Cinema

Candour, Charuhasan style

Multi-faceted : Charuhasan  

A cascade of aphorisms characterises Charuhasan’s candid take on life and his various professions. The octogenarian is a lawyer, actor, producer, an avid ham once upon a time, and a well-informed net enthusiast now. Of course, all these together with the idiosyncrasies of the intelligent! Age and delicate health notwithstanding, he keeps himself occupied. “I’m not too mobile, but I’m doing a film now,” he says. Does he have to?

“Yes, because I enjoy working. But don’t expect me to ride on a bike or drive a car,” he laughs. “I don’t suit the commercial circuit.”

The National Award winning actor (of the 1987 Kannada film, ‘Tabarana Kathe’) deliberates on his eventful past, and I join him in the journey. His clarity of thought on cinema, politics, the judicial system and the media, among other things, belies his age. “But I forget names and that’s a problem,” he mutters to himself.

“I was compared to that actor in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ [Who’s it?] in the film review of ‘Udhiri Pookal’ that appeared in The Hindu. I’ll google and tell you.” Unable to recollect Alec Guinness’ name at once, he sounds slightly exasperated.

During the 90 minutes of our chat, he shares interesting anecdotes and punctuates each with the reiteration, “You can quote me.”

“Are you sure,” I interrupt now and then, and he nods in assent.

Forthright to a fault, Charuhasan doesn’t mince words. Yet he is perspicacious enough to skirt round questions he doesn’t wish to field. Very much like his famous sibling, Kamal Haasan! “Kamal is more astute than I am. My father, D. Srinivasan, was a brilliant lawyer. He could tackle evidences extempore, right in front of the judge! I’ve engaged him as a senior counsel for some of my cases and at times I’ve been on the opposite side too, very much like the dad-son duo in Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Gauravam’,” chuckles Charuhasan. “I see the same kind of acumen in Kamal.”

Has Kamal Haasan ever complimented his brother’s performance? “K. Balachander is a good friend of mine. But he has never given me a role in any of his films, because he never recognised me as an actor. He makes actors in the league of Kamal and Rajni. How can I blame him for not considering me?” The reply isn’t exactly relevant but I admire the typical Hasan trait. “Makers like Mrinal Sen have appreciated my work. Even now when he meets Mani [Ratnam] he enquires, ‘How is your father in law?’”

Interestingly, the Hasan brothers were honoured with the Filmfare award for best actor on the same podium, in 1992 – Charuhasan, for his role in the Kannada film, ‘Kubi Mathu Iyala’ and Kamal for ‘Thevar Magan.’

Charuhasan talks about Law with such passion that I wonder what could have drawn him to the greasepaint arena. “Director Mahendran’s words,” he replies. When Mahendran offered Charuhasan a role in ‘Udhiri Pookal,’ “I know nothing about acting,” the latter warned him. “That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Just be yourself,” Mahendran said. “I was quite an introvert. I couldn’t address more than two people at a time. But acting made me shed my inhibitions,” he says.

Didn’t he wish to get back to Law again? “I did get back. In fact, I was sure I wasn’t going to continue as an actor. I initially came to Chennai to become a producer,” he guffaws. “And we did make ‘Rajapaarvai’ under the banner of Hasan Brothers. Bharatiraaja wanted me for a mere three-hour shoot for ‘Nizhalgal.’ And one role led to another.”

So when did he actually bid goodbye to his black gown?

“When one day in court I was asked, ‘No more acting offers?’ They were under the impression that I was paid in lakhs in cinema,” he smiles. Also, working as the production manager for Kamal’s home banner kept him busy.

Charuhasan has worked in more than hundred films in all the languages of the South. “That is if you take into account some of the eminently forgettable films I’ve been in,” he laughs. Being outspoken, he must have told his directors when he didn’t agree with them. “Yes, but the final word is theirs. I’ve got along with all my directors because I’m an obedient actor.”

He makes no bones about the fact that he is a communist at heart. “And Kamal was probably influenced by my slant towards atheism,” he says. I’ve kissed death many times, but not once have I felt like saying a prayer to save myself,” he laughs. And ruminating for a while he suddenly adds, “I was a rebel then. Even now I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.”

Come on, such words from a person who has been successfully married for decades, cannot hold water, I tell him. “Honestly! My wife’s talent would have blossomed better if she had not been confined to the home. As Suhasini, my actor-daughter once said, her mom is a well-read person who has the knowledge to correct her dad’s English and Kamal’s Tamil. My wife has several friends in the film fraternity. But can you believe it when I say that she hasn’t stepped into a studio all her life? She would get Kamal ready for the shoot when he was a toddler, but she never accompanied him,” he pauses. “She’s done a lot for the family.”

Charuhasan’s mother was expecting Kamal, and felt she wouldn’t survive the pregnancy. So she wished her eldest son be married. “Hence I got married,” he says.

And as the lady in question sees me off with a simple, charming smile I understand that she is his strength. ‘You must have been a tough person to live with,’ I tell him. “I still am,” he laughs.

The Charuhasans will stay with me for long.

The lawyer speaks

“You will find my recollections as a criminal lawyer intriguing,” smiles Charuhasan. Notable politicians have visited the Hasan home. Having practised Law in his native village of Paramakudi for long, he has a wealth of experiences to share. “The clerk who worked for me had worked for my grandfather and later my father. So imagine my shock when he was found murdered in bed one day! I worked on the case feverishly, allowing my juniors to handle my other tasks,” he recalls. “A lawyer’s job is to argue for his client. And while taking up the cudgels for him, rights and wrongs have no place,” he says.

Mani matters

Charuhasan has worked under son-in-law Mani Ratnam’s direction in two films – ‘Thalapathi’ was one. In it he played the heroine’s orthodox father. “Once, just as I got out of the car to attend a wedding, a group outside shouted angrily, ‘Look, he’s the man who refused to get his daughter married to Rajnikanth. If ‘Thalaivar’ had been in the scene instead of Mammootty, he couldn’t have got away easily. He deserves to be beaten up.’ I pretended not to hear them. Obviously they were referring to my role in ‘Thalapathi’,” smiles Charuhasan. He was also part of the cast of Ratnam’s ‘Anjali.’ “Mani has commendable insight. Imagine, he could spot the talent of Anil Kapoor, who was doing small roles then, and make him the hero of his Kannada film, ‘Pallavi Anupallavi.’ And see where the Kapoor is now!”

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 9:08:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/candour-charuhasan-style/article3811342.ece

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