The write move
Chatline Malathi Rangarajan talks to Kamal Haasan the writer, as two of the veteran actor’s screenplays are being translated and released at the World Book Fair in Kerala.
Giants such as KB should work on publishing their scripts. It will be a real legacy
“I’m touched that a highly literate neighbouring State wants my works in their language. For them I’m always ‘Nammada Kamalahaasan’,” says an elated Kamal Haasan about the honour that awaits him in Kerala for his writing skills.
Two Malayalam translations of his Tamil screenplays — Mahanadhi and Hey!Ram!— are scheduled to be released at the inaugural function of the World Book Fair in Thiruvananthapuram on October 28. K. S. Viswanathan is the translator of the book titled “Kamalahaasanda Randu Thirakadhagal.”
“It’s a D.C. Books publication, and we’ve worked with systematic diligence, especially for Hey! Ram!, because the dialogue has plenty of Marathi. Viswanathan would often call me up for clarifications. And we spent a lot of time selecting the right pictures,” says Kamal.
Kamal’s craving for literature began even as a boy, when literary stalwarts stomped the Haasan home in the form of dinner table conversations. “Everyone in the family was highly educated. The works of V.S. Khandekar and ‘Kalaignar’ were common subjects of discussion. Unwittingly my ears fed on them. Being a high school dropout, I panicked. I had to belong and so I had to educate myself.” The thirst led him on and he began reading every classic that came his way.
As a teenager, Kamal confined himself to English books. It was the late writer Ananthu, a constant at the K. Balachander camp, who opened the doors for the young man to enter the empire of Tamil litterateurs and world cinema makers. “I still miss him. He’s one of those many unsung geniuses,” Kamal pauses.
It was director R.C. Sakti who actually made Kamal see the writer in him. “I was a young boy groping for a foothold as director when Sakti got me a notebook and said, ‘Write a short film for me.’ I did. The peer acceptance was a tremendous morale booster.”
Continuously honing his skills, Kamal went on to write poems. “I’ve written more than a 100. Anger, joy, sadness and hurt make me turn towards writing poetry. And when contemporaries compliment the work, it’s an elixir.”
Kamal’s maiden attempt at screenplay, Raja Paarvai, (though he’d written a couple in Malayalam earlier) spells ingenuity and class. “But my favourites are those that came later — Thevar Magan, Virumaandi...”
Attending U.S. writer John Truby’s workshops on screenplay, rubbing shoulders with world class directors Jean-Claude Carriere and Milos Forman and writer Sundara Ramasamy and the influence of filmmakers of the ilk of Istran Zabo culminated in Kamal avidly pursuing screenplay writing. “I imbibed their techniques and evolved as a writer. Dovetailing a story and detailing it in the format is a challenge,” he says. “Giants such as KB should work on publishing their scripts. It will be a real legacy,” he adds.
With every film, it’s Kamal the writer who eggs the actor on. Dasavatharam comes with his story, screenplay and dialogue. “It was a daunting task. My 10 acting roles may blur the face of the writer now. But once the film is out, the 11th man is bound to get noticed,” he chuckles.
K. S. Ravikumar, director of Dasavatharam, says: “The way he has blended the commercial with the natural is incredible. Dasavatharam will be a veritable feast.” And its lens man Ravivarman believes that Kamal’s narratives are timeless. “Including Dasavatharam, all his film scripts will remain relevant forever. I worked with him for 207 days for the film and each day was an enjoyable learning experience.”
Kamal is already working on his next script, Marmayogi, envisaged as a massive bi-lingual in Hindi and Tamil. Meanwhile, D.C. is also keen on publishing a Malayalam translation of the Dasavatharam screenplay. “I’ve a long way to go. A time could come when published scripts win the Sahitya Akademi. After all, this is original writing too,” he smiles.
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