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2008 Look-back

Looking back at the past gives us a different and often wholesome perspective of events. It helps one derive confidence from accomplishments, learn from mistakes and recharge for a fresh new year. In our case, of course, we’re looking at Kamal’s 2008. To call this year eventful would probably be an understatement.

Dasavathaaram

The biggest event of the year was, obviously, the release of Dasavathaaram. In preparation for over 2 years, the movie released on June 13 to a overwhelming response, after many announced and rumoured dates (April 10, April 17, June 6).

The publicity build-up was slow and steady, unlike the bombardment of Aalavandhaan. In fact, many were wary of the hype being reminiscent of the 2001 failure. However, the reality matched or surpassed the expectations. Stills and the trailer were put out in a carefully phased manner to create excitement while not revealing too much about the movie. Here’s the progression: Avtar Singh in mid-air -> muscular Nambi in action -> Govind in lab -> miscellaneous ones before the audio release -> more stills along with the trailer -> miscellaneous ones shortly before the release. Actually, the buzz hit top gear with the release of the fast-paced trailer. Both the trailer and the public analysis that followed had a taste of things to come. The trailer had literally-blink-and-miss flashes of the ten roles and fans caught it.

In between all these came the high-profile audio release function featuring Jackie Chan and Amitabh Bachchan among others. After a painful gap (that was worth the wait ultimately), the movie arrived to a rousing reception. The media coverage was unprecedented. After the movie quickly reached blockbuster proportions, the ten characters were officially revealed.

The movie generated unparalleled reactions in the real and online worlds. Whether it was movie folks or bloggers, the excitement was infectious. The vibrations even rocked Google. But ultimately, the box-office spoke loudly and records were shattered all around.

Marmayogi & More

Even as Dasavathaaram was on the way, we heard of Marmayogi. Everything seemed to be proceeding well like a typical Kamal movie while problems with Pyramid Saimira, the co-producer, were rumoured. Again, things seemed back on track and news about cast and crew resumed flowing. Finally, the movie hit a roadblock citing the global economic meltdown as the reason. With no confirmation yet, along with a mention of Thalaivan Irukkindraan, the fate of the movie hangs in balance, even as there is revelation of Pyramid Saimira running into all kinds of trouble.

Interviews

Kamal’s interviews are always a delight to watch or read. He always manages to make each one interesting, while also revealing something new about himself. This year was loaded with many of them, especially as a by-product of Dasavathaaram’s promotion. Check out the top quotes below before diving into the year’s best for S (Sathyam Cinemas magazine), Hindustan Times / The Times of India, DNA / BusinessOfCinema.com, Mumbai Mirror and The Times of India.

The best part is that the producer was smiling at the start of the film and he still is smiling when it’s complete - which is very rare.

Just making Dasavathaaram alone would not have been sufficient; a release pattern like this combined with the product is what is making it work so well…Never before has a Tamil film been released on this scale.

I don’t know what I did right, but I hope I can do it again.

Both the times when you separated from your wives, there was another woman involved. Sarika led to your split with Vani and Simran caused a rift between Sarika and you.
Unless it’s a gay marriage, there’s always another woman involved.

Ten roles, isn’t he increasingly becoming self-indulgent in his films? “Who isn’t,” asked Kamal defensively. “Aren’t great actors like Yusuf saab and Amitabh self-indulgent? Who else should I love more than me? Brad Pitt?”

I have spent 500 hours doing make up itself and it takes a lot of perseverance and belief in what you are doing to keep doing it. If I spent that much time inside a cockpit I would be a successful commercial pilot.

“…There is a downside to everything. If we take ourselves too seriously, we actors will definitely need a psychiatrist.”

From the perspective of international standards, money and talent is being invested in the right direction and I feel that in two years from now nothing called Bollywood will exist.

To me the ascent of man in itself is a mind-boggling thing. And Darwin’s theory is something I believe to an extent. In fact, if somebody asks me what gothram I am, I always joke and say Darwin gothram. What I do try is to keep fit. For ultimately it is the survival of the fittest.

“…I am deeply hurt by what is happening around in the name of religion. I personally feel, whenever there is a crisis, God becomes a mere witness. I am happy with my decision,” he explains.

“…Spirituality makes you rest, makes you content. I will only settle down when I am in a coffin, under the earth or inside the fire. Till then I will keep myself active and alive…”

The other unusual interview was on books in the Tamil magazine Puthagam Peshudhu.

Social Service

Kamal is known for promoting social service through his fans’ association (Narpani Iyakkam). This year too, he kept the ball rolling with donation of exam kits to needy students in March and ceiling fans to orphanages in July. But the bigger involvement was as brand ambassador of Hridaya Ragam, the effort of the World Malayalee Council to conduct free paediatric heart surgeries.

Fans

Speaking of fans, there was quite a bit of activity on that front too. Kamal held a photo session for fans in February, like the previous year , and also felicitated some on the occasion. For his birthday, he discouraged celebrations on account of the Srilankan Tamils’ problem.

On the association front, there was some strong action. Key officials including the chief, R Gunaseelan, were sacked in August, for apparent misconduct.

At a smaller level, Arif, a fan from Kerala, declared his love for Kamal through a music video titled Avatharam.

Death of Colleagues

This year was, unfortunately, also big in terms of the passing away of many of his colleagues, one of them really close. That was Sujatha Rangarajan the writer. Kamal sent out a touching condolence message. Others were CV Sridhar, the director and MN Nambiar, the veteran actor.

Honouring Seniors

KM Aadimoolam, the famous artist, too passed away this year. Kamal released a biography of his and paid homage.

While paying respects to the departed was essential, Kamal did not miss honouring the living too. Manorama celebrated her 50 years in the movie field and Kamal was there to felicitate her.

Events

There were two protests held by the Tamil film industry this year, in the form of fasts. In April, it was for the Cauvery-Hogenakkal problem and then we had the one in November for the sake of Srilankan Tamils. At both places, Kamal shined as one of the sanest voices.

Towards the end of the year, Kamal participated in quite a few events related to film appreciation and production. In addition to being the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, he took part in a seminar on UK-India collaboration and the Indian Screenwriters Conference.

Audio release functions have become major launch pads for movies these days. Kamal graced quite a few in 2008 including Kodaikanal, Jayamkondaan and A Aa E Ee.

There were the customary wedding functions too. We had a whole lot of them in fact — Sibiraj, Prabhu’s daughter, Sarathkumar’s niece, Vairamuthu’s son, Senthil’s son, Professor Ku. Gnanasambandhan’s daughter, Mohan Natarjan’s daughter, Ahathian’s daughter and Arvind Krishna / Shreya Reddy.

Controversies

Controversies have been hounding Kamal, especially for the past few years. This year, we had the anti-Hindu allegations against Dasavathaaram, which was ultimately quashed in court.

Then there were the insiders, former associates, in fact. Bharathiraja, the great director of the past and the blabber-mouth of the present, attacked Dasavathaaram first and later Kamal’s acting skills. The grapes turned sour for Saran, another director coincidentally. After losing out on the opportunity to work with Kamal, Saran accused him of not returning advance money. Kamal watched in typical silence as both controversies died out.

Personal Life

There were no significant developments on the personal front. But we got to know a bit more of him this year, first as a father in Shruti’s music performance at the Rolling Stones India launch and then as a companion through an interview of Gautami.

Blasts from the Past

This year, we had quite a few interesting peeks into Kamal’s past. The long-kept secrets of Kamal’s dwarf act in Apoorva Sagodharargal (Appu Raja) were mostly let out by its director, Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao. As for the long-pending Marudhanayagam, after the trailer on the Internet in late 2006, came a few fantastic stills featuring Kamal. Also, we had a blog post on Kamal’s days in drama.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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The man who challenged Bollywood

Here’s a blast from the past, yet again from Shiva Kumar, who’s not new to this blog. In a 9-year old article where he talks about the bias of Hindi movie stars against their South Indian counterparts, he uses Kamal as the prime example. Along with some analysis, we also get some interesting anecdotes mainly from the 80s. Here are the highlights:

Kamalahasan is sending shivers down our spines, as Jeetendra put it

…one day, Om (Puri) points to a poster of Sagara Sangamam and gushes, ”That boy has tremendous potential.“…He`s surprised when you tell him that Kamal has already acted in more number of films than Om probably ever will. Om`s ignorance is genuine since he`s seen only Ek duje ke liye.

Only the previous day Smita was telling you that she may do a couple of films with that amazing actor, Kamal and Nana is cross that Kamal has already used a few mannerisms he was planning to.

There`s Anupam Kher who acknowledges that Kamal is a great actor but adds, he`s getting ”gimmicky.“ This comes from an actor whose idea of versatility is wearing weird wigs. You repeat Anupam`s quote to Mani Ratnam who retorts, ”If he`s talking about Apoorva Sahodharargal dare that man to do one shot as appu the dwarf.“

Then there`s this respected critic of a national daily whose making his debut as a director and was a die-hard fan of Kamal. The actor probably didn`t take a call from him so now critic feels that at this point of time Govinda is a better actor than Kamal. Surely this is like going to the circus and saying that the clown was better than the trapeze artiste!

One of the unfathomable mysteries for the discerning few in Bombay is the failure of Kamalahasan. Other than being a blessing in disguise it was not at all a surprise for fans here. The simple reason is that Kamal is not one of those robots who keep repeating themselves in film after film…Totally contrary to the situation here where Kamal has to do something different to succeed. In Bombay, Kamal would have had to evolve an image for himself, something akin to angry young man or tragedy king, but chose to do a gamut of roles and failed.

Read the whole article, which originally appeared in the Deccan Herald.

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Dasavathaaram is No. 2 on Google!

News recently came out that Dasavathaaram came out among the toppers on Google not just on June 13 (release day), but through the whole year of 2008! Google’s “Zeitgeist” (which reveals the trends of the times) for India lists Dasavathaaram next only to Jodha Akbar on the list of popular movies, with a special mention regarding a Tamil (and Telugu) movie in a list dominated by Bollywood.

This news was also covered by The Hindu amongst others.

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Kamal @ screenwriters conference

Kamal was the star attraction at the Indian Screenwriters Conference (ISC) held in Mumbai, on November 13 and 14. In fact, it seemed like he was the lone person from the bottom half of India! Kamal promised to hold a similar conference in South India in March.

Organized by Film Television Institute of India (FTII) based in Pune, the conference featured leading names like Govind Nihalani, Amol Palekar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Rajkumar Hirani and Abbas Tyrewala. Kamal chaired one of the 10 sessions, titled “The uniqueness of the Indian script”. A first-hand report on PassionForCinema blog throws light on his charisma and sense of humour at the event. Ananda Vikatan has reported that students thronged him, especially praising him for Dasavathaaram.

Sify.com has put up a video of Kamal answering questions from reporters. Eros Entertainment too has a video news snippet on YouTube — Kamal is featured at the start and the end. Read a formal report from The Hindu. Check out photos at Bollywood Movie News Desi Blog, MastiOne.com and HamaraPhotos.

[Updated 21 Dec 2008: Included video from Sify.com]

[With inputs from Ananth]

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UK-India collaboration — a hope for Marudhanayagam?

About a fortnight ago, before gracing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) as Chief Guest, Kamal participated in a seminar in Chennai on UK-India collaboration in film production. In his special address, Kamal spoke of the opportunity for Indian movies to go international.

The significance of this event was the announcement of a treaty has been signed between the respective governments to facilitate co-production of movies. Marudhanayagam immediately springs to mind — who can forget the launch by Queen Elizabeth? This treaty could be a good mechanism to facilitate resurrection of Kamal’s dream project and Kamal did specifically say so.

In addition to hope for a project long-awaited by fans, it is also good to see Kamal being rightfully honoured by being invited to such a forum.

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Kamal @ IFFI ‘08

Kamal was invited to be the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) this year, in Panaji (Goa). He presented the awards to the winners including Tulpan (from Kazakhstan) for the best film. He spoke in his inimitable style, referring to the Mumbai terror strike, saying that life must go on. Read reports from The Hindu, The Times of India, The Asian Age and Media Newsline.

Earlier, he also had the honour of felicitating K Balachander, his mentor, with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Daijiworld.com featured excellent photographs of both events. You can see his new get-up, with a ravishing hair-style and a trimmed beard, a glimpse of which we already caught at Nambiar’s mourning.

I have heard that Kamal used to frequent IFFI in the 80s to catch movies of the world. Times have changed and now he can probably watch them at home. But it is a privilege to be the Chief Guest at the very festival he used to go to as a visitor.

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Homage to Nambiar

Veteran actor MN Nambiar passed away last week and Kamal was there to register his condolence. Sify.com, Dinathanthi and Dinamalar covered it.

Though Nambiar is known as the permanent villain for MGR, he did a few movies with Kamal too, in varied capacities. Some of them are Guru, Uruvangal Maaralaam and Raam Lakshman.

Sharath Babu, seen in the above picture, is the son-in-law of Nambiar. He, of course, has done several memorable movies with Kamal. Check out more photos at Behindwoods.

[With inputs from Ananth]

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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Thalaivan Irukkindraan in, Marmayogi not out?

Thalaivan Irukkindraan (not Thalaivan Irukkiraan) is official! Even though no more details are available, Kamal confirmed that Marmayogi has been postponed and announced his new movie. Here’s coverage from CineSouth, Thatstamil, Adhikaalai.com, Nakkheeran.in and TamilCinema.com.

Rumours and news have been flying back and forth for the past several days — Mohanlal agreeing to star with Kamal, actors recruited for Marmayogi being used for TI, so and so forth. If you care for them, check out The Hindu, Sify.com (1 | 2), Yahoo, MSN, The Times of India, DNA, IndiaGlitz, Thatstamil, Galatta.com (1 | 2), IndiaGlitz, CineSouth, News Today, Adhikaalai.com (1 | 2) and TamilCinema.com.

Pyramid Saimira, for their part, already denied that Marmayogi was dropped altogether. Read reports from Behindwoods, IndiaGlitz, Adhikaalai.com and TamilCinema.com.

Anyway, as for me, I don’t totally believe the Marmayogi part of the news. I think it has indeed been dropped due to the risk of high budget.

[Image courtesy: Keerthivasan Rajamani]

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Birthday specials, 2008

This year, Kamal’s birthday received more coverage than earlier years, possibly as a result of the post-Dasavathaaram hype.

Express Buzz carried a piece with messages from a few actresses he has starred with — Sneha, Shobhana and Devayani. A sample from the first one:

He’s a pure genius when it comes to acting. But imagine the humility it takes to actually come to a new, young actress, and ask her not to get intimidated by other big actors in the scene!

The same Web-site also carried another tribute.

Sify.com published a slideshow of his performances which deserved the National Award but didn’t make it, along with his filmography.

Rediff.com featured Kamal’s birthday as part of entertainment history. Yahoo! India and Indiaglitz published birthday messages, heaping praise on Kamal. Behindwoods carried a slideshow of his phases over the years.

[With inputs from Ananth]

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Birthday Special: Kamal & I

I was born as a Kamal fan, I think. When I came into existence, Kamal was a rising star. From what my mother says, possibly the first lines I tried to sing as a kid was “mangaikkul kaadhalenum gangaikkul naan vizhundhaen…” (from “Orae naal…” of Illamai Oonjalaadigiradhu).

Through the Eighties, my uncle, who was a typical Kamal fan of those times, fuelled my passion. At that time, there are many Kamal movies of which I have only “heard the stories” from him. My father claims that he is a Sivaji fan; but I guess he liked to go to Kamal movies. That’s how I got to watch most of the popular Kamal movies of that time.

In my teenage years, when I became all the more interested in movies, I started appreciating Kamal even more, paying attention to his non-acting skills like screenplay and singing. Now, of course, I’m convinced of Kamal’s greatness and hence this blog.

Over these years, I’ve followed his life through various kinds of media. I understand him more and more as days pass. Something that surprises me is that most of my views are similar to his — not that I picked up ideas from him really. I’m happy about it and, of course, it helps me understand him better.

I’m not fanatical about him. But I truly believe he is a man whose life is worth looking at.

Happy birthday, sir! You make my life better.

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