If not an actor, I would have been in cinema halls as a movie buff: Kamal Haasan
The man of many hats, Kamal Haasan in this interview with DT Next from Abu Dhabi, talks about receiving the Outstanding Achievement in Indian Cinema award in IIFA 2023, on Saturday, on why he doesn’t look back at Vikram’s success, playing Senapathy 27 years after the first part and the expectations around Kamal Haasan 234 directed by Mani Ratnam
CHENNAI: Dressed in an off-white shirt and beige pants, Kamal Haasan makes Abu Dhabi cooler to a huge extent. A few hours ago, he received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Indian Cinema at the IIFA Awards in Abu Dhabi. After winning several awards and accolades across the world and stays grounded. “I have done what I always thought is the best thing to do. More than all the awards and recognitions, I want to do good work to my conscience and to my conviction. I am honoured but I am embarrassed too, because I am just like any other movie buff, who loves cinema. If I weren’t an actor, you could see me in a cinema hall catching a movie show. I am fortunate to be working in the industry, and I am surprised that there are so many awards coming my way. I am humbled,” he begins.
Though the north-south divide in cinema has narrowed post the lockdown, the word pan-Indian keeps revolving across industries. Kamal replies, “I think, yes. Language doesn’t matter, it is the core content that matters. Do we call Gandhiji, a Gujarati? We call him an Indian. So do we for Nehruji. That applies for cinema too. If the core emotion is understood, it will reach anybody, just how RRR, Vikram and Kantara did.” Vikram was one of the biggest hits in Indian cinema, last year. The film collected over Rs 500 crore at the box-office. However, Kamal does not believe that he tapped the right formula with the film. “Naan apdi paakavemaaten (I will never take it that way). It would be erroneous if I thought so or it would be fallacy. What would I have imagined then, when Moondram Pirai succeeded, or after the phenomenal 16 Vayathinile, or even Viswaroopam. The audience accepted it, yes I agree, and success is something that they have given me. But that doesn’t mean that is what they want. Just like how they buy new shirt with a new design pattern for every occassion, they also love to watch new movie every time,” he tell us.
Kamal will be back as Senapathy after 27 years, in the sequel to his 1996 blockbuster film, Indian. Ask him how different does it feel to play the same role after almost three decades, especially spending four hours for the prosthetics, he laughs, “Which is why Shankar put the tagline out in the posters as ‘Older and Wiser’. It doesn’t apply only to Senapathy, but, to all technicians involved in the film. We are all older and wiser now. Even the audience have become older and wiser since Indian’s release. There will be young audience and Indian 2 will live up to all of their expectations.” Before we get back to talking about his acting projects, we touch upon his production ventures too. His banner, Raaj Kamal Films International, will be producing movies with Sivakarthikeyan, Silambarasan, and his own film with Mani Ratnam, which is tentatively titled KH234. There are other speculated projects in the pipeline as well. “When I have money, I invest them in the business I know. If I am a farmer, you would see me investing in tractors and other equipment. But being a movie buff, a filmmaker and a film artiste, I put in my money here, knowing that I will get it back,” he smiles.
In the last decade, one constant thing most of us in Tamil industry hear is that, there is a dearth of writers. Kamal Haasan doesn’t think twice to agree. “It is true for most film industries in India except Malayalam. You have great writers there. I would also call it a dearth of infrastructure and training in Indian film industry. For instance, you are a Master of Arts in Literature, that doesn’t mean you are qualified to be a screenwriter. That only makes you a degree holder. Film writing is a different art. Shakespeare, who wrote the greatest of plays, still should have taken lessons, if he were to write today for movies because this is a new technology. It’s a different art. When you buy a mobile phone, you need to know where the keys are. Else it’s going to be a brick in your hand. It is because of street-smartness most of us have survived. Then education happens, but it is a slow process like nature,” he remarks. Kamal Haasan has always insisted learning cannot happen after you enter the industry. “Obviously. You go to a journalism school to get trained in your field. Similarly, a film writer should be trained. Same goes for an actor and a director. We are the largest film-producing country in the world and yet we don’t have training centres. There are several coaching camps for cricket. I can’t say that about cinema. It is our flaw and we have to rectify it.
The industry itself lacks industrial training. Writing schools and workshops should have started even before I was born. You know how old I am, and that is how long we have delayed it,” explains the National award-winning actor-filmmaker.
We wouldn’t let him go before he tells us something about his 234th film that will be directed by Mani Ratnam. As he contemplates, we tell him that fanboys certainly deserve an update for their excitement on the project. “We are working on it. Your expectations make us nervous but we are keeping our cool and do it in the way like how we did Nayakan, our first collaboration,” he concludes.