came to change how movies were made. Whether the industry is Hindi, Telugu, or Tamil, the film Parinda, Pattiyal or Company, the director Mukul Anand, Mahesh Manjrekar, or Ram Gopal Verma, the representation of crime and criminality (and the problematic glamorisation of the same), of the life and death associated with India’s mean streets, heck of Mumbai itself, that seems normal to us in Indian film, is unimaginable without Nayakan.

Underneath it all is the story of Velu Naicker (Kamal Haasan) – rumoured to be modeled after the legendary Tamil Mumbai don (and folk hero to “his own”) Varadaraja Mudhaliar – who while yet a boy kills the policeman who has murdered Velu’s trade unionist father and flees to Bombay, in time becoming a basti hero in Dharavi and ultimately an underworld don. Along the way the police kill his foster father, rival gangsters his wife, a criminal mishap his son, and his daughter ends up appalled at and alienated from his worldview. The film ends as all Indian gangster films after Deewar must, with the death of Velu himself, shot by the retarded son of the first man Velu killed in Mumbai. In the end, Velu’s karma catches up with him.

Nayakan is not an especially profound film, and does not to my mind offer any new insight into the nature of power or of criminality; as in Bombay from a few years later, Ratnam’s politics are fairly conventional (that is to say genteel bourgeois), and certainly nothing in this film matches the visionary cinematic mode of Iruvar a decade later (still the best Indian film from the last twenty years that I have seen). But in the context of Indian cinema Nayakan is the more important and influential film, and rests on a number of assumptions that have irrevocably marked Hindi and Tamil cinema, mostly for better (though, in the hands of unthinking filmmakers, also for worse). The most important of these is the refusal to condescend to the viewer, and for the film to at all points take its audience’s intelligence for granted. This meant that not every detail of the inner life of Nayakan’s characters needed to be spelled out, leading to a more suggestive, more nuanced way of filmmaking for those who have followed Ratnam’s lead. Obviously not everyone has (and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that everyone should), but it would be no exaggeration that the majority of the more intelligent popular films have tended to appreciate the virtues of this approach over the last two decades.

A second and related feature was Ratnam’s insistence on making a film that could be very Indian, very rooted, without necessarily hewing to a formula. Thus Nayakan has no parallel comedy track, and no hero/heroine song and dance sequences. And that’s not because Ratnam is embarrassed by his cinematic heritage, far from it: Nayakan has a number of songs, but most of them are superbly situational, and are inescapably part of the experience of watching this film. Songs are one of the singular pleasures of mainstream Indian cinema, and Ratnam accords them the respect that is due by ensuring that in Nayakan they do not seem forced into the narrative. The lesson has not always been learned well (witness the recent Pokiri or Dhoom 2) but it has been learned by many, and by filmmakers as diverse as Bala, the Rakeysh Mehra of Rang de Basanti, the Ashutosh Gowariker of Lagaan, not to mention the usual suspects like Manjrekar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and even Ram Gopal Verma on occasion (ironically, the later Ratnam’s excellence at song videos has been similarly, though often unfortunately, influential, leading many a director and viewer to conceptualize songs as breaks in, and hence removed from, the film of which they are part, something that no Ratnam film I have seen is guilty of, barring Agni Natchathiram, although no doubt in the later Ratnam the songs often become more abstract than the film around them). This too is part of the filmmaker’s respect for the audience, in that “the people” are to be conceptualized democratically, as thinking beings who may be counted on to appreciate a film on its merits, not a mass who will simply react to stimuli presented according to a certain formula. The Nayakan way certainly doesn’t guarantee commercial success, but it does lead to more engaged viewers (and in any event I would argue that the surprising degree of success achieved by a Raja Hindustani or a Pokiri or Dhoom 2 suggests that something other than formulaic repetition is at work, since mere repetition is inconsistent with such exceptional success).

No discussion of Nayakan would be complete without a word about Kamal Haasan’s performance, which is both one of the most overrated performances in Indian history and at the same time nothing less than a superb and ineffably memorable showing by Kamal Haasan. Haasan – who deservedly won a National Award for his role here – is not responsible for the former, and acquits himself faultlessly when it comes to what he was responsible for, namely incarnating a Velu Naicker that would be true to Ratnam’s vision. The result is one of Indian popular cinema’s most iconic performances, and a perennially fashionable one if the slew of post-Nayakan “down home” gangsters housed in “ordinary” homes in “regular” clothes is anything to go by. And this is about more than “ethnic chic”, reflecting as it does a democratic India where power — political and street — is increasingly being assumed by those once summarily dismissed as “vernacular.”

Kamal’s performance may be divided in two, but not necessarily by Velu’s age. Rather, I see Velu prior to his coronation as different from the later Velu, the former’s combination of sullenness and naivete giving way to an unshakable confidence and resolve. The former is impressive (one can see more than a few traces of it in Madhavan’s own wonderful performance as the “bigtime” writer early on in Kannathil Muthamittal), but it is the latter – showy, obvious, and oh-so-compelling – that makes the role for me. One might cavil that Kamal’s turn lacks the nuance and refinement of Mohanlal’s matchless turn in Iruvar, but that ignores the fact that Velu is a far more uncomplicated being than Anandan. Velu is a stubby, direct, and forthright man, one who traffics in brute facts more than anything else. And Kamal Haasan is perhaps the ideal actor to essay this role, of a man who simply does what he feels right (a similar line crops up in Sarkar, in the context of which film it was a statement not of simplicity or correctness but of naked power, reflective of the different concerns of Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma, respectively). Kamal fits in seamlessly with the relativism of Ratnam’s vision: as the famous confrontation scene between Velu and his daughter makes clear, Ratnam is aware of the problematic nature of an ethical code that is purely personal, but he is equally aware that judgment can be presumptuous in the extreme given that who one is amounts to a great extent, in the final analysis, to what has happened to one. This scene is frankly reminiscent of one of the two famous “confrontations” between Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor in Deewar (there the third in the frame was their mother; in Nayakan it is Velu’s friend and right-hand man Selva), but where the urgency of Bachchan’s charisma and resentful claim draws the viewer firmly to his side, Ratnam and Kamal resolutely refuse to do so, making clear that they are not going to go down the Deewar way (perhaps because if one seeks to replicate that inimitable film as a formula, one might be left with the neo-fascist flirtations of Sarkar as the only real possibility). Velu is not wrong vis-a-vis his daughter Chaaru, but he is not right either.

Finally: Dharavi; that is, the set erected in Madras for the film is one of the most impressive I have ever seen in any film, so vivid it fits in seamlessly with Ratnam’s on-location shots of various Mumbai landmarks, and so memorable that the city would never again be the same on celluloid, as attested to by Parinda, Satya, Company, and even Black Friday. Ratnam does not efface the ramshackle reality of the slum, but he is uncompromising in his insistence that beauty, song, life in the fullest sense, exists here too. He is aided in his efforts by a superb soundtrack by Ilaiyaraja, one that does not seem stale even two decades later, even for those who were first introduced to snippets of it in bastardized form from Feroz Khan’s unfortunate remake Dayavan. Besides Thotta Tharani, who won a National Award for Art Direction, the anonymous (to us) technicians and workers who constructed the set are among the true heroes of Nayakan, and while we will never know all of their names, Ratnam’s incorporation of their work in — indeed the centrality of their work to — Nayakan is a permanent memorial to their efforts, and, like all else about this film, a great one.

[Original post at qalandari.blogspot.com]

Kamal’s letters

Though Discussion Forums can be tedious, ForumHub throws up quite a few gems at times. There was an interesting discussion on letters featured in Kamal’s movies. Here are two (in Tamil). Though there may be some inaccuracies, they are worth reading. The other two movies discussed were Anbe Sivam and Guna; hope to get those too sometime and publish them.

Kurudhippunal:

நான் எனது போலீஸ் அங்கியை கலைத்து வைத்து விட்டு, உணர்வுகளை கலையாமல் எழுதும் கடிதம் இது.

அரசியலும் வன்முறையும் ஒப்பந்தம் செய்து கொண்டு, அக்னி சாட்சியாக ஜோடி சேர்ந்து விட்டன.அந்த ஜோடியின் சந்ததிகள் நாடெங்கிலும் ஊழல் தீ வளர்த்து, அதில் நேர்மையை ஊற்றி யாகம் செய்கின்றனர்.விரைவில் நேர்மையை வழிபடுவோர், தீண்டத்தகாதவராய், பின்தங்கிப்போவர் என்ற பயம் பலரைப் போல எனக்கும் உண்டு.

நீதி கேட்கும் ஆராய்ச்சி மணிகள், நாக்கறுந்து போய் அழகுப்பொருள்களாகி விட்டன.

ஆகையால், அரசாங்கத்தின் கவனம், நியாயத்தின் பக்கம் திரும்ப, துப்பாக்கிகள் வெடித்தன.

தீவிரவாதம் பேசி, துப்பாக்கிகள் ஏந்திய, சில நேர்மையான போராளிகளையும், ஊழல் தீப்பொறிகள் சுட்டு விட்டன.

அத்தகைய தீப்பொறிகளில் ஒருவன் தான் “பத்ரி” எங்கிற “பத்ரிநாதன்”.

அவனால் பெருக்கெடுத்த, ஒரு குருதிப்புனலில் நனைந்த அன்று முதல், என் வாழ்க்கை மொத்தமாய் மாறிப்போனது.

…………………………………………………….

தீவிரவாதிகள் பிறப்பதில்லை, உருவாக்கப்படுகிறார்கள். அவர்களை உருவாக்குவதில் பெரும் பங்கு அரசியலுக்கும் அரசியல்வாதிகளுக்கும் உள்ளது.

நாளைய தலைமுறை வழிபடப்போகும் கடவுளின் வடிவம், துப்பாக்கி வடிவில் இல்லாமல் பாதுகாக்க வேண்டியது, நமது கடமை.

நடந்து முடிந்தவை வெறும் அத்தியாயங்களே, கதை இன்னும் முடியவில்லை. அதை தயவு செய்து முடித்து வையுங்கள்.

அன்புடன்,
ஆதி.

The more famous one from Hey Ram:

ப்ரிய மைதிலி,

கல்யாணம் ஆயிரம் காலத்துப் பயிர் என்றொரு வசனமுண்டு. பயிர் என்றாலே என்றேனும் அறுவடையும் உண்டு.

மைதிலி நீ நல்லவள், அழகானவள். நீ எனக்கு வாய்த்தது நான் செய்த புண்ணியம் என்றும், நான் உனக்கு வாய்த்தது நீ என்றோ செய்த பாவம் என்றும் கொள்வோம்.

என் செயலின் காரணம் கூடிய விரைவில் உனக்குப் புரியும். பாரத மாதாவுக்கு நான் செய்யப் போகும் சேவைக்கு சொந்த
பந்தங்கள் இடையூறு ஆகலாம்.

உனது கருவில் வளரும் குழந்தை மேல், எனது துர்குணங்களின் நிழல் விழாமல் உன் குணப்பிரகாஷம் காப்பாற்றட்டும்.

என் தாயை நான் பார்த்ததில்லை. வசந்தா அக்கா தான் எனக்குத் தாய், இப்போது நீயும்.

மாமா மாமி அனைவரின் சாபமும் எனக்கு உண்டென அறிவேன். அவற்றிலிருந்து மீளும் அருகதையும் எண்ணமும் எனக்கு இல்லை.

அன்பிலா,
சாகேத்ராம்

[Sources: 1, 2]

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