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'My focus is to give quality films at great speed'

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Kamal Haasan, who will soon turn 61, is in no mood to slow down

In the last few years, Kamal Haasan and team have been working on more than one project simultaneously. When Uttama Villain was in its last leg of shooting, the pre-production work for the noir thriller Cheekati Rajyam ( Thoongavanam in Tamil) was on. Now, as the team is gearing up for the thriller’s release, work is on for his next. “I’ve learnt the hard way not to give a long gap between films. My focus is to give quality films at great speed,” he says, settling down for an interaction while in the city.

The speed doesn’t translate to a compromise with the output. The noir thriller, a remake of the French film Sleepless Night ( Nuit Blanche), involved four months of pre-production. “I liked how the story was written,” says Kamal, of Nuit Blanche. “A few stories are primarily written to accommodate cinematic elements. This story has depth, with back-stories for the characters. It has the scope to make the audience feel for the characters,” he says, drawing an analogy with First Blood and the Bourne series.

Kamal plays a cop with the narcotics control bureau who has a dubious past. Directed by his associate Rajesh M. Selva, the film stars Trisha, Madhu Shalini, Prakash Raj and Kishore. Prior to the shoot, the actors had a reading session of the script in Hyderabad. Most scenes were shot in both languages, including the action sequences. Rajesh points out, “The patrol vehicles and nameplates are different in Chennai and Hyderabad, and so are the uniforms of the cops. We had to re-shoot.”

Kamal notes that shooting simultaneously involves meticulous planning, which he traces back to the days of his first production Raja Paarvai ( Amavasya Chandrudu) and Varumayin Niram Sivappu ( Akali Rajyam).

To give Cheekati Rajyam a sense of immediacy, cinematographer Sanu Verghese used special handheld cameras. “Barring two sequences, the camera was never anchored. We had the required lighting all around and the camera kept moving,” says Kamal.

He also suggested that Rajesh and music director Ghibran head to Los Angeles for sound mixing. “They were reluctant at first, but having seen the results, they don’t want anything less,” laughs Kamal.

Mixing studio

Rajesh underlines that sound is crucial for the film, a portion of which unfolds in a nightclub. “There is music inside the room and you hear it as you step out. The mixing ensured that every sound is clear; even a slight hum of a light bulb in a room will be heard.” Buoyed by the experience, Kamal plans to build a mixing studio in Chennai, and eventually in Hyderabad, which meets international standards. “You can’t keep running to LA each time,” he adds.

Of late, he has punctuated ambitious ventures such as Vishwaroopam and Uttama Villain with smaller productions that have been remakes — Unnaipol Oruvan ( Eenadu) from A Wednesday; Papanasam from Drishyam and now Cheekati Rajyam from Sleepless Night. It’s part of a game plan, he admits and adds, “But don’t think remakes are easy. You can copy a James Bond film and ruin it.”

The actor will turn 61 on November 7 and is in no mood for nostalgia. “There is so much I want to do,” he insists. He feels the need to stay fit; fit enough to pull off action sequences. “When you watch Cheekati Rajyam, you’ll wonder how I am sitting here without any injury. A French stunt team planned everything to the detail,” he says. He, Trisha and other actors would do a 15-minute warm-up in front of the unit before enacting stunt moves.

Fitness, like acting, writing and filmmaking, he points out, doesn’t come through shortcuts. “One has to train. I like to work with trained writers, directors, music composers. One might argue that Ilayaraja or Bharathi Raja came from villages. I know how hard they trained to hone their skills. Else, their art would have been confined to their villages.”

There are larger, ambitious projects like Maruda Nayakam and the Hindi action thriller Amar Hai waiting to take off, but meanwhile, he will be teaming up with T.K. Rajeev Kumar (of Chanakyan) for a multilingual. Vishwaroopam 2, he says, is almost ready barring five months of visual effects. Vishwaroopam and Uttama Villain have faced protests from fringe groups and Kamal says stoically, “They know nothing about the film before its release and want to ride on it, probably with political motives. I know they are wrong and that gives me courage to move ahead.”



Kamal Speak



Cheekati Rajyam will release on November 20, ten days after the Tamil version, to avoid clashing with the release of Akhil Akkineni’s launch film, Akhil.


Visual appeal has always gone hand-in-hand with content, since the days of Chandralekha and Maya Bazaar, not just after Baahubali. Maro Charitra had beautiful visuals in black and white.


If I have broken language barriers, the credit goes to K. Balachander. When he had 20 actors at his disposal, he chose me. Someone told him I charge Rs. 2 lakh and suggested Rishi Kapoor instead; but KB sir insisted I work in Hindi.


I would consider 60 of my films good; the other 100-odd films are in the routine songs, dances and fights format.


I dub myself for a straight Telugu film; only when it is a dubbed film SPB annayya chips in.


Eventually, we may start making films for the internet, where you don’t need film certification or censor clearance.




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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 1:58:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/kamal-haasan-my-focus-is-to-give-quality-films-at-great-speed/article7837607.ece

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