Movies

Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth pay tribute to 43-year-old friendship at ‘Ungal Naan’

Kamal Haasan greeting Rajinikanth at ‘Ungal Naan’

Kamal Haasan greeting Rajinikanth at ‘Ungal Naan’  

The event also saw composer Ilaiyaraaja, director Shankar, comedian Vadivelu, and actors like Karthi, Vijay Sethupathi and Jayam Ravi share anecdotes about Kamal

A star-studded gathering at ‘Ungal Naan’, Kamal Haasan's celebration of 60 years in cinema with a concert by Ilaiyaraaja, led to some heartfelt tributes and some surprising revelations at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on Sunday evening.

Kicking off with a montage by Kamal thanking 60 people critical to his success in the industry (including actors like Sivaji Ganesan, MGR, Rajinikanth, filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Balu Mahendra, producer AV Meiyappan, as well as the Haasan family), the event had Ilaiyaraja tease Kamal and make him run up to the stage a number of times, much to the audience’s delight.

Kamal singing after being persuaded by Ilaiyaraaja

Kamal singing after being persuaded by Ilaiyaraaja  

“It’s your event! How can you sit there and watch peacefully with the rest of the audience? Come up and sing, Kamal sir,” Raja grinned, as Kamal sang hits such as Panneer Pushpangale (the very first song the duo collaborated on) and Sundari Neeyum. However, it was his rousing (acoustic) rendition of Thenpaandi Seemaiyile from Nayakan that lifted the roof off the house.

The guest list had many celebrities such as A.R. Rahman, Manisha Koirala, Ramesh Sippy, Tamannaah, Parthiban, Sarath Kumar, Ambika, Radha, Pa Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj, and so on present to witness the occasion.

Kamal Haasan, A.R.Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja

Kamal Haasan, A.R.Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja  

As the concert ended surprisingly quickly, it was time for the tributes to begin, and Karthi was the first one to take the stage thanking Kamal for paving the way for films without songs or heroines to be made(referring to his recent Kaithi) with the likes of Kuruthipunal in 1995.

Jayam Ravi, Nasser, Pasupathi, Sathyaraj all followed suit sharing anecdotes of working with the star (Ravi was an AD on Alavandhan), but it was Vijay Sethupathi’s open request to Kamal that had the latter smiling the most. “I missed the chance to star in Indian 2. I learnt so much by acting with Superstar in Petta… I really wish I get the opportunity to work with you too on a film set; your process, your methodology, your routine: all this would be inspiring for actors like me.”

Vadivelu, making a rare public appearance, stole the show, recalling an incident from his time working on Thevar Magan with Kamal and Sivaji Ganesan, where the latter chided him for overacting a scene to the hilt. The comedian’s impeccable sense of timing and expressions remain as fantastic as ever, and the Nadigar Thilagam’s son and grandson — Prabhu and Vikram Prabhu — were among many in the audience reduced to tears of laughter. A surprise was in store when it was revealed that Vadivelu would be starring in Kamal’s upcoming Thalaivan Irukkindran as well.

Director Shankar, who is currently directing Kamal in Indian 2 also spoke in length about how he is the ‘complete actor’ adding that his experience seeing him enact the character of ‘Senapathy’ was exhilarating. “Many say Indian is the best film I’ve ever made. In Indian 2, you will see many more surprises: one among which will be Kamal speaking in Gujarati, a feat for even a multi-linguist like him. He continues to astonish me by utilising every part of the acting process to the hilt: his body, dialogues, camera positions, knowing which supporting actors to choose and so on. The kurinjipoo blooms once in 12 years, the Athi Vardhar appears once in 40 years… a Kamal happens only every 60 years.”

Kamal also acted out a scene from Indian 2, as well as dialogues from Dasavatharam and Nayakan after directors Shankar, KS Ravikumar and Mani Ratnam requested him to.

There were performances from daughters Shruti and Akshara Haasan as tributes to their father, as well as by Andrea Jeremiah and Pooja Kumar, but the evening will be most remembered as a testament to one of the most memorable public showings of Kamal and Rajinikanth’s four-decade-old friendship.

The friends embracing before taking the stage

The friends embracing before taking the stage  

Reacting to Vijay’s father, director SAC’s earlier ‘wish’ from the evening on seeing them join hands politically, Rajinikanth said that wherever they both went in their respective careers — films or otherwise — their friendship would always withstand the test of time.

“Wonders can always happen. Edappadi Palaniswami wouldn’t even have dreamt of becoming the CM two years ago. Tamil Nadu thought he’d last a few days, then a month, then five months.. and now look. Miracles can happen always.”

He then moved on to wax eloquent about his peer’s talent. “What more can I say about Kamal’s acting? I’ve seen him literally dislocate a shoulder during shooting, pull it back up with a towel and resume work because we had to wrap up the film fast. Such is his commitment to the craft. There is nothing he doesn’t know about, and yet people say they don’t understand him! We can wake someone who is sleeping, but what about those who are pretending to sleep? Even Rajinikanth can understand; how can you not?” he laughed.

“I came from a lower middle-class family and it was natural for me to struggle to make it to the top. But Kamal wasn’t like me, his family was educated, reputed and wealthy. Yet, this boy decided to work as a barber, as a dance assistant, and faced many more hardships — physical and mental — before becoming an actor.. Imagine how his family would have reacted and the stress everyone had to go through. He’s worked harder than anyone to reach this stage.”

“I still remember watching Kalathur Kannamma sitting on the mud in a touring talkies. I was a little child then, mesmerised by watching this other kid in the film, in total awe. Now, both the kid on the floor and the kid on screen have grown up! I have no qualms in admitting that I’ve always admired him and envied him even,” Rajini smiled.

The Darbar star also added that though both of them had been asked to create an impression of ‘rivals’ so that their popularity and films would fare better, the actors never wanted to go down that route.

“Don’t use our names to create fights. Let go of all the negative thoughts, and let there only be love all around. Let us be peaceful.”

Kamal, coming up on stage, echoed his friend’s thoughts: “We have persisted for 43 years together, only because of love. We don’t know what the future holds, but don’t you think we will go longer?”

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 9:36:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/kamal-haasan-and-rajinikanth-pay-tribute-to-43-year-old-friendship-at-ungal-naan/article30005815.ece

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