On the altar of change

S. Shiva Kumar
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SHORT TAKES The viewing of Viswaroopam, via DTH or in the theatre even after the imbroglio will be purely on a profit sharing basis

The dust has finally settled on the DTH drama. Kamal Haasan’s effort, from being a visionary to becoming a pioneer was successfully scuttled. As usual, the people concerned, the consumers were not consulted. It has been decided by a few with vested interests who’ve incidentally not invested a single rupee in Kamal’s magnum opus that DTH will be allowed only one week after the film’s theatrical release. So now devotees will have to have to visit the temple to watch God before deciding if they want to pay to welcome him into their living room like Kamal mentioned. Fans may think he’s the God of acting, but I’m sure Kamal, an atheist, was comparing cinema to the almighty rather than himself.

I have to confess that I’ve not watched one of Kamal’s most cherished performances ( Nayakan ) onscreen. When I mentioned this to Mani Ratnam he said, “I agree there’s this feeling when you watch it on video but there’s a difference between having the feeling and actually going and doing it. You have to be a very ardent viewer of films to convert that feeling into action.” That makes sense but what I watched was a fuzzy version and when I rented the video not a single rupee was going to GV the producer of ‘Nayakan’. That’s where Kamal’s module is producer friendly. The viewing of ‘Viswaroopam’, via DTH or in the theatre even after the imbroglio will be purely on a profit sharing basis. His argument is that instead of paying pirates to watch surreptitiously recorded versions a day after the film’s release you might as well allow the producer to reap the rewards legally. There’s always resistance to change and this is not the first time Kamal is facing it. As usual he’s done it alone. His colleagues decided to wait and watch. I know at least a couple of biggies with releases lined up who were hoping Kamal would set a precedent but were wary of supporting him openly.

Theatre owners were averse to the idea citing the already dwindling presence at single screens. That’s not true. It’s like owners of marriage halls trying to stop weddings from being conducted at home and in hotels. If we shun such theatres it’s because they’re dilapidated and ill maintained with stinking toilets and uncomfortable seating. There is no technical upgradation be it the sound or the projection. That’s the reason viewers don’t mind paying more at a multiplex. I personally wouldn’t have watched the DTH premiere. I believe viewing at home should be only after the theatre experience and at our convenience with the freedom to pause and resume. A garrulous guest might decide to drop in unannounced. The wife could summon you to change the gas cylinder since something is simmering or simply the electricity could play truant. Kamal’s fans are a concerned lot. They love his efforts but lament the physical and mental pains he undergoes to see his celluloid dreams come true. “The sad fact is that he’s aging physically. We want to see him more often onscreen. I wish he’d just surrender to a director of his choice, give one of his dazzling performances and leave the rest to others,” says an ardent admirer. There are many young directors whose dream it is to direct Kamal. The two who realised this and also elicited exceptional performances are Mani Ratnam and Gautam Menon. But then Kamal is not just a puppet. He’s written some of the best screenplays in Tamil cinema can sing well and is also a good director. He’s the original superstar simply because he’s got success purely on his terms. Detractors love to watch him fall, but each time Kamal has emerged like the mythical phoenix, dusting off the criticism and innuendo.

Like Ilayaraja once said, “Kamal may not believe in God but the almighty has a lot of faith in him.”

S. Shiva Kumar



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