Movies

Buying a pirated CD is anti-national: Kamal Haasan

Actor Kamal Haasan during an interview in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: K. Pichumani

We’re looking at Kamal Haasan 2.0 now. His films might still face adversity, but the man, at 62, is going mighty strong.

 

That was evident at Sri Gokulam Studios, Thiruverkadu, where he’s doing a photo shoot for Vijay TV’s Tamil version of Bigg Boss. It will be his TV debut and the ''Ulaganayagan'' looks as excited as he would’ve been many years ago, when he first stepped in on a film set. Over to the Vishwaroopam star:

What drew you to Bigg Boss Tamil?

I wanted to bring my personality to the show, within the given parameters. That way, it will be an honest representation.

 

Kamal Haasan has a lot of experience in front of the camera but this is like a debut. What did it take for you to convince yourself to warm up to this medium?

It’s not new, to begin with. Hosting is a new job, yes. It is like saying ‘you’re doing a villain role and how’s it different.’ For me, it’s a role. I’ve been playing a particular kind of character and when I play a villain, it’s a different emotion. The modus operandi of this particular job is slightly different but mostly, it is the same.

 

How familiar are you with the original in Hindi and how do you look at taking on the host roles played by Amitabh and Salman there, in Tamil?

I saw both Amitji and Salman Khan hosting the show. I liked Salman’s version better because there is an honest approach to it. I’m trying to do something similar, but different.

When Vijay TV approached you for this project, you’d quipped, ‘Who better than me…’ Elaborate.

That’s because the idea is about being inside a glass cage. Some people are forced to be there; you say ‘I’m going to live with 400 snakes inside a cage, and that’s my show’. Some people chose to be there. I have left my life open for people to see. I keep it private to the extent I want it to be. I always say honesty may not be the best policy; it’s a great luxury very people can afford. I am trying to afford it.

 

Reality TV has already many critics from the audience. How do you see yourself taking that criticism?

Why should I? Someone says I’m a bad actor… I try to do better or forget it. If reality TV is bad, so is Colosseum, so are the gladiators, so are sports. I think cricket is bad. But that’s a point of view.

 

In the last few years, you seem to increasingly think of options other than films. You did an ad for a textile group, a first for you. You joined Twitter and you’re quite active. And now, it’s a TV show. Are we looking at Kamal Haasan 2.0?

Maybe. I’d like to keep updating myself. That’s the only way to make life interesting. And because I am a performer, I like to do it deliberately and with purpose.

 

Audiences are still looking forward to seeing you on the big screen. Your Vishwaroopam 2 teaser poster (that has Kamal and the Indian flag) was released recently. Was that poster a statement?

All my films are statements, especially when I write them. I have done some films that are just pastime for both me and the audience. It made me money, so no complaints about them. But with the films I’ve written –MahanadhiAnbe SivamHey Ram or even Viswaroopam – there is a point of view. And they ask me if I’m becoming political. I’d like to reconfirm that I have always been political.

The first look of Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam.

The first look of Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam.  

 

 

 

You have been quite vocal about your views during the jallikattu protests and the political instability in Tamil Nadu. Does an actor have an additional responsibility to communicate to his fans what he thinks?

As a carpenter, I have additional responsibilities. If the carpenter had not thought that way, we wouldn’t have had to crucify that man on a cross. You go beyond carpentry and try to chisel something else. Everyone has a social duty; you can do it from your little cubicle too.

 

We all know about the Vishwaroopam controversy during its release and the delay with respect to part 2. Even with Sabash Naidu, you had to replace the director mid-way. And you had to face a personal setback during this time. What do you tell yourself during such times of adversity?

I don’t tell myself anything. Rather, I think. If someone tells me something, I try to understand their point of view. The best way to analyse your mistake is when you get into an accident, like the fall I had recently. It’s your fault, and it’s nobody’s fault. Instead of taking yourself extra seriously, if you take life seriously, these things won’t matter.

Buying a pirated CD is anti-national: Kamal Haasan
 

 

So, in such trying times, where do you derive strength from?

Definitely not from religion. I thank my parents and brothers for allowing me to think this way. None of them coerced me to choose anything. That’s very rare since families try to make you Hindu, Christian or Muslim. My parents didn’t try that at all. At 11, when I refused to wear the poonal, my father said, ‘Let him be. He’s thinking for himself.’ Some of my friends tried to convince me. They said, ‘You’re now 16 and blaspheming. You become 21, sign cheques and then you’ll change’. I went on to sign cheques. But then, they said, ‘You’re still arrogant. It’ll all go down when you get married.’ I got married twice. And then they said I’ll change when I have children.

 

I cannot live on myths; somehow, science convinces me more easily. I am prone to lean towards science, ethics and philosophy rather than myth, religion and rituals.

You mentioned your brother, the late Chandra Haasan, who took care of the financial side of things…

My brother was a brilliant man. So was K Balachander…when I joined him, I didn’t know what I know today. I have worked with Chandra Haasan longer than with KB. I am partly Chandra Haasan too. So, if he won certain battles for me, I am capable of winning my own. That’s what I believe.

 

At a recent event, Rajinikanth had commented, quite worriedly, that ‘Kamal is not as financially well-off as compared to other current-day actors’…

The reason I cannot amass so much wealth is because I am trying to set an example. To myself and my countrymen. Not paying taxes is not erroneous; this is not the East India company… but it is India, my company, and I should pay tax. If I don’t, I cannot complain about potholes. What do you think gives me the audacity to come out during jallikattu and talk about powerful politicians? I’m not holier than them, but I am better than them.

Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan

Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan   | Photo Credit: PTI

 

 

Baahubali is said to have raked in Rs.1,000 crore, a first in Indian cinema. Did you like the film?

It’s the best thing that could have happened to the film industry, financially speaking. They’ve worked hard for it. But when they say that we can beat Hollywood, I’d say hold your horses. That’s because these are CG (computer graphics) horses.

 

But Baahubali is a step forward. It also proves that we have a great culture and also the best of stories here. But then they say we have 2,000 years of culture. There, I’d like to intervene. We are not 2,000 years old, we are 70. Don’t hark on Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka; they’re not my forefathers. They are so far back in the past that we cannot emulate or interpret (their stories) in modern life. But we are trying to – we are grappling between the past and the present, and slipping and slithering. That’s the confusion of India.

 

That applies to every field. Take cricket for example. What they did was to forget hundred years of the game and jump forward. Cricket fans said that it was the end of the sport, but the serious business has begun.

 

Does the success of Baahubali put pressure on actors across the country?

That’s the exact route sheep would take – go with the herd. I’m no sheep. I’m not the shepherd too. I am a different animal.

 

Baahubali is a historical drama and Sanghamithra, an upcoming film that stars your daughter Shruti, is also one. Does this interest in historicals give you more reason to your dream project Marudhunaayagam soon?

Fans have been asking for it for a while. I started it a long time back, but then we began Marmayogi and story boarded it. It’s not like we are a fountainhead of ideas. We inspire each other. I might be inspired to do something.

 

You are very encouraging of new talent. Why then aren’t you working with any of the talented younger crops of directors in Tamil cinema?

Bharatiraaja’s first film was with me. Rudriah’s first film was with me. Balu Mahendra’s first film was with me; at that time, nobody thought he was worth touching as he was talking a Pune film institute language. Mani Ratnam should have done his first film with me; by that time, I was a star and I could have worked with established directors, but I kept speaking of Mani’s abilities. Shankar came to me with his first film, but I didn’t want to do that kind of a subject at that time.  

 

Both the superstars of Tamil cinema – Rajinikanth and yourself – have sequels coming up. He has 2.0 and you Viswaroopam 2... 

Let me tell you… I started this with Kalyanaraman 30 years ago. I wanted to do Panchanthanthiram Part-2 even while the film was being made. What’s good about Baahubali  is that they believed in it. The people who made Anbe Sivam and Panchathanthiram did not believe in it at that moment like the makers of Baahubali  believed in it now. They could have been pushed further.