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Vishnuvardhan on Kamal

Many South Indian actors have friendships that date back a long time. We come to hear about it after ever so many years. One such instance that I came across recently is Vishnuvardhan and Kamal. In an interview where he talks about various things, the Kannada movie superstar mentions Kamal a couple of times. He also comes up with the hitherto-unknown fact (atleast to me!) that he featured in Marudhanayagam! Excerpts:

It was the era of Bruce Lee. The only two artistes who learnt martial arts were Kamal Hasan and myself. The stunt masters utilised our talent. The audiences lapped it up.

You did do a cameo in the shelved “Marudhanayakam” directed by Kamal.
I played Wajid Khan. It was a pleasure because we entered the industry together. He respects me and his passion for cinema is amazing.

Check out the wonderful interview by S Shivakumar.

MGR, Nagesh on Kamal

On hearing Nagesh glorify Kamal recently, thoughts went back to MGR. Kamal and he are believed to shared a great rapport spanning several years. It started from Anandha Jothi in the early 60s and lasted till Kamal’s peak with Nayagan in 1987, shortly after which MGR passed away. In a piece (in Tamil) by ‘AVM’ Saravanan (who himself has a long association with Kamal), he recollects MGR’s thoughts about Kamal in the early 80s.

MGR had inquired about Kamal’s ‘market’. He praised Kamal saying that he was the greatest actor in India after Sivaji Ganesan. He lamented that Kamal had not yet achieved a place commensurate with his talent and wished that he reach greater heights. Kamal, of course, shares a passion with MGR — that of maintaining one’s body. In fact, the latter is an inspiration. Read more.

Back to Nagesh in The Hindu:

Who does he rate as the best actor? He raises his finger solemnly and exclaims, “There’s only one artiste in the whole Universe (!). It’s Kamal Hassan. Without him there’s no cinema. Have you watched ‘Anbe Sivam’?” Nagesh will next be seen in ‘Dasavatharam’ with Kamal. The admiration is mutual. Kamal never misses a chance to use Nagesh in his projects.

Completing the line-up for this post is Kovai Sarala. Though she can’t be compared with the above two stalwarts, she memorably paired with Kamal in Sathi Leelavathi. She had this to say:

Acting alongside Kamal Haasan in “Sathileelavathi” was an unforgettable experience. I was jittery on the sets before Kamal put me at ease. He is gifted artist with a wonderful sense of timing.

Today, they are remaking and recycling material of yesteryear. Look at films like “Nan Avanillai” and “Billa”. I wonder for a moment who would play the lead role if “Thillana Mohanambal” were to be remade. I cannot think of anyone else but Kamal Haasan in the role of Sivaji Ganesan.

Himesh speaks

Himesh Reshammiya recently spoke to Hindustan Times, about Dasavatharam and Kamal among other things. Here’s what he had to say:

…Kamalji is such a legend. He is the only reason why I have chosen to go southwards at a time when I have so much on my plate in Bollywood. A film featuring Kamal Haasan can’t be dubbed a regional film

Karan on Kamal

With his new movie out, Karan is doing the usual media rounds. Significantly, he has repeatedly mentioned Kamal, who co-starred in his first movie, Nammavar. In a video interview to Behindwoods, he calls Kamal his guru. He attributes his confidence and present status to Kamal.

In an interview to The New Indian Express, he talks in the same vein. Excerpts:

If there is any one person you feel indebted to, who would that be?

Undoubtedly Kamal Haasan! When I was struggling to get a foothold in films years ago, no one took me seriously. No one believed in me, encouraged me or offered me roles. It was only Kamal who called me and offered me a crucial role in Nammavar. I consider him my guru, my mentor. It was he who gave me the name Karan, saying, that name would take me a long way. And it has!

Ashmit Kunder on Dasavatharam and Kamal

Ashmit Kunder and his brother Shirish (Farah Khan’s husband) have been associated with Kamal in many movies. Currently, Ashmit is also editing Dasavatharam. In an interview to IndiaFM, he speaks about many things including Kamal and Dasavatharam. He reveals that the movie has a whole lot of special effects. More form the horse’s mouth:

What is Dasavatharam about? Tell us something about the film?
Dasavatharam is an edge of the seat roller coaster entertainer where Mr. Kamal Hassan essays 10 roles. The amount of special effects involved is humungous and never before has such magnitude of visual effects been attempted in any Indian film ever. And that makes my job a lot more arduous as well!The film boasts mostly of an international crew, with action directors, Special visual effect directors and makeup men from all over the world! With this film I feel I have gained such tremendous knowledge of special effects that I can take on any complex project.

Why does Kamal Hassan always go for you to edit his films?
He is very demanding; precision and quality is what he expects. I guess it’s because, I deliver the results he demands irrespective of whatever the adversities are! Apart from the fact that we share a terrific rapport, it has always been a matter of privilege and pride for me to work with him.

Thanx to Sridhar Sundaresan for passing on this article!

On Kamal…

SS Music telecasted a programme on Tamil New Year’s day, about Kamal receiving the Living Legend award, with various people talking about him. I thought that now was a good time to brush up the past a bit, although in a different way.

Sripriya, who co-starred with Kamal in many movies:

My inspiration to learn Tamil came from many persons, such as Vaalee and Kamal Haasan…has not studied much but he writes poetry. So I thought when Kamal Haasan could do it why not I? I have read a lot of Kannadasan’s songs also.

Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth are my good friends. I learned a lot from them, particularly Kamal Haasan from whom I learnt dance.

Gautham, who directed in his last movie, Vaettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu:

I conceived the story after Kamal said we’d work together. He rejected my first script and that’s when I thought I’d make him a super cop stalking a serial killer. `Let’s do it,’ he said

I was jittery. Kamal is not only a super actor but also a director. You can’t play the fool with him. If I want an extra take from Kamal, I have to give him the right reason. I just can’t afford to be casual with someone of his stature.

K Balachander, his mentor, of course, has often praised Kamal. Here are a few things he said about Kamal and also Rajni:

Answering the million-dollar question as to if he would direct Kamal and Rajini in a movie, Balachander answered that he is open for the project if the two stars are ready to go for it. Besides, he, as it seems, has a script of sorts for the project as well. “I would not cast them in two opposite roles”. On the contrary, my movie would cast them as brothers who run into occasional prank fights, he replied.

Replying to another question, he stated, “Kamal requested me to open a college to support cinema and stage. However, I have no immediate plans for the same. But if I was asked to head a college I would happily agree for that”.

Finally, we have Santhanabharathi, his long-time friend and associate:

As far as Mahanadhi goes, Kamal has acted very well in this movie. Certain shots that he has given in this movie, I wouldn’t have expected even in my wildest dreams. Particularly the scene where his daughter comes to visit him in jail. He told me to continue to take till he gave the cue. Everybody knew the scene, but nobody knew how he was going to do it. The emotions of a father, his helplessness…. and at the same time the need to hide his feelings from his children was really moving. When the scene got finally over, I had tears in my eyes.

The character in Guna can be played only by Kamal Haasan and no one else.

If I have to talk about Kamal Haasan, I would say he’s an encyclopaedia. He’s a self-made person. I have known him from my school days, infact I have seen the way he has grown, from the time he first came into films. He would take the initiative to learn on his own by reading a lot of books, talking to people and by watching movies. If he speaks about something it wouldn’t be out of the hat, his arguments are supported by a lot of reading and learning. Even though he did not have much of a formal education, his knowledge is immmense.

When it comes to movies, he gets totally involved with his character. Whether he has to put on weight, shed weight, go bald, grow a beard or change his complexion he would do it. For Guna, he dieted and lost a lot of weight and throughout the movie we see a darker version of him. For the last scene in Guna where we show him falling down a steep slope, we could have used a rubber dummy, but he insisted that the dummy should look exactly like himself and we moulded a dummy…we went about moulding the dummy part by part, first the hand, then the head, then the neck and so on. For that, he had to sit through for very long hours. You need a lot of patience for all that. He’s very helpful and cooperative when it comes to that. That’s why Indian was such a great success. Once you put on the make-up, you can’t even eat till it’s taken off. He wouldn’t mind all that, because of the total involvement that he has.

Lots of people ask me…how come he fights with all other directors but not with you. Well the thing is, any product is a result of teamwork. If somebody gives a good suggestion, there is nothing wrong in taking it. Actors like Kamal Haasan will surely bring their inputs to the character and the movie. For them the movie is more important than anything else. You have to take it as teamwork rather than personally, otherwise nothing will get done.

Asianet, Sun TV interviews

Recently, Kamal’s interviews appeared on Asianet (Malayalam) and Sun TV (Tamil) channels. Many of us weren’t fortunate to catch them live, but watched portions of it later through other means.

The Asianet interview happens in an informal setting on a houseboat, in Malayalam and English. As the houseboat moves through the lake, Kamal and the interviewer are having lunch. Highlights:

  • Right at the end, Kamal calls actors as “specialised tools” used by the maker of the movie. He uses an analogy to Shakespeare and says that only the filmmaker will be remembered ultimately. It’s a bit of a shock when he declares that he’s not very interested in continuing as an actor.
  • Kamal talks about his time in Malayalam cinema — the simple living, the camaraderie — and mentions Soman, IV Sasi and Jayan. He lauds the friendship shared by the industry folks and says that only the current crop in Bollywood (K Jo and gang) come close.
  • He also talks about upliftment of women and proudly says that India is better than even USA.
  • He even sings a Carnatic song.
  • He laments about the current commercial setup of movies.

The interview on Sun TV was done by Gowthami. It even had some interludes from people who have been associated with Kamal. Highlights:

  • Kamal is very confident of Dasavatharam, talking high of the screenplay and Ravikumar’s enthusiasm on hearing the story. KSR and Kamal talk of their experience of working together on the movie.
  • Kamal and Mani Ratnam talk about how Kamal was involved in all aspects of Nayakan. Mani even displays a shade of jealousy while Kamal is thrilled about appreciation from him.
  • He attributes his growth to the people whom he grew up with — family, mentor, etc.
  • He still expresses confidence in the audience regarding support for experimentation in movies.
  • The interview moves onto things other than movies. An amusing digression is Kamal reciting a shloka and using that to bring out his rationalist views. It continues with Illaiyaraaja’s comments.
  • K Balachander recounts an experience during Punnagai Mannan very emotionally.

Behindwoods carries a report on the same programme.

If you get a chance to catch any of these interviews some time, don’t miss them!

More from Gautham

Baradwaj Rangan (Indian Express) has done a fine interview with Gautham Menon. Gautham speaks frankly about various things, including Kamal and VV. Excerpts:

Gautham, who then presented to his star a one-liner of the story that would eventually become Pachaikili. “He said it was nice and asked me to work on it. So I wrote the entire script in 40 days. But then he had second thoughts and said no. Then for a month I sat and thought about what Kamal could play. A cop? A convict on the run, like Sigappu Rojakkal 2? And I decided to make him a cop.

Then the suicide episode happened and, “Kamal said the entire thing had left a bad taste in his mouth, and he didn’t want this film at all. But the producer’s council told him he’d taken an advance – I’d also taken an advance – so we had to finish the film.” So Gautham narrated the story of Véttaiyaadu. “He said, ‘I don’t have time to get fit if I’m playing a cop.’ I said that wasn’t a problem. He asked if I could start shooting right away and finish the project. I said yes.”

And that’s how they started the film, “without Kamal sir getting a full narration of the script,” says Gautham. “He’d get the scene, read the dialogues, and start acting. All he knew was that he was a cop. He didn’t know where Jyotika would come in, where Kamalini would come in. He didn’t know who the two villains were – I didn’t introduce them to each other. The first time they acted together was the first time they met.”

Some people said Kamal Hassan didn’t look very interested in the project, “but it worked for me, because I wanted the character to be like that. We know every expression of Kamal’s. I’ve watched every film of his. I’m like a die-hard fan. I wanted a character that is very simple, very underplayed. And he was brilliant. There are some things you cannot write. You can write the dialogue, you can say the artist is going to look at Jyotika like this – but what he adds to that is mind-blowing. All of us were stunned.”

But this excellence came at a price. “In Véttaiyaadu, the first half is what I wanted to do. The second half is what I did for the producer and Kamal sir.”

“It’s very difficult to write in a Tamil cinema setup because you have to cater to the hero. That entire opening ten minutes is just an introduction of the hero. You can remove those ten minutes and start the film when Kamal touches down in Madurai. In fact, when Kamal first heard the script, he had reservations. I asked why. He said, ‘You’re making a film with a hero. Now this script will shift to the antagonist at some point. Then there’ll be a cat-and-mouse. There’ll be footage where I’m not there on screen. That’s not the kind of film you want to make.’ I understood. He’s a superstar. He has fans who need to be catered to.”

“When Kamal finally faces the last villain, I wanted a fight sequence. But he felt the audience would want to know about Jyotika, and a fight would only prolong this discovery. And so we had the villain die instantly.” But a lot of people came up and said that this villain was so evil, he needed to have been the recipient of some dishoom-dishoom from the hero. “If I hadn’t let Kamal tell me, I would have shot it. Even now, I feel there could have been a 100-feet fight between both of them.”

“…Without Kamal sir’s remuneration, Véttaiyaadu was shot at five-seventy five, which is awesome. It’s only because of Kaja’s – the earlier producer’s – overheads that it became a breakeven film, with a little bit of profit. Otherwise it’s a major money-spinner.”

For Véttaiyaadu, I wanted a title with a hunt kind of feel. I was talking to (the lyricist) Thamarai, and she said there’s this old song and started humming it. And that was it.

“The producer told me not to have these English portions. I said, ‘Sir, this character goes to New York. He can’t talk in Tamil.’ Then the producer asked me to at least have subtitles. I said you can’t read it because it goes by too fast.” But they insisted, and now, Gautham says, they’re saying the subtitles shouldn’t have been there because no one can read them.

“I had only three songs in my first draft. Harris comes to me and says we have a track record, so we need to have five songs. And the guy who comes to buy the audio rights says the same thing.” So the situations for Uyirilé and Neruppé were shoehorned in. “I was not even there when they shot the song, because I didn’t like the situation and I’d already started Pachaikili. But then these are factors that you have to play with.”

Gautham’s earlier interview with Sudhish Kamath (The Hindu) now seems very complementary. Read more on Baradwaj Rangan’s blog.

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.

Atul Kulkarni speaks

Below are a couple of quotes from an interview with Atul Kulkarni, the unforgettable man from Hey Ram. This interview was done a while ago by Baradwaj Rangan for Indian Express.

I consider Hey Ram my film school. I had just come out of NSD, and I was doing Marathi theatre. And Kamal-ji, being an actor, knew how to teach an actor. He never ever showed me how to do a scene or give a shot. He never acted it out. But he did teach me how to respond to the camera and things like that. He taught me film technique.

Strange things happen in the film industry. Hey Ram wasn’t a hit; what it got me was Chandni Bar, plus a Telugu film. But Chandni Bar was a huge hit...But that doesn’t mean Hey Ram didn’t get me noticed. When I was shooting for Khakee, the film that Amitabh Bachchan complimented me on was Hey Ram.

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