Uttama Villain, inspite of its mixed response at the Box Office as well as at the hands of film critics, marked a ‘Summing Up’ exercise for the cerebral ‘method’ actor who was christened ‘Universal Hero’ by director K S Ravi Kumar.
Kamal has had a muted 2016 with no new film releases post Thoongaa Vanam in November 2015. We still await to watch Vishwaroopam 2 that hasn’t found a release for couple of years now. Sabaash Naidu is still in production – Kamal has had a bad leg fracture that kept him away from action for months. On a more positive note, he will be awarded the Chevalier de L’Ordre Arts et Lettres (The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French government. The Order is part of France’s premier award, the Legion of Honor.
In times like these it’s interesting to look at what makes the actor tick.
Kamal is known for his unique take on many aspects in public and professional life. He has been quite steadfast in his beliefs and has rarely changed his mind. He actively promotes his causes in his movies and we are used to spotting the clues – ‘Kamalisms’ as they are known in popular lore.
Kamal, the Rationalist-
He is what would be termed as an ‘agnostic’ but often is castigated for being an ‘atheist’. Quibbles apart he has raised several valid arguments – the commercial misuse of religion, the naiveté of the masses who are befooled by tricksters, the intolerance it brings towards others who are not like ‘us’. Inspired by Periyar and Richard Dawkins, he continues to propagate the cause of ‘Rationalism’ (pagitharawadi)
He is not without admirers even amongst deeply religious people like Siva Kumar, SPB, Rajni and Ilaiyaraja. He doesn’t seek to impose his beliefs on even his family who follow their own hearts.
Kamal, the apolitical social leader –
It has been a loaded issue for him. He is well aware of its implications and has often paid the price of being a ‘soft-target’. Increasingly he has become vocal about being averse to take a plunge into politics. He has tried to even use his ‘star appeal’ by urging his fans to focus on social causes and not indulge in typical ‘hero-worship’.
His belief was found expression is certain unique ways – ‘Hey Ram’ is his attempt to de-mystify Gandhi and make him accessible to all of us, he has derided attempts by various political groupings to use his popularity and often been in controversies for it. He has ardently spoken about ‘intolerance’ and is likely to agree with George Orwell’s assessment that – ‘Religion is the last refuge of the scoundrel’ and with Samuel Johnson’s assessment that – ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’.
Kamal, the non-believer in the institution of Marriage –
Kamal had two shots at marriage and doesn’t seem to have been comfortable with it. His liberal lifestyle has not sat well with the boring humdrum of matrimony. It is a matter of personal choice and he has decided to stay out of it for now.
Given such strongly held views on religion, politics and marriage it is quite understandable that ‘compromise’ isn’t a popular word with Kamal.
Kamal’s ambivalence on the -isms : Capitalism, Communism, Socialism etc
As a star he knows the merits of Capitalism and the fruits it has borne. He has shown his shades of left in movies like ‘Anbe Sivam’. He feels that this cannot be a ‘either’ or ‘or’ kind of choice. All the systems are imperfect and a clash among them is possibly the most healthy option to evolve the template for the future.
Kamal, the technophile
He has been at the forefront of bring change – adopting the new technology for film production and viewing. He understands the power of the internet and wants to launch ‘DTH’ as a delivery platform. Unfortunately he has had to battle vested interests all the way and he has not been able to usher in this change. He has done symbolic stuff as well – Uttama Villain’s audio release was not unveiling of a CD, rather he enacted a cute li’l drama with Shruti, wherein the songs were made available online.
He has plans to launch a media training institute and is at the forefront of a Government initiative i.e. ‘Skill Development Mission’.
Kamal, the Tamil hero
He is yet to star in a Hollywood film although he has mentioned collaborations that are yet to bear fruit. He has due regard for Oscars but doesn’t hanker for them the way we keep lamenting about the reach of Indian cinema. He would rather focus on delivering Tamil cinema that can capture centre-stage with a global audience – a movie like ‘Vishwaroopam’ was an attempt in that direction and certainly the production values were top-notch and a match to Hollywood standards.
And finally Kamal, the ageing actor who wants to define his legacy.
The ‘Kamal – Rajni’ duo is still not quite ready to walk into the sunset. Rajni has moved away from his image and delivered a stupendous ‘Kabali’ with a young and talented director Pa. Ranjith. And he continues to hold court with his veterans like ‘Endiran 2’ with Shankar.
Kamal has not been able to collaborate with strong directors – attempts with Selvaraghavan (Vishwaroopam) and Priyadarshan (Anbe Sivam) have come to a cropper. Papanasam was a notable exception though it was a re-make of a popular Malayalam movie. It will be interesting to watch out for a collaboration either with veterans of the likes Mani Ratnam/ K S Ravi Kumar/ Gautham Menon or the new crop of directors such as Pa. Ranjith.
Uttama Villain was a fitting tribute but not a final one, the ‘Sakkalakala Vallavan’ star refuses to be boxed so soon and the final notes on his 60 year plus career in cinema are still to be sung.