Archive for January, 2008

Hridaya Ragam, another social service effort

Kamal participated in yet another social service project called Hridaya Ragam. The World Malayalee Council is conducting free paediatric (for children) heart surgeries this year. There isn’t much news about this yet. But here are some photos.


Check out all the photos at Behindwoods.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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More Gandhi, more Kamal

On the death day of Mahatma Gandhi, here’s more from Kamal on him — an excellent full-fledged article on RadioSargam.com. When we read it now, it seems to be a good addition to Hey Ram — maybe, a preface if we imagine the movie to be a book. Here are some excerpts:

What inspires me most is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi — his attitude and approach to life. I have always felt that icons should not be idolised and stuffed with their halos and angels floating around them. It robs me of the hope that I could be like them. It is only humanising them that gives me hope in my life.

Gandhi is my hope, my friend. Do not rob my kith and kin away from me by making them messiahs of God. They are humans like me and fallible. I like to keep them on the human level. That gives me hope.

…he had the audacity and the honesty and the integrity to publicly accept and contradicts his deeds, criticise his mistakes, change track and say ‘I am sorry’ in public. I think that is what I admire by the gentleman.

…the Mahatma is not a specific post. It is a metaphysical word for a better person.

Yes, it is an easier and better view when I sat away from it. I could understand what was the problem with Godse and Nehruji. That gives me the equipoise, which they could not have had.

Go on, read the whole article.

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Rediff.com chat, circa 2000

Here’s a very old piece from Rediff.coma chat Kamal had with readers around the time of Hey Ram. Here goes Kamal, “at his wittiest best”:

…Have you ever considered making English movies? What would be your dream role?

Did you fear about the future when you are waiting for a breakthrough in filmdom during your adoloscence? And what would you have been now if had not been that lucky?
I never fear the unknown, if I hadn’t been that lucky I would have been a film buff.

Kamalji, how did you feel when you lost the address slip from Amala in Pushpak (last scene)?
That was not Amala’s address, don’t worry I know her address ;-)

How long do you think you can act in movies? Acting in one movie in a year, how many movies (like Hey! Ram) do you think you can give in your lifetime? Have you ever thought about this kind of planning ?
Yes, when you can think about it, you bet on your computer I would have thought about it a thousand times.

After Hey! Ram, what characters do you look forward to playing or enjoy acting?
One that gets the most applause:-)

How I wished you, the Indian/Hindustani/Bharatheeyudu, were there at KANDAHAR on IC 814, to ploy that martial art, one twist of the hijackers’ nerves, and they would have dropped dead!….No?
You are watching too many movies. NO? ;-)

Kamal, why do you make a point of having kissing scenes in your films lately??
You don’t ask that of songs? Do you like music so much? Or is it that you hate sucking face?

How I cried, watching you in Saagara Sangamam, especially when you sob holding Jaya Prada’s hand for getting a chance to perform at a cultural festival. What is it in you that makes viewers cry?
I hope it’s not my bad acting;-)

You had told that you had the habit of going through Karl Marx’s Das Capital every night before going to bed. What is the speciality of that book that attracted you?
Assured sound sleep within a few pages, I’m yet to complete it. I’m sure I’ll have company in many modern communists.

Thanks, I enjoyed it, but if I yawn, you’ll think I didn’t:-) I am because I got up at 5 and have to do that again tomorrow. *yawn* I loved it. Thank you *yawn* sorry all. Goodnight*yawn* Will be back sometime when I’m not this sleepy good *yawn* sorry night.

Enjoy the whole chat.

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Remembering the silent movie

Pushpaka Vimana aka Pushpak aka Pesum Padam is a movie that still remains in our memories, even after about 20 years. The Economic Times carried an article on it recently. [Don’t ask me what is the connection between such a newspaper and this movie!] The piece hailed the movie as a classic, but had some criticism for Kamal outside it. Highlights:

It was a bizarrely appropriate coda for one of Indian cinema’s daring and brilliant experiments. At a time when only very self consciously art house films eschewed songs, Pushpak went a step further and did away with dialogue as well, creating one of the most sincere silent films ever made.

The primary narrative pays tribute to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

The humour is pitch black at times, in a very politically incorrect sequence, Hassan and Amla take several pheras around the corpse of the owner of Pushpak, while apparently paying their last respects to him.

In a perfect world Pushpak would make it to top of any list of the greatest Indian films. Unfortunately filmic reputations are built around memorising songs and dialogues and Pushpak did not deliver on either count.

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Dasavatharam release: final date?

It looks like we have a final date for the release of Dasavatharam: April 10. Oscar Ravichandran provides more details in the Sify.com report.

Apparently, Rahman doing the background score didn’t work out and they have settled for Devi Sri Prasad. Kamal fans are generally not happy about it; but they are going along with the confidence they have in Kamal. The audio release date is still oscillating between early March and late February.

Though the number of prints isn’t officially announced yet, there are some numbers doing the rounds. It is in the line of the earlier news.

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Kamal at Manorama felicitation function

As reported earlier, Kamal was present to felicitate Manorama on her completion of 50 years in the film industry. The Hindu carried a report featuring quite a few excerpts from Kamal’s speech.

Enjoy a lot many more pictures from Behindwoods and IndiaGlitz.

With Kamal back in town, let’s hope to see more of him and hear more from him in the near future.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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Upcoming functions

With Kamal not being seen for quite a while, fans are awaiting two upcoming functions to catch a glimpse of him.

The first one is for the felicitation of veteran actress Manorama on 14 January. Kamal will be joined by Rajnikanth among others. Read reports from The Hindu, IndiaGlitz, Behindwoods and Tamil Star.

Manorama, of course, is a Guinness world record holder for acting in the maximum number of movies, now surpassing 1500! Kamal’s fondness and respect for her has been evident over the years, acting with her in various combinations, from Savaal to Apoorva Sagodharargal and from Michael Madana Kamarajan to Singaravelan. One tidbit here worth sharing here is something that I heard long before: Kamal possesses the rights to produce bio-pics of Manorama, Illaiyaraaja and Sivaji Ganesan.

The second is on 17 January, to celebrate the birth centenary of LV Prasad, another person whom Kamal had ties with.

Coincidentally, both functions will happen in the same venue, Chennai Trade Centre and will be presided by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi.

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New year, new trouble

Saran, after losing out on directing a Kamal movie, has complained to the producers’ association that Kamal has not returned the 2 crores (20 million rupees) advance. Kamal is not in town to respond immediately, but word is that Saran is needlessly creating controversy (in Tamil).

To recollect what led to this situation:

[With input from Ananth]

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Beyond Dasavatharam

When there is no news emanating from the Kamal front, we rely on our reliable sources. And we have quite a bit of news:

  • Marmayogi shooting begins by the third week of February.
  • Kamal is doing a Walt Disney production with Bharat Bala. Mohanlal and Asin too may be part of the cast. [This news made it to the press too in some form. ThatsMalayalam mentions MT Vasudevan Nair being involved.] Walt Disney is already into India, collaborating with Yash Raj Films on Roadside Romeo.
  • Kamal made a trip to Thailand to check out locations for Marmayogi. Following that, he has gone to the US for more pre-production work. He will also be holding talks with Walt Disney. [The Hindu had some news about the US visit.]
  • AR Rahman does the music for Marmayogi and also the background score for Dasavatharam.
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Kamal A2Z: Hey Ram

It’s difficult to write about something that has been analysed, written and talked about so much, even on this blog. But when the point of discussion is Hey Ram, there is always something new to say. In that belief, here goes my DVD-commentary-like post, best consumed alongside a repeat viewing of the classic. [Now, that’s a good excuse for not properly structuring this post!]

The movie begins with a dedication to Kamal’s mentor, Ananthu: “Thank you for directing me towards this direction”. Their relationship began while both worked under K Balachander, with Ananthu exposing Kamal to things like world cinema. Also, Hey Ram was supposed to be Kamal’s formal foray into direction, which was not to be. Anyway, we can consider it as the first movie Kamal wanted to put his stamp officially on.

In the Hindi version of the movie, notice the name of the movie appear in English last, after Hindi and Urdu. Kamal defies convention as always, while also granting importance to India’s own languages.

As I have mentioned a few times before, Kamal is to be treated as a creator whose chosen medium happens to be film. This is yet again symbolised in the title song. Kamal gives vent to his own agony and raises his (own) voice for sanity and peace, aptly in his own words (in Tamil). That pretty much summarises the objective of the movie.

In addition to donning the new hat of lyricist (to two of the songs), Kamal handles various usual departments including choreography. While his skill at screenplay has been proven in many other movies, this one features the Page-o-Minute technique — one minute on screen being written on exactly one page. Ironically, the script didn’t hold the attention of most movie-goers, with its multilingual dialogues.

Further on the technical side, this was the movie that brought back sync sound (dialogues recorded on the spot instead of being dubbed later). Of course, the voices for a few actors were dubbed. But you would notice that most actors remained unchanged for both languages of the movie. They were meticulously chosen for their background and also their ability to speak in either language.

Shah Rukh Khan was a big draw in the movie. Kamal openly admitted that: “Ask the distributors in North India what Shah Rukh means”. Among the movies I have watched, I’d rate this performance of his next only to Swades. Kudos for his effort in speaking Tamil too (unlike the recent buffoonery in Om Shanti Om).

Another person who had a great outing was Saurabh Shukla. More known for his dialogue-writing skills till then, he touched everyone’s hearts here.

A few gems in the screenplay are on display during the Kamal-Rani scenes:

  • Aparna uses a pistol with no bullets to protect herself from potential intruders. Saket first makes fun of it, but it comes to his use later when he is held captive by the Muslim gang.
  • While getting up from the bed, Aparna asks Saket to not disturb the mark-sheets. “Okay teacher”, he says. This is just one of the few references to her profession, without actually having a scene to establish it.
  • After he ties the thaali (mangalsutra), he asks for some symbol for himself. She takes one of her toe-rings (metti) and gives it to him to use as a ring. Much later, when he goes to see Mythili and she touches his feet, he raises his hands to bless her and notices that ring, bringing back memories of his first wife.

Bollywood’s most-loved villain, Amjad Khan (also the name of Shah Rukh’s character) had a connection with this movie. His son, Shadab memorably played Altaf, the tailor in Calcutta who is responsible for Aparna’s rape and murder. Amjad Khan featured in Kamal’s Vikram one and half decades earlier.

Speaking of Altaf, Saket the common man very slowly realises the level of Hindu-Muslim tension in the country, culminating in the brutal end of his wife. Saket’s struggle is played out superbly with Rani Mukherjee’s continous screaming in the background.

Rani was at that time very new to the movies, with just the hits of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ghulam behind her. Kamal the director extracted a very mature performance, which she is now known to be capable of, as the reigning queen of Bollywood.

While the director dwarfs Kamal the actor in Hey Ram, the latter’s performance is nevertheless not to be ignored. One image that stands out it is during the night of Saket’s wedding with Mythili — he shivers after pouring water on himself, as he struggles to bury the demons of his past.

Back to the director, a portion of “Nee paartha paarvaikku…” is simply brilliant. As Saket reminisces about Aparna fondly, a sequence of shots shows them both at various places in Calcutta doing a variety of things. It is structured as a few shots, but the camera moving from left to right combined with perfect editing lends to effective screenplay. Every place where Saket sees while roaming has a memory of Aparna.

Breaking the flow again, we need to get to Atul Kulkarni. He was a wonderful ‘discovery’ of Hey Ram. Kamal the actor lets him dominate in the scenes they share together, as per the needs of the script. Kulkarni rightly went onto win the National Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Just as the first twist in the movie, that of Saket’s peaceful life being shattered, the second one too comes up slowly. We are made aware of the Maharaja’s conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi bit by bit, starting from the air-port and ending at a secret location on the occasion of Dussehra. The last portion with Saket in inebriated state is filmed beautifully, with hardly any dialogues. All along, we also figure out the personal motives of the Raja and Abhyankar behind their plot to eliminate Gandhi.

The graphics is possibly a tad overdone overall, though it serves the purpose of projecting Saket’s thoughts.

The usage of Tamil (Saket’s mother-tongue) is effortless even in the Hindi version — be it “Balcony kadhava saathu, Aparna!” when he anxiously shouts out to protect her from the intruders or Hindu hymns in the Chennai episode. Kamal’s knowledge of Hindu and Brahmin traditions are pretty complete. It peaks with his rendition of “Brahmanandam…” when Saket renounces all relations before moving to Delhi.

The story is primarily the journey of one man. But it also travels to all corners of India and even to Pakistan. At every place, the rich cultural diversity of India is masterfully blended into the screenplay.

Though being a ‘period’ subject, the contemporariness is unmistakeable. After the decade of Babri Masjid demolition and Mumbai riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had just secured power in India. Warning bells ring in the movie with a reference to Savarkar, the Nazi Swastika morphing into a lotus (BJP’s election symbol). Kamal speaks through his characters at one point: “Religion and politics”, like “sex and violence” is a “pucca commercial combination”! Later in the movie, as a sign of things to come in the future of India, we witness corruption at Gandhi’s place itself.

rushessay.com review Back to the movie, it thrives on sutblety and metaphors. One example is the Raja putting the mad / useless horse to death, with the rest of the horses in the stable being blind-folded. The man is ruthless in pursuing his objective and getting rid of useless items on his way. At the same time, he is careful to keep his other subjects unaware of his nature. At another juncture, when Abhyankar asks Saket to promise that he will perform the assigned task unmindful of his relations, he just turns to the left with sad eyes, the director merely indicating to us that his heart is hesitant to give up Mythili.

The protagonist of the movie is ordinary like any of us. As much as he tries to hide it from himself, he remains a confused man. Even in the end, when he argues with Amjad, he cries and convinces himself that Gandhi is the root cause, even as he struggles to maintain that belief. At the same time, the character also has a lot of the real-life Kamal. He himself said in an interview, sometime ago, that the movie was born out of the question “What would have I done had I been there?”.

The hotel in Delhi where Saket stays is the very place where Nathuram Godse stayed. There is a small reference to it in the movie too. Another interesting tidbit is that Kamal stayed in the same hotel while writing the script, to help him get into the head of Gandhi’s assassin.

The final part of the movie features an interesting character, Govardhan, played by Gollapudi Maruthi Rao. He had a memorable role in Kamal’s Swathi Muthyam (Sipikkul Muthu) too.

Naseer’s role as Gandhi was probably a dream-come-true for him. He was one of the actors who unsuccessfully screen-tested for the lead role in the 1982 biopic by Richard Attenborough.

Throughout the movie, Kamal effectively uses small facts to make his point — Jinnah’s daughter staying back in India, Rama coming through Khyber Pass (reference to Aryan theory), Mountbatten announcing that Gandhi was killed by a Hindu and so on.

As much as I try to detach myself from my sixth viewing of the movie, I get drawn in and forget to note down points for this post. Ultimately, the movie will remain to me, more than anything else, a textbook in film-making.

[Image courtesy: Philip Lutgendorf, University of Iowa]

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