Tamil classic movie, ‘Nayagan’!

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’.

Kamal as Velu Nayakar in Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan                                                                             Image Courtesy – Onlykollywood.com

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.

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Thoongavanam’!

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.

Kamal and Trisha lock their fistcuffs in Thoongavanam                                                                                       Image Courtesy – Indiaglitz.com

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.

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’

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.

Top Cop in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu  Image Courtesy – apunbindaas.blogspot.com

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’”

Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vishwaroopam’

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.

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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).

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Kuruthipunal’ (River of Blood)

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 in Kuruthipunal – remake of Govind Nihalani’s Drohkaal                                                              Image Courtesy – whykol.com

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.

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Sathyaa’

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.

Amala and Kamal in Sathyaa                                                                                                                                           Image Courtesy – You Tube

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.

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Kamal’s hilarious ‘quadruplets act’ – Michael Madana Kama Rajan

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.

Michael Madana Kama Rajan                                                                                                                           Image Courtesy – Ilayaraja.in

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.

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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).

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Dimple’s Sensuous Saagar

‘Saagar jaisi aankhon waali, yeh toh bataa tera naam hai kya …’

Dimple in Saagar                                       Image Courtesy – bollywooddeewana

Kishore Kumar, Javed Akhtar and R D Burman gave us the perfect song to describe Dimple in the movie. A standard love triangle it was aimed to showcase the chemistry of the Bobby pair, ‘Dimple & Rishi’. That Kamal silently stole the march on them is a tribute to his screen presence and acting skills.

The movie had a perfect recipe for success – it was planned as a comeback vehicle for Dimple and possibly they wanted to exploit the public craze for her popular pairing with Rishi in her début movie, ‘Bobby’. The love triangle is a ‘done-to-death’ theme in Bollywood so there wasn’t much inherent appeal to the plot. What added to the interest was the classic finish to the movie as the director applied top production values and backed it up with lovely songs and cinematography.

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Kamal – K Vishwanath’s Salangai Oli

Kamal’s collaboration with K Balachander is well-known. But he shared a good relationship with K Vishwanath as well and ‘Salangai Oli’ (a.k.a Sagara Sangamam in Telugu) was their first attempt that met with critical and commercial success. Swathi Muthyam was an equally appealing and popular follow-up act.

Kamal and Jaya Prada in Salanagai Oli                                                                                                                       Image Courtesy – Saavn.com

Kamal as a Bharatanatyam dancer and Jaya Prada as his ardent admirer with popular dance numbers is surely exciting. But the overall tale was one of an alcoholic dancer who missed fame and family in life. He finally gets a chance to redeem himself by passing on his craft to a talented protegé.

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Balakrishna (Kamal) is a talented dancer who knows multiple forms of classical dance but he hails from an economically weak family who is doted upon by his mother and uncle (Sakshi Ranga Rao). There is an entertaining song number set in the wedding hall backstage where Kamal regales his family who are in the process of preparing the wedding meals (sappad). Madhavi (Jaya Prada) surreptitiously takes snaps to capture the special moments. He forgets his frustration with the film directors who have scant regard for the classical nature of the art form and are more interested in exploiting it for commercial purposes.

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