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Quotes from ‘My Hero’

I happened to see an interview of Kamal Haasan in a Malayalam channel when I was on holiday in Kerala recently. As usual, I was bowled over by his thought provoking views. I seem to be going very close to idolizing him!

I just wanted to put down two quotes from his interview as it struck me as very profound. So here goes.

  1. To a question about religion (I didn’t hear the question fully as I just then switched on the TV), he said, “Would anyone ask a man if he is a man or a woman or what he did with his wife yesterday night? Religion is just as personal. No one should ask anyone else about it”. I thought this was a beautiful way of looking at religion and that if everyone thought of it this way, may be we will have more peace and harmony in our universe.
  2. The host questioned him about whether he was afraid of aging. To which he answered, “No. Why would I? I look at life as a journey and death as a part of that journey; So, I can’t be scared of it. Every sentence has a full stop, otherwise the sentence will become boring. It’s the same with life.” I was so enthralled with this analogy, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, obviously the next thing was to blog about it.

I am not sure how this goes down with all of you, but because I caught myself thinking so much about it, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put it down for those of you who would want to reflect on it.

[Original post on My mazed interior - My Mind blog]

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The Kamal we have never seen before!

[Link to video]

Thanks to ‘vivekforbes’, we get to see Kamal as we have never seen before! This footage compiled during Virumaandi, starts with a sarcastic dig at the politician who opposed the original name of ‘Sandiyar’ and moves onto show Kamal’s passion in direction, stunts and music. The source of the video is unknown.

[Via HAL]

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Old classic interview by fan-journo

Here’s a long, wonderful 2-part interview with Kamal done quite a while ago, by S Shiva Kumar. Shiva has been featured in multiple publications (including The Hindu. Times of India and Rediff.com), now has a blog and his admiration for Kamal comes through effortlessly. An earlier post on this blog provided delightful insights from Vishnuvardhan, the Kannada superstar, through the same journalist. We’ll have more from him in the future too.

Now, back to Kamal and the interview. From the focus on Hey Ram and direction, we can see that it was done around the turn of the millenium. Here are some highlights from a quote-collector’s delight:

I am not even rising above mediocrity. I am mediocre and have kept myself that way.

I keep trying because I’m a student of cinema and a film buff…I don’t care.

About this closet direction, no. Mine was a glass case. Everyone knew.

Even now, for me, the making of the film is more important. It doesn’t matter who gets the title. I can afford to say that because I have my face printed on celluloid.

I never wanted to be an actor. I love my crew. I want to be with them, not rise above them. Rising above them is easy. You become a tyrant, a genius or an eccentric. You rise above them and they give you a misnomer. They’ll call you a tyrant, a genius and vice versa.

Whenever I ask myself what stage of career I’m in right now, I don’t really know the answer. It’s very confusing.

I may not act at all. That’s what I tell people, but nobody takes me seriously. I might slip behind the camera. It would have happened if Hey! Ram had succeeded.

I used to be a common man and all that I’ve achieved is not real. It’s all piled on to me; it’s acquired.

My themes are very repetitive…Mine is a man’s suffering and his struggle to rise above it.

For the last 15 years, it’s my neck on the line every time. Nobody has the audacity to talk about personal losses, if at all there is any.

This dancing and prancing around and romancing heroines is on request. It comes absolutely from the audience. They want one dance and the request comes from someone in Silicon Valley

I expected from Hey! Ram whatever I expected from all my other films — success.

Even if you say I made Hey! Ram, it wouldn’t be completely right. It is not possible to do it alone. My cameraman, my art director and my costume department are equally important. I could sleep well at night because I had this crew….I don’t say this out of humility. I’m confident I would have made Hey! Ram without the Thirus and Sarikas, but that’s an arrogant way of looking at it. It would have moved away inch by inch from whatever little perfection we’ve achieved.

I felt it was high time someone at least felt sorry instead of licking their tongue like a Farex baby at the situation. That’s neither mamta (affection) nor sympathy.

It’s not chic to be a Gandhi fan. And it is clichéd to say Gandhi is a good man because it has been said a million times before. He is even on a damn rupee note. It is as boring as a non-detailed lesson. You are never going to get the moral of it till you get a detailed story.

…the debt is one’s own definition. Well, Rs 120 to Rs 150 million is a lot of money. I have to get it back and I am smiling. There’s no panic.

The only man I admire who transgressed is Spielberg. That must have been from (Francis Ford) Coppola, who must have been a great inspiration.

Especially Mani. I was astounded by him. I sort of vacillate sometimes. He never did. It’s probably that business management training. He’s very clear.

I am constantly in touch with Benegal because he’s my inspiration for Marudanayagam. He saw the script and his excitement was contagious. He thinks it is colossal and gave his suggestions. He’s a young man with a bald head. His spirit is great.

Govind and Manmohan Shetty, after Hey! Ram took a nosedive, had a small party, quietly and kept saying good things about the film. It was a touching gesture.

I recently saw a 25-year-old film. I was floored. It was shown on HBO and the film is Godfather. Absolutely classic…Performances do not have to be the latest when you’re looking at the greatest.

Move onto Shiva’s blog for the full interview.

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Hemamalini in Marmayogi

The Marmayogi buzz is well underway. Rumours are still afloat about Kajol / Preity Zinta, AR Rahman and Adlabs being part of the project. While these may be dismissed as speculation, Hemamalini’s name figuring was rather unusual to ignore. Anyway, finally, it has been confirmed. Now, we are all the more intrigued!

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You too, Raja Sen?

Raja Sen, for those who don’t know, is one of the leading movie reviewers in India and writes for Rediff.com. People speak about him in the same breath as Baradwaj Rangan, the award-winning critic of The New Indian Express. Raja, whose reviews are read regularly by many (including myself), had this to say about Kamal as a director, in one of Rediff.com’s ’slideshows’:

Then followed films like Abhay and Hey Ram. Perhaps the paying public — and most of us — can’t quite see eye-to-eye with the great man’s lofty concept. Either that or he should stick to slapstick.

Let’s pardon his ignorance on which movies Kamal has directed. Agreed, Kamal has proxy-directed many. But in the end, he dares to suggest that Kamal “should stick to slapstick”! While the piece may be frivolous, a respected media-person should know better than writing about something he doesn’t know. Et tu, Raja?

Though the national media is slowly paying more attention to South India, they have a long way to go. The featured still of Kamal actually seems apt — showing disgust towards a little kid!

[Cross-posted on NaachGaana.com]

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Kamal A2Z: Guna

Editor’s Note:

Here we have yet another new author, Zero. Please welcome!

On the Kamal A2Z series, we have ‘G’ this fortnight. If anyone wants to reminisce about Guru or Geraftaar, e-mail your entries! The next fortnight, we’ll move onto ‘H’ for Hey Ram; but let’s not forget Hare Radha Hare Krishna too.

A 2-minute long tracking shot takes us through a lower-end brothel in Hyderabad and ends showing Guna on the terrace (shot from below with ‘godly’ respect), standing on one leg. It is a Pournami (full moon day) and Guna is awaiting the arrival of Abhirami. He sees a bride going through the Jaanavaasa ceremony and mistakes her for Abhirami.

So starts Guna, one of the best films to have come out of Tamil Cinema in the last decade. This was the first of the twin efforts (the other being the great Mahanadhi) of Kamal Haasan with his friend Santhana Bharathi wielding the megaphone. Kamal packs in a superb team (Venu for cinematography, Balakumaran for dialogues, and of course Raaja). Yes, it is not a flawless film. But, it is the kind of film that stays on in your mind.

The film looks at this man Guna, with unconditional sympathy; how he is doomed in this big bad world; and in that sense, it is a cynical film. Guna is a madman (an obsessional psychoneurotic) who is told, by a fellow asylum-inmate (Ananthu), that Abhirami (the Goddess) will marry him on a full moon day and will take him out of all his miseries. There is this sense of godliness attributed to him in the movie — he can unlock anything like cars, safes etc. and help his uncle in his thefts. He wants to be cleansed (in the famous scene Guna explaining to the doctor about how Abhirami would ‘cleanse’ him). He unconditionally believes that he is God, and that only Abhirami can cleanse him. He believes in uniting with Abhirami, the Goddess (an imaginatory sequence shows the formation of the Lingam). So he kidnaps her; takes her along with him to a deserted church on top of a hill and explains his love for her, and their destiny.

The screenplay of the film – written by Saab John, a Kamal Haasan associate who also wrote Chanakyan and played the role of Narasimhan is Kuruthippunal) is of the highest standards as far as Tamil Cinema goes. It’s expertly woven, richly textured, and is subtle and doesn’t scream for our attention. Not to forget the insightful and yet realistic dialogues by Balakumaran. Ilaiyaraaja gives a great background score (most of the BGM pieces during chase sequences are liberally borrowed from Kamal Haasan’s two earlier flicks Aboorva Sagodharargal and MMKR). Kamal Haasan comes up with a truly wonderful performance, with the rest of the cast chipping in accordingly.

What is striking is that the film doesn’t melodramatize the state of Guna. It doesn’t put him in fake glory. It looks at him with a detached sympathy. Guna is after all, a madman and it never bats an eyelid to put forth the fact to us. He says he is in love with Abhirami and that she can never go leaving him behind. But, he still ties her giving a new reason each time.

Apart from this, the movie also works as a traditional thriller with an (albeit heavily stereo-typed) villain, CBI in chase, and lots of money at stake. As in every other KH film, the subtle humour is unmissable.

Looking at the mythological connections of the story, the key point in the film is how the usual assumed gender roles are reversed here. The mythology has this story of Parvathi, the Goddess, who takes human form because of a curse and eventually re-unites with Lord Shiva. We also have other examples like Meera and Aandaal. In Guna, the roles are reversed. It’s Guna who has taken an earthly form and yearning to unite with Abhirami. This is apparent in many scenes like the following:

  1. Guna tying the thaali around his neck.
  2. Guna looking reverently at ‘his’ thaali after Abhirami walks out of the car hanging at the edge of a mountain.
  3. Guna waiting for Abhirami to complete her meal.
  4. Or when Abhirami kisses Guna.

The story also owes the main thread of obsession towards the Goddess to the story of Abhirama Bhattar, who wrote Abhirami Anthathi. In a beautiful sequence, Rohini and Guna playfully pretend to be bees and buzz around in air (ending with the bees ‘kissing’ each other), and Abhirami asks Guna to tie the thaali (mangalsutra), Guna says they have to wait till Pournami. But, she says, “Nila aagasuthalaiya irukku? Manasula irukku. Manasu thaan nila. Neranja naal” (”Is the moon in the sky? It’s in the heart. The heart is the moon. Filled (?) day”)! Apart from serving as the point of culmination of their love, it also directly refers to the mythology itself. In the story of Abhirama Bhattar, Abhirami turns an Amavasai (new moon day) into a Pournami by throwing her ear-ring into the sky. Guna recollects the mythological incident, and says, “Aamaam! Abhirami sonna Pournami thaan” (”Yes! If Abhiram says, it is a full moon day”)!

And when the movie ends (with that divine and strangely soothing theme playing in the background), we see the deserted church in the bird’s eye view and the glowing moon behind it. It is the next Pournami (thus completing the cycle) and Guna has joined hands with his Abhirami. Or has he?

[Original post]

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Marmayogi confirmed in The Hindu interview

In an interview to The Hindu on the sidelines of IFFK, Kamal confirmed that his next movie is indeed Marmayogi. Among other things, he also talks again about a bilingual with Mohanlal. Highlights:

“As far, I am concerned, ‘Dashavataaram,’ which will be released next year, is history. I am immersed in my next film, ‘Marmayogi,’ a bilingual period film in Hindi and Tamil, set in the seventh century. It will be the biggest film made in Tamil and it is being scripted and directed by me”.

“Success is difficult to quantify. Once, it meant the amount of money I earned. Then I found that I yearned for creative heights as an actor. So the idea of success keeps evolving. Finally, I decided that I would do only one film at a time and give it my best. That is what I have done with ‘Dashavataaram. That is what intend to do with ‘Marmayogi,’” he avers.

“Why compare karimeen (Pearl spot) and tandoori chicken? Films are made by a team and the festival must cater to each segment in that team and give them the opportunity to learn and evolve in their areas of interest”.

Read the complete interview on The Hindu’s web-site.

[Via Ananth]

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International Film Festival of Kerala ‘07

Kamal is no newcomer to film festivals. Even in the 80s, I remember him frequenting the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), wherever it was held. But now he has grown to the stature of inaugurating such festivals.

He did just that for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvanathapuram on December 7. As usual, he recounted his association with Malayalam cinema. He also invited Mohanlal, who was also present, to do a bilingual with him. Though the event received wide coverage, one yearns for more information in the form of photos or videos.

[With input from Ananth]

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Another Chachi 420 interview

We have been talking about Chachi 420 aka Avvai Shanmughi quite a bit lately. So, this may not be a bad time to look back at an interview from that period. Yes, we had a Screen interview too; but let’s see what Kamal said on Rediff.com:

“The film will do well, I hope,” says Kamal Hasan, who is in Bombay for the release. And if it does become a hit, he hopes he will have a longer tenure in Bollywood than he did after that mega-grosser Ek Duje Ke Liye.

“It was a big mistake but let us not talk about all those controversies,” says Kamal Hasan.

“See, she had come in time; there were others waiting too. In fact, everyone had to wait for me to get ready because my make-up took quite some time to happen. There were all these senior artistes also waiting for me. They never cribbed. Then who is Ashwini, sir?”

“Sorry for the outburst,” eventually he says, contritely.

Flashback to 1958 or so…A little boy comes along with a doctor to treat a woman who is ill at the home of movie mogul A V Meyyappa Chettiar of the AVM Studios. Suddenly a man on the first floor of the bungalow begins shouting into a phone. The doctor is discomfited, but not young Kamal Hasan of Ramanathapuram. He strides up the stairway and tells the astonished noisemaker, “Please keep quiet. Don’t shout over the phone like that. Someone in the house is ill.”

“I have notes for every department, telling them what they should be doing for that particular shot. That makes things a lot easier,” he says.

“As a professional I may have achieved something, but I am an ordinary human being. I laugh, I get angry easily and do things much as others do. I’m not a star, I’m not different from others. Even if I like to think I am someone special, the fact is I’m not.”

“I have just been making films I want to. The audience has been pretty kind, watching and appreciating my films.”

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Jackie Chan for Dasavatharam audio launch?

This news has been buzzing for the last few days and we have been resisting the temptation to publish it for want of official confirmation. Now, we have something close and it’s probably time. Jackie Chan, one of Kamal’s favourite actors and associated with Oscar Ravichandran with respect to distribution in India, will release the audio of Dasavatharam in February of 2008. What more, the function will be graced by the biggest stars of the industry, from Bollywood and various South Indian states. Let’s await the blast!

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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