Unfortunately most people from our industry think they know everything and have nothing more to learn, says Kamal Haasan
The cinema theatre is the most secular place to congregate in. When darkness envelops us it’s the way we react to the emotions played out that unite us and not personal prejudices. ‘Vishwaroopam’ proved that no amount of drama played outside can influence the reactions inside.
To talk about Kamal Haasan’s seemingly inexhaustible repertoire as an actor or his incomparable achievements would be resorting to rhetoric. At the recently held FICCI conclave he flits in and out of rooms, listening attentively to deliberations when not partaking in them. The few free moments are spent reminiscing about the golden period of Kannada cinema with old friends. Catching his eye is difficult, leave alone thinking of a chat.
You’re serious when it comes to the betterment of cinema. What attracted you to FICCI?
I usually associate with something only for the betterment of my production company but this was entirely different. One of the most attractive things was that it was the brainchild of my real life idol, Mahathma Gandhi. It was formed before Independence and has done yeoman service to trade and commerce. It’s the one hundredth year of Indian cinema and FICCI itself is nearly 90-years-old. I always wanted to bring it down South and going by the response and the support of the powers that be, we’re thinking of making Bangalore the permanent venue.
I’ve been here since yesterday and notice that the participation from the industry is minimal.
(Hesitates) Now I don’t want to sound offensive or rude but most people, unfortunately from our industry think they know everything and have nothing to learn. Even if they do come they want to be the cynosure. They should be the first to come, pay and register. Conducting this costs a hell of a lot of money. We’re not here to dispense free ice cream or coffee. Of course, they can turn around and ask how much I’ve put in. Well, I’ve invested my time. I’m a child of cinema and have a lot to learn. We started FICCI Frames in Mumbai and the industry took it upon them not only to participate but also find sponsors.
What do you expect people to take away from here?
Well, we can only provide them the bathtub. They have to find their ‘eureka’ moment. This is a platform, a place to congregate, exchange ideas not only creatively but commercially too. You can update yourself technologically, be it sound or digital photography. You can learn.
You’ve never resisted but always embraced technology. You didn’t even treat TV as an adversary. Was Hollywood a pointer?
Could be. Technology is an aid not an adversary. There’s always resistance to it. When I wanted to shoot with digital camera studios rushed forward and even offered to finance my films if I refrained. It took some time for me to do things of my own free will. Cinema will not be called films for long. It will be referred to as moving images.
‘Vishwaroopam’ made money but left you emotionally scarred.
I was hurt, there’s no doubt but if you remember there were no tears. It was not planned as a sensational news clip or to go viral on Youtube.
The film was released in Bangalore and was running to packed houses peacefully in predominantly Muslim localities.
You see that’s the point. My Muslim brethren were more instigated than affected. We’re brothers separated by Partition. I was one of the first to visibly voice my opposition to the bringing down of the Babri Masjid. My character itself in the film is like a snake in the grass. I have no religion. It was just a successful operation to scuttle my DTH initiative. I was trying to earn legitimately instead of letting pirates make money off my hard work.
You’re not religious but the theatre is your temple.
That’s right. DTH will happen and everything will co-exist. Every house has a kitchen but people do go to restaurants. The same goes for temples too. DTH is the future. Technology is taking giant leaps. The world is shrinking. You’ll be downloading and watching films on your mobile phone, while on the move. Do you remember the size of the recorder you brought when you first interviewed me?
You planned ‘Vishwaroopam’ in two parts.
That’s what impressed Barrie Osborne. He shot three parts of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and released them one after the other. That’s the confidence he had in his product. Even as I was writing ‘Vishwaroopam’ I knew it had to be made in two parts. I know there were rumours that I’d overshot and that’s the reason I decided on a sequel but nothing can be farther than the truth.
In the context of what you underwent were you forced to tone down anything in the sequel?
I did not tone up or tone down anything simply because there was nothing offensive or derogatory in the first part.
I was watching ‘Dashavatharam’ recently and realised the leap technologically in ‘Vishwaroopam’. Has technology taken a sudden leap?
Not really. ‘Dashavatharam’ was not bad but could have been much better. When I’m producing there’s nobody breathing down my neck. I don’t have to peer back every time I need something. The technology was available but there were various constraints and one was time. Here I can convert my dreams into reality at my own pace.
Two of your old hits have recently been digitally re-mastered. There’s a small treasure of Kamal classics like Raja Parvai, Kokila and Thevar Magan that have not been watched by many and are not available even on DVD.
Actually we are bringing out ‘Apoorva Sahodarargal’, ‘Thevar Magan’ and ‘Vishwaroopam’ first because they are my productions. ‘Vishwaroopam’ will also have extras like how we did the VFX.
Whenever Kamal finishes a technically difficult film and collaborates with ‘Crazy’ Mohan people feel it’s a paid holiday for him.
Well, believe me that’s not true. Comedy is serious business and very hard work. Actually my next film has a feel good factor with the right doses of fun.