PROUST DUSTIONNAIRE - KAMAL HAASAN
`I used to be a wannabe Genghis Khan'
Introducing, the Proust Questionnaire, a fortnightly feature. These questions were most famously answered by the French writer Marcel Proust, whose personalityrevealing responses came to define this form of celebrity confession. This fortnight's questionnaire was administered by BARADWAJ RANGAN.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Honesty. Also over-touted. When someone introduces himself as honest, I mutter to myself, "There comes another crook."
* * *
What is your idea of happiness?
It is something that you attain,
sometimes in cycles, and at most
times it is a vast variety of things.
Happiness is very closely related to
greed. Happiness is perhaps
painlessness, a state one rarely
appreciates. Happiness, then, is very
much like a great talent. It rarely gets
appreciated and is taken for granted
What is your greatest extravagance?
That sudden attack of honesty that
sometimes rises up with my bile.
What is your favourite journey?
I am at it. Life.
What is your greatest fear?
Even after denouncing the gods,
ghosts still haunted me. Not the holy
ones, fortunately. Then I lost them
both. Both have great advertisements
and are hard not to buy. I, like all,
suffered the campaigns from
childhood. The creation of god itself,
I deduced, came from our primal
fear. The most feared thing should be
death but after a lot of rumination, I
have settled to fear incessant pain. It
is not a screaming-hysterically kind
of fear but a silently lurking one.
Whether my own body or anybody
threatens me with pain, I try to avoid
it shamelessly - at the peril of my
alleged valour. I presume that is why
torture still works. Even nearly 1,500
years after the crucifixion that killed
their god, the Vatican practised it
vigorously during the Spanish
inquisition. Our Shaivites precede
that with mass impalements of the
Jains. Our politicians still resort to
the use of pain. Yes, it is not even the
inevitable death but the insufferable
pain that I fear. It is built into my
DNA. Again, it does seem like I also
fear short answers. I presume it is a
reaction to the fear of being
Which living person do you most admire?
I will refrain from answering this
question as I live. Death venerates
anyone. So I shall wait.
Which living person do you most despise?
The one who hangs on the same
ledge just above me and won't lend a
helping hand. I guess he would say
the same if the levels we hang out of
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I used to be a wannabe Genghis
Khan and will always be that. He
never lost any battles. Then I swung
to the other side of the spectrum and
settled on Mr. Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi. Now I realise I
should identify myself with those
who strengthen my argument. So I
have a huge list and that would mean
I have quite a huge argument to put
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of patience or the will to wait.
Who is your favourite painter?
As long as I own cars and walls, it
will always be the most economical
one. Moving picture painters are the
On what occasion do you lie?
Mostly at interviews. It preserves
my true identity.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
The first ten minutes. Then I am
into the story.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Mediocrity. That is a very useful
word in my world. I practice it often
to keep company. I am a gregarious
person. I love people without any
distinction as well.
What is your greatest regret?
None now. In my formative years, I
used to regret that there were no
miracles, only tricks. My motto for
life was as yet incomplete. Thanks to
politics and Indians in general it is
What is your favourite motto?
The question above robbed me of
this answer. Complaining about its
loss loudly seems like a good
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
The previous time always.
What is your present state of mind?
Clark Kent with no telephone
booth in sight. Everyone's got a
mobile. No room for change
How would you like to die?
Like everyone, I guess. Remember
to stop breathing before the deed.
Kamal Haasan has spent a half-century under the arc lights and has acted in over 200 films in several Indian languages. He has won three National Awards for Best Actor and has been decorated with the Padma Shri. His last release was the 2010 Tamil film Manmadhan Ambu.
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