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Kamal, a phenomenon

Not willing to rest on his laurels, Kamal Hassan, the unstoppable seeker of new thrills, is yearning to explore more, writes K. JESHI


FOR KAMAL Hassan, normal is boring. New make-up, looks and roles have always fascinated this versatile actor. He has experimented with every conceivable role and is always striving to extend the parameters of cinematic expression, managing to make them tick at the box office too.

With his repertoire of richly layered performances spanning over four decades, he represents celluloid brilliance. In tune with the interest of filmgoers, he has now given a laugh-riot Vasoolraja MBBS, a remake of the Hindi blockbuster, Munnabhai MBBS. Basking in his latest success, the actor talks about himself and the world of cinema in an interview. He was here to participate in a face-to-face with students of the GRD School of Commerce and International Business.

Success of Vasoolraja

"Vasoolraja has lived up to its name. The response has been excellent. In fact, newspapers had written that more than 10 million people have watched the movie. The number corresponds to ticket sales and, in turn, excellent business," he says.

Ask Kamal if the actor in him, who was willing to experiment, has taken a backseat and he replies: "No, he drives carefully and cannot afford to take the backseat. I have been experimenting continuously but in a slow pace right from movies like Moonram Pirai, Sakalakala Vallavan, Raja paarvai and Salangai Oli. It doesn't mean that Raja paarvai was a failure and so, I shifted to other roles. I also acted in Vikram, which was a commercial hit, but failed to win the appreciation of the people and film critics," he explains.

`Niche' movies

Kamal is tech-savvy, no doubt. So, will one get to see him exploring digital technology? "Filmmaking has moved into the digital era and I will make the transition very smoothly. I want to make films for the `niche' market, whose potential is still left untapped."

Kamal regrets making a huge investment for a niche market movie like Hey Ram (Rs.11 crore excluding his salary - twice the amount spent on Vasoolraja). "People don't like to watch the same kind of movies all the time. A movie like Autograph was a hit because the audience liked it. Good movies made with a low budget should be encouraged," he opines.

A certain amount of screenplay changes and `attitudinal promotions' of movies also matter for success. "Mahanadhi was a superior heart-rending film that left an impression in your heart but it failed. The English version of Hey Ram titled Confessions of the Assassin is being made in a limited budget and I realise I should have done it that way. You learn from mistakes."

Trends in cinema

What's up with Marudhanayagam? "It is a nice movie that has to be released in Tamil, English and French. My investment of Rs. eight crore is totally blocked. It should happen very soon."

Talking about trends in movies, he says: "We have forgotten history. When you look back, there were movies like Udhiri Pookal, 16 Vayadhinilae and the like, which followed a trend. That's not the case now. There is little interval between movies... Virumandi followed an excellent story telling narrative woven in a commercial format, a trend unseen in Tamil movies."

No politics

Mention politics and his disinterest is obvious. "I don't have time for it ," he says firmly.

When asked if audience was mature enough to understand his vision, he says: "Never blame the audience. They are mature enough and have every right to question and clarify their point. Until Sivaji Ganesan told me, I did not know that his movie Utthama Puthiren was a flop. It doesn't mean that the movies are bad or your vision is blurred; probably the way it was presented is wrong."

His parting shot: "I am behind by 20 years, but people say I am ahead."

Snippets...

Your critic: Kamal Hassan. He is a keen critic of Kamal Hassan.

Definition of life: I am learning it and hope to live long enough to experience it and leave behind something for others to read and understand.

Most beautiful woman: My mother. She is the most wonderful woman and I don't care if she's beautiful or not.

Best role: Always the previous one, now it is `Virumaandi'

Things you want to change about Kamal: Oh! Lots. A different name, curly hair, a few inches more height, six or seven inches lesser around the waist and two or three inches more in the head. But, I have accepted everything about Kamal.

Indian films Vs International films: Similar to roads. Too many potholes, manholes and a long way to go.

Politician he admires: He is no more - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Definition of luck: I believe in the famous quote - "There is nothing called luck for those who deserve it". Make yourself worthy of whatever you deserve.

What he feels on seeing Kamal Hassan on screen: Very flattered, very ashamed and well paid

Endorsing: Hard sell only for Kamal Hassan. I will not give testimony to something I don't believe in.

Philosophy in life: Yet to devise. Like others I also casually pilfer, cleverly steal.

What is the real Kamal like: The `confusion' called Kamal Hassan will stay inside me. I don't want to reveal him.

Media publicity: It is a double-edged sword. You should know when to say `no'. Otherwise you are victimised.

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