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.
One of the few Indian films to be included in TIME magazine list of ‘All-Time 100 Best Films’ in 2005, ‘Nayagan’, is a unique collaboration between director ‘Mani Ratnam’ and ‘Kamal Haasan’.
Released in 1987, this was perhaps the most critically and commercially acclaimed film for Mani Ratnam before he emerged on the national scene with Roja. Shot with limited budget and under trying circumstances the movie still showcased the talent of Mani Ratnam, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraaja (Music Director), P C Sriram (cinematography), and Thotta Tharani (Art Director).
An underworld movie, albeit inspired by Godfather, was not a new concept even in Tamil cinema. The usual masala movies featuring crime, revenge and retribution with garish and over-the-top villains were the norm. Plotlines really didn’t matter and action scenes were a standard routine.
2015 proved to be a great year for Kamal fans and we had 3 films being released during the year. ‘Uttama Villain’ was much awaited and turned out to be a classy piece – possibly showcasing what the actor wanted to say about his long journey towards superstardom.
Papanasam was brilliant and Kamal, the actor, took to the forefront. It was an unqualified commercial success as well. Well it raised the hopes for the thriller, ‘Thoongavanam’, though the movie turned out to be a mixed bag at the box-office.
Remake of a French thriller, ‘Sleepless Night’, Kamal once again plays the role of a cop. But there is a vital difference – it no longer a macho cop (even his last cop venture ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’ was one), instead we find a grey character caught in a web of lies and deceit. Cross, Double Cross and Triple Cross – it all seems to happen as everyone chases a bag of cocaine.
Kamal is back as a cop – reminds me that the last memorable outing as a cop was in Kuruthipunal. Gautham Menon helms another cop story after the successful Kaakha Kaakha.
It’s a commercial movie – Kamal gets a grand entry scene, storyline is about gory murder and the need to avenge his personal loss that takes Kamal to New York. Songs are average though couple are hummable – interestingly there is no comedy track to lighten things up. Kamal downplays the role of a middle-aged cop who is angst driven and coping with personal baggage. He meets Jyothika in an offbeat role; distinctly at odds with her bubbly image.Continue reading “Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’”
The movie was a mainstream commercial venture that did great business at Box Office – obviously it wasn’t made to evoke parallels to Kamal’s critical works like Hey Ram, Anbe Sivam and Uttama Villain to name a few.
The movie has a formula too it but Kamal does create a niche as usual and he dons multiple hats in terms of being the actor, director, producer, writer and singer. As is his wont nowadays, Kamal is seldom happy just being an actor in the movie.
Kamal uses cinema as a medium to voice his views regarding key social themes that swirl around us and he has always been fascinated with historical themes and political movements. Of course he has vowed to never ever step into the shoes of a politician. He has found a unique niche to contribute to society and we should admire him for that – just occasionally though we would like to see more of Kamal the actor than everything else (Papanasam a.ka. Drishyam was a perfect example of this).
Successful remake movies inevitably raise the question – is the remake better than the original? The recent success of Kamal Haasan’s Papanasam raises the same debate vis-à-vis the original Drishyam starring Mohan Lal. Kuruthipunal didn’t face that debate – Govind Nihalani who directed the original hindi movie Droh Kaal accepted that the remake was better than the original.
Kamal donned multiple hats as usual – actor, producer, screenplay and dialogue writer. The life of our specialist commandos who take on the real threat of terrorists is depicted with realism sans false bravado and bombast. And the pressure and ‘breaking point’ is all a psychological game, beating the physical aspects of their jobs including pain and torture.
Aadhi Narayanan (Kamal) is a tough cop and a skilled interrogator who excels at playing mind games and getting the better of hardened terrorists. He forms a great team with Abbas (Arjun) as they take on the tough task to ensuring peace and destroying terrorist gangs. The action is real and naturalistic, the terrorist threat is potent as the opponents are organized and brutal in their methods.
Released in 1988, for a change it is a remake of a Hindi movie in Tamil – Arjun starring Sunny Deol was released earlier in 1985. The talented Amala plays the role of a Malayali girl who romances the hero – an angry middle class youth who is frustrated about being jobless. Lata Mangeshkar has lent her voice to couple of songs in the movie – Valaiosai, the duet with SPB, remains a popular evergreen number till date.
It has the makings of a commercial thriller – the story of the underdog taking on the System, some lovely songs, a beautiful heroine, plentiful of family sentiment and the typical angst of the jobless youth who are frustrated about not finding their space and role in society. It is a popular movie for delivering the right tonality to the subject and the approach was refreshingly new at the time when the movie was released.
It is a period film dealing with the important events around the time when we gained independence narrating the events set in motion by the ‘Direct Action Day’ (a.ka. Great Calcutta Killings) on 16 Aug 1946 and climaxes with the assassination of the Mahatma on 30 Jan 1948.
It is a fictionalized account and Kamal is quoted as saying that it does not attempt to repair the damages caused, but only remind us that it can happen again. It is possibly one of Kamal’s personal favourites as he dons the hat of actor, writer, director and producer of the movie.
It was a bilingual movie simultaneously released in Tamil and Hindi worldwide in Feb 2000, but it did not quite fare well on the Box Office. With a run time of 3 hours 20 minutes possibly such a serious subject couldn’t hold the attention span of the average audience. Over a period of time, it seems to be acquiring a new audience and is likely to be included among the select few movies that depict Kamal’s oeuvre.
Kamal Haasan and Singeetam Srinivasa Rao tasted success through their ventures – Raja Paarvai, Pushpaka Vimana (a.ka. Pesum Padam – a silent comedy starring Kamal and Amala) and Apoorva Sagodharargal (Kamal in dual role with dwarf Appu stealing our hearts). And then they delivered a popular blockbuster in Michael Madana Kama Rajan.
We are reminded in shades of Manmohan Desai and his crazy plots like Amar, Akbar Anthony, since story is pure nonsense (the most outrageous premise is a car falling over the cliff, the father landing miraculously unhurt in a hut below and getting reunited with his wife after over two decades) and the plot as pedestrian as possible. But it is still a laugh riot and Crazy Mohan gives us some cute lines to savor.
Singeetam Srinivasa Rao play a cameo of travelling singer with a bioscope – he conveys the bare outlines of the plot in the opening song, ‘ Kadha Kelu Kadha Kelu …’. So we have a rich man who loves a poor lady and their life is ruined by the rich man’s younger brother who eyes the fortune for himself and his son. Quadruplets are born but stolen by a thuggish Santhana Bharathi who disposes them in a unique manner.
One he raises to be his own criminal son, Michael. The others have the following destinies – one is abandoned at the Temple and is raised to be cook by Delhi Ganesh (Kama a.ka. Kameshwaran), one is left at the orphanage and grows up to be a Fireman (Rajan a.ka. Raju) and the ultimate miracle is the final one who is unknowingly found in the car by the biological father himself and goes to study Management in London (Madana).
It is as good a time as any to compile my review list. Papanasam, his latest movie, is a great success and just completed a 50 day run. It sounds unusual in today’s world where a movie does maximum business in the first 3 days and often tapers off within 2 weeks of release, but the run is a tribute to the popularity of the movie that saw the return of Kamal the actor.We look forward for more such performances from him.
He too has gone about scripting his legacy – we saw glimpses of his life faithfully reproduced with an artiste’s integrity in ‘Uttama Villain’. It was like having a special rendezvous where the actor’s mask was being peeled off to show the real person – naked and vulnerable as any human being.
Without much ado, appended is the list of reviews that I have written so far based on his movies. Undoubtedly the stock would grow as he keeps coming up with stellar performances and I as continue to delve in the rich repertoire that he has collected over the past 6 decades in Indian cinema.