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Panchathanthiram-time interview

Considering the current discussion going on in the Comments sections, now is a good time to look back at one of Kamal’s interviews on Rediff.com, done just after the release of Panchathanthiram. The setback of Aalavandhaan (aka Abhay) wasn’t too far behind. A lot was going on in Kamal’s personal life too at that time. So, there are peeks into all that. Excerpts:

The mahurat of Abhay was a huge, unmanageable affair, unlike anything we had seen before. But he could not maintain that grand momentum.

It is so ridiculous. There should be a law as to who should cut the film and for what purpose.

Now I am working towards settling my debts. Instead of one film, I will probably do two or three films per year at the same fee that I got one doing one film per year.

You know directors who have treated me as a comrade instead of just an actor, have always got the best out of me. Even great filmmakers like K Balachander, Mani Ratnam and Balu Mahendra have treated me like an ally. That helped the entire project….I am sure Mani doesn’t take all his actors into confidence. But he would discuss the screenplay during Nayakan. That was really reassuring for me. My chest heaves with pride when my directors take me into confidence.

My comedies have always done well. I am grateful for that.

We all worked like lunatics to complete the film in three months. While director K Ravi Kumar was cutting editing and mixing, I got busy writing Anbesivam.

Despite the turmoil in my personal life, the film will always brought a smile to my face. It was just the balm I needed to keep me calm.

Read the whole interview.

Forrest Gump based on Swathi Muthyam?

Kamal has often been criticized for “copying” Hollywood movies, be it Avvai Shanmughi (Bhamane Satyabhamane / Chachi 420) or Tenali. In a rare occasion, he provided his take on the controversy in Singapore. Thinnai (a Tamil Webmag?) covered it.

Kamal feels that it’s not wrong to use stories from other language movies. Defending himself, he says that Forrest Gump could have been based on the lead character in Swathi Muthyam (Sippikkul Muthu). The movie starring Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning role released in 1994 and was based on a book that came out in 1986. Kamal’s movie was out in 1985 itself. There is a piece on Forrest Gump on a Web-site, said to be based on an Wikipedia article, which mentions the original Telugu movie. Similarly, Sigappu Rojakkal was said to have been plagiarised from Visiting Hours, whereas the Hollywood movie actually released 4 years later! In the end, Kamal calls for having belief in and appreciating the talent of fellow Indians.

Dasavatharam & beyond

Bits and pieces of news about Dasavatharam and Kamal’s plans after that movie have been flying around.

The son of yesteryear veteran SV Sahasranamam will be playing Asin’s father in Dasavatharam. Kamal seems to continue his support for old-timers.

Meanwhile, Asin has spoken about her time on the sets:

“When I walked into the sets of Dasavatharam, I was really tense. I know only K S Ravikumar before. I thought it is a serious business with so many big names around. In contrast, working in Dasavatharam was really a fun. Sharing the screen with Kamal Haasan is a delight.”

Jayapradha too spoke about acting with Kamal:

“I accepted to act in Dasavatharam, since it was Kamalji’s film. He is one of the actors, whom I admire a lot. I watched him at very close quarters and admired him a lot. I readily agreed when Kamal Haasan approached me.”

On the other hand, rumours of P Vasu directing Kamal are becoming stronger. How about speculation of Sridevi being approached for this movie? Good to dream. There is also talk of Vasu himself and Rekha (of Kadaloara Kavidhaigal fame) acting in Dasavatharam.

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!

Sujatha on Marudhanayagam

In a very old interview, Sujatha (the writer) speaks about Marudhanayagam in detail, among other things. It contains some interesting insights about the movie, including Sujatha’s contributions. Excerpts:

Q:Was it you who suggested the ‘Marudha Naayagam’ story to Kamal?
In a way ‘yes’. For the last 7 or 8 years Kamal had been searching for the right story to make a historical. He even had plans of doing a historical musical on the lines of ‘Ambikapathi’ and toyed with the idea of making a film which had only verses for dialogue. While he was examining so many ideas, I suggested why not we go into immediate past history instead of going to ancient period.
It was around that time I came across a folk ballad edited by Tamil scholar Vanamamalai and published by Madurai Kamaraj University. Impressed by the ballad, I showed it to Kamal to find out if it has the potential of a good film. Kamal was initially reluctant, but agreed to go through the ballad.
In the elaborate and excellent introduction was a footnote which said, “This Yousuf Khan was originally a Hindu Vellala called Marudha Naayagam. Kamal immediately jumped at it and felt that the story had all the potential of a good historical film. Kamal felt that the religious conversion could be owing to some social oppression and that would form a good subject for filming.

Q: The story of Marudha Naayagam is relatively unknown…
We chose the life of Marudha Naayagam for its substantial story element and episodic content. His is not a conventional story of a king. Starting his life as a supplier to the French Army, he sneaks through enemy lines with messages effortlessly. The French train him and the British, spotting his talent, elevate him to the position of a tax collector of Madurai district, only to hang him for disobedience to the British Raj just one year after his rise to the top. It is this stunning elevation from the lowest level and again touching the nadir, this graph of Marudha Naayagam’s life, that interested Kamal to make it into a film.
As for deviations, nearly 80% of the film will faithfully adapt Hills’ biography of Marudha Naayagam. Only on certain aspects, where no solid or substantial information is available, have we used our imagination.
For instance, no reason is available for Marudha Naayagam’s conversion to Islam. Here Kamal has worked back on the character and has imagined the reasons for his conversion beautifully.

Q: Don’t you foresee the danger of ‘Marudha Naayagam’ being compared to Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Veerapandiya Kattabomman’ (a folk tale)?
Kamal can stand the comparison easily because he is not going to follow Sivaji Ganesan’s style. Knowing well about Kamal’s yen for perfection and precision, we can be sure that the level of realism in ‘Marudha Naayagam’ will be high. There is no question of any Indian actor playing a foreigner as Javer Sitaraman did in ‘Veerapandiya Kattabomman’ and spoke his lines in broken Tamil. In ‘Marudha Naayagam’ wherever the British or French officers speak, Kamal, I think, is planning to para dubbing to give it an authentic touch.
Q: Do you think ‘Marudha Naayagam,’ a film with a distinct native flavour, can have a national or an international audience?
Why not? ‘Marudha Naayagam’ may be a historical character, but he is not a larger than life character. It is a story which depicts a man with all his strengths and weaknesses. ‘The rise and fall of a man’ is the one line story of ‘Marudha Naayagam’, a plot that will interest anyone in any part of the world. When films like ‘Jurassic Park’ can run for its grandeur and technical brilliance, the same can be said of ‘Marudha Naayagam’ which will be made using state of the art techniques. Kamal is adopting the linear narrative style where through off screen narration a person tells the background of Marudha Naayagam, the historical context of the story and so on.

Q: Kamal is supposed to be following the Hollywood style in writing the screenplay of the film. Could you explain that?
I think for the first time in India, a computer has been used in screenplay writing, a method usually adopted by Hollywood film makers. Various software are available for this and Kamal is using a particular software called ‘Movie Magic’. All the information about the movie can be accessed with it..

Q: What is you actual input in ‘Marudha Naayagam’?
I created the Tamil fonts for ‘Movie Magic’. I am also overseeing the screenplay written by Kamal. In Hollywood films, you have a ’screenplay doctor’ and that is the role I’m playing.

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.

Interview to Malaysian TV channel

A delightful interview of Kamal given to a Malaysian TV channel is doing the rounds on the Net. Kamal appears more relaxed than usual. Also, the show is different since it is a live programme with audience and phone-in viewers too. Some highlights:

  • Kamal is very frank about the necessity of fans for a star.
  • He mentions the usual suspects — his mother, Balachander and Sivaji Ganesan — and even MGR. He later talks about his experiences with MGR — the days when he was dance assistant, the fitness tips he received and the appreciation he got.
  • Kamal says that he doesn’t really live a role. He says that the performance is based on lot of preparation. He also later admits that he only does roles that suits him. He even extrapolates that people like Sivaji Ganesan, Sean Penn and Ed Norton did or do the same.
  • He fondly recollects his association with Mani Ratnam. Also, he reveals that, for Nayagan, he did the make-up for himself.
  • He talks about working with Nasser repeatedly, when questioned by the audience. He says that Nasser is a good friend, good actor, good human being, movie-lover and Tamil-lover. He goes as far as saying that Nasser’s presence improves the quality of his movies overall.
  • About Hey Ram’s failure, he says that it’s also his fault that he didn’t prepare the audience sufficiently for it.
  • For the cliched question of how did he act as the dwarf Appu in Apoorva Sagodharargal, this time, he says that he’s planning a TV series.
  • Finally, he says that the movie industry doesn’t provide essential services and that we have to be aware of that.

Economic Times interview

Kamal’s latest interview has appeared in The Economic Times over the weekend, on the occasion of his FICCI award. It includes his pet peeves about songs in movies, funding, vertical integration and technology. There are a few new things too. Check it out.

Some portions…..

You must allow X-rated films and separate them from family entertainment. Currently, we are mixing it all. Mainstream cinema is being corrupted by this content. Censor board is a body appointed by us and we cannot let them behave like monitoring royalty. The industry must have a say in this issue. Instead of throwing a little bit of the sex into, say almost all, Tamil songs which have lyrics about licking, sucking, tasting and biting…

I am encouraged by good critics and great applause. Awards are the representation of the commotion that has already been created.

Infanticide has been part of our culture, are we going to continue doing that? Human sacrifice has been part of it, as is tonsuring the head of a widow…Even if I play Gandhi, I may have to sing.

What’s happening now is like a child plonking on a piano. But, we have been suffering this child for over 50 years.

As a screen writer, I find songs a nuisance.

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!

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