Kamal Haasan MUMBAI—As Kamal Haasan’s “Vishwaroop 2” is all set to hit the screens on Aug. 10, the actor-producer-politician spoke to India-West about his first Hindi blockbuster “Ek Duuje Ke Liye” (1981), how they realized that the film had sent the “defeatist message” to lovers, and how the team rectified it in the Tamil version of the film. His foray into films is like the theory of evolution, he said. The veteran actor also talked about his decision to enter politics and why India, which he calls “Vishwaroop 3,” is his biggest love story.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Do you think films must have a message?
A: I feel it is important. Yes, entertainment is paramount, but the primary responsibility is giving audiences something to take home. I do not think it is only a money-making business. We must have the social consciousness of a K. Asif, a Satyajit Ray, a Bade Ghulam Ali Khan or Uday Shanker.
We are important catalysts of society. They must understand their own values, and we must keep reminding them. Though “Ek Duuje Ke Liye” was a blockbuster, we realized that we had sent the defeatist message of lovers having to commit suicide. So we rectified that with a Tamil film in which we said that the lovers must fight. We wanted to make it in Hindi as well, but that did not happen! We are artistes and carry messages that a king cannot!
Q: How do you see Indian cinema going? What is needed to make it shine?
A: More knowledgeable people in the production and financial sector! Look at the IT world. It is not a shanty market lacking vision. It has become big because the outlook was international, not parochial!
We are in the unique position of taking our cinema to the world. We are an English-speaking country due to a historical accident, and that that made us stronger. We are also the largest film producing country in the world, so we can supply the globe! But we are subservient! Hollywood understands our potential, they think we are a fantastic hub, and we should start thinking that way!
Q: How did you enter the world of films?
A: It’s like the theory of evolution – this led to that, and everything was so connected. Without a catalyst, there would be no Kamal Haasan! An artiste cannot be born without the right environment and oxygen supply!
My father, a lawyer, was not rich but worked very hard and when he bought a huge plot for our house in our village, half the area was kept for an open-air theater to encourage artistes and performances. He named this theater after my sister, who was three years old then, but later mastered dance. I was her captive audience, and it was only after she married and left that I began to learn dance! I picked up Kathak from a Mr. Kulkarni, learned a bit of Kuchipudi and even Bharatanatyam.
I then did a dance-based film called “Sagar Sangamam,” which I wanted to remake in Hindi with the original director, K. Vishwanath-saab, Naseeruddin Shah and me. Sadly, it never happened.
Q: You are the only male artiste choreographed by Pt. Birju Maharaj in “Vishwaroop,” and he praised you after he won the National award for it.
A: Working with legends like Gopi Krishna and Pt. Birju Maharaj were distant dreams, and I would always follow their performances. I never thought that I would get an opportunity and always felt maybe my daughters will. When I learned what he wanted for the film, he wondered how I had grabbed his style so quickly in three months. I told him, “It’s not three months – it is 40 years and three months! For three months, your hand was on my head, but for 40 years you were in my head!”
Q: What are your thoughts on your daughters, Shruti, who now co-stars with you in “Shabash Naidu,” called “Shabhash Kundu” in Hindi, and Akshara?
A: I wish they could find mentors like Balachander-saab. Parents can be mentors, but all parents are not technicians! All children are like trees that I have been lucky enough to nourish by watering; I consider that privilege an honor. I hope I have lived up to that, but they will branch out by themselves. Otherwise, we parents take the onus arrogantly for bringing our children up. Why? Don’t orphans also flourish like trees?
Q: You have recently entered politics. Was there any special motivation?
A: I am a modern world citizen, and my patriotism cannot shrink to a village or a country. My biggest love story – you can call it “Vishwaroop 3!” – is called India, I need your permission to allow me to go there. This is my most difficult role, and it is not an easy ride, which is probably why I waited so long. There is fantastic traction, I can feel people egging me on, and the waves of emotion coming and hitting me. I am touched.
Take this beach (Outside the Mumbai Sun’N’ Sand). Thirty years ago, people were bathing in that sea. Today they cannot. Why? This is my beach even if I live next to the Bay of Bengal in Chennai and this is the Arabian Sea. If it does not belong to me, I belong to it!
So, I am somebody cleaning up the beach. I am a scavenger who will clean whatever I can. I know that I cannot change the world overnight, but I will have started the change, so I will die a happy man. I have worked for the past 35 days, and it was like a paid holiday. Now I am going to refuse payment, and have a holiday with the people!