France is energised by youthful creativity: Kamal

European cinema has ‘chic and a sense of intelligence', says Kamal Hassan.

European cinema has ‘chic and a sense of intelligence', says Kamal Hassan.  

Young, energetic people lead the arts in France, and their culture of creativity should serve as an inspiration, actor Kamal Haasan has said.

Fresh from the announcement of his being chosen for the title of Chevalier de L’Ordre Arts et Lettres (The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French government, he said in a telephonic chat that in France, film giants like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard were feted even as young achievers. Victor Hugo had a road named after him in his own lifetime, unlike Subramania Bharati and Bharatidasan whose contribution to society was recognised late. “This is something that we have to learn,” he said.

Mr. Haasan said the Chevalier award “is just a sword resting on the shoulder for a moment. It’s not a crown.”

The 61-year old star, with recent films such as Thoonga Vanam, Papanasam and Uttama Villain, said he was an ardent fan of French cinema, with Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and Jean-Luc Godard high in his pantheon.

“In 1977, I was filming a song in France that extolled the beauty of Germany. I was apprehensive that someone might object because I was praising a country that had once invaded France,” he laughs.

When he started work on Marudhanayagam, he wanted the advice of French scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, who had collaborated with the veteran Luis Bunuel on several films.

“I wanted Carriere to recommend a writer for the film. I left a script with him on a Friday, and he met me on Sunday. I thought he would not have read the lengthy unedited script which ran to 170 pages, but he said he liked it very much,” recalls Mr. Haasan. Who would help with the script? “How about Jean-Claude Carriere,” the Frenchman said, offering himself, and the two weeks that they spent on it became a life-long friendship, he says.

Mr. Haasan, who knows multiple languages but not French, says French and British cinema have sensibilities not so common in Hollywood. European cinema has ‘chic and a sense of intelligence.’ “I admire and emulate this in my films,” he says.

The French are forerunners of democracy, the women’s vote and even in ‘designing a perfect guillotine’.

Cinematic history was also ahead there, with film and recording pioneer Pathe, technical expert Georges Melies and archivist Henri Langlois playing a leading role. “America takes others’ fame and makes it its own,” says Mr. Haasan.

On the Chevalier, he says: “I am proud that I am in the same league as Satyajit Ray.”

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 9:18:12 AM |

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