CHATLINE Multi-tasking comes naturally to Kamal Haasan. He has penned five out of the six songs in his forthcoming film, Man Madhan Ambu. The star gets talking to malathi rangarajan

That the man is multifaceted is a given. Though over the years Kamal Haasan has honed his skills in various departments of filmmaking, he unleashes his prowess in each, slowly and steadily. Writer, director, lyricist, singer and actor inimitable! But for the first time in the soon-to-be released Man Madhan Ambu, he has penned the lines for five out of the six pieces, like a veteran verse writer. “Well, but I'm its screenplay and dialogue writer too. And I've done all these things even in Virumaandi,” he says. “Multi-tasking isn't new. Da Vinci designed a scuba diving apparatus 400 years ago.”

The technician in him seems to have an insatiable appetite for writing and direction. “Initially, I wasn't keen on acting. Direction lured me more. Even for K. Balachander's Solla Thaan Ninaikiraen, I've worked as an assistant director. In fact, in most of the 36 films I've done with him I've been active behind the camera too,” Kamal recalls.

MMA is Kamal's fifth film with director K.S. Ravikumar. Is rapport the only reason? “It's definitely one of them. We respect each other's work,” he says. “But I've also done an equal number with Singeetham, and more with S.P. Muthuraman.”

Even during the making of the Kamal-Ravikumar rib-tickler, Panchathanthiram, the duo felt that it should be followed up with a sequel. “I liked the spirit of it. And I suggested we make Panchathanthiram II on a cruise ship,” says Kamal. So the scene of action has been on his mind for long. Once the script was over, Kamal went on a recce to Dubai and zeroed in on MSC Splendida. “The atmosphere was congenial and the ambience just as we had wanted.”

Thus began MMA's rigorous three-week schedule on Splendida! If 90 per cent of the film has been shot abroad, 40 per cent of it was on the ship. “We had a French crew and the work culture was very different from Kodambakkam,” he says.

MMA is Kamal Haasan's first outing with Trisha in tow. “We had planned to do another film, Yaavarum Kelir, with her. But the story got changed. I had only one question for Trisha — whether she'd be able to attend rehearsals. Her immediate assent impressed me. If she had said ‘I don't have dates for the preparation,' we may have had second thoughts,” he laughs.

Trisha has also recited a verse along with Kamal for the audio, with background music! “I couldn't quite agree with her when she said that she can't manage the language. She's a Tamil after all. So I told her if Khushboo can deliver speeches in Tamil, she can do it,” says Kamal. Trisha's diction may not be flawless but the attempt warrants appreciation. “I think you find it so only because it has my voice too.”

Though Devi Sri Prasad has already worked with Kamal for the background score of Dasaavatharam, he wields the baton completely for the first time for a Kamal film. It's rather strange, as DSP is more known for his fast-paced numbers than melodies. Kamal differs. “He knows music. Mandolin Shrinivas is his guru. And both of us love Ilaiyaraja's music — that's a binding factor,” says Kamal and adds, “Typecasting comes so easily to our audience. Once you hit it off in a particular role or genre you are flooded with more of the same. But KB gave me Manmadha Leelai, after my trysts with Thevar Films and flicks such as Aadu Puli Aattam.”

After a serious film, Unnai Pol Oruvan, Kamal probably felt alternating it with a comedy is a wise move. “I refuse to slot MMA. Some may place it in the rom-com genre. (“Saying romantic comedy seems to be a strain these days.”) Billy Wilder kind of humour, you could say. But even he brought in murder in Sunset Boulevard. But Man Madhan Ambu has tinges of sadness, romance and humour.” Being cryptic is a typical Kamal trait. And he can be singularly so when tackling posers on matters he doesn't wish to reveal, viz., the story.

“It's surely not another Kaadhalikka Naeramillai. It is a melding of many emotions,” is all he divulges about the line of MMA.

Lyricist Kamal

* Kamal has been penning poems for more than three decades now.

* Once Devi Sri Prasad gave him the tune, it took Kamal just half an hour to write the song, ‘ Neelavaanam.'

* As Kamal doesn't talk too much about this facet of his, Vairamuthu referred to him as ‘Rahasiya Kavignar' in a song in Dasavathaaram.

* Trisha and he recite an entire poem, titled ‘Kamal Kavidhai' for MMA.

So will songsters become superfluous in his projects?