Haven’t gone to a plastic surgeon yet-Kamal Haasan
Padma Shri Kamal Haasan attributes his youthful look to good genes and talks to BT about movies, Rajinikanth et al
Meena Iyer (BOMBAY TIMES; June 16, 2012)
Chennai burns at a sweltering 38°C. But Kamal Haasan’s office cabin is freezing. The actor jokes, “I’m not material for cold storage but I like the temperatures that way.’ His Vishwaroop is in its final stages of mixing. The trade says it will release in August. The filmmaker says, “I’ll let you know soon.” Between cups of hot Kumbakonam degree coffee, he finds time for a quick chat.
Excerpts from the interview:
Is Vishwaroop (Hindi version) / Vishwaroopam (Tamil version) which has been written, produced and directed by you, your most ambitious project?
I’m borrowing a line from writer-filmmaker Ingmar Bergman here. He said, ‘Every time I do a film I think this is the last film’. It could be. We don’t really know. Hypothetically, what would I do if this were my last film? I don’t know if I will be allowed to make another film. Anything unforeseen can happen. So every film that I make, I just put everything I have in it.
You see it may not be the last film that the audience is seeing. But for an actor, every film he does, should be done in that spirit, because that’s the only way to approach your work. I will not kill myself over a film. But I adopt a very motherly attitude to every film of mine. I want to feed it, nurture it, and give it all the emotion I have. So many things can go wrong even if you are the top star. Take the biggest names — Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt — if you think there is 200 cr riding on each of their projects; there is also 200 cr worth of obstacles to surmount. Believe me if you live, eat, breathe movies like the way I do, then you tend to obsess over your movies. An actor, filmmaker can either be just an actor; shun the problems on set, lock himself inside his vanity van and play with Dame Luck; or he can be right there with the rest of the crew lead from the front. Makers like Steven Spielberg etch every line that goes into making their film. I prefer to be like Spielberg, this keeps me happy and busy.
What’s next after Vishwaroop?
I am looking at a sequel to Vishwaroop. We are prepping for it. I have a script in hand. I read some media report the other day saying — ‘Kamal has overshot, hence he is making a sequel.’ This is truly insulting and I would like to clarify that this is not true. I know there is scope for a sequel here. Instead of making a three-and-a-half-hour film, I decided to tell the rest of the story in a sequel.
You were very prolific at one point. Of late, you have cut down on assignments as an actor.
That is because we have no good producers here. A man having money and respect doesn’t qualify as a producer. Production is a technique. Producing needs talent, just like acting does. You cannot run a magazine just because you have money. You need the right editors/journalists. Believe me, producing a movie is as important and as much a handson job as directing it. And when I say that out of 200 films that I have done, I’ve only 100 perfect producers, I doesn’t mean that as an actor, I wasn’t served my breakfast on time, or that I got my tea in a plastic cup. I’m talking of producers who have done evil to the film. Those who have harmed the aesthetics of the film.
So the attitude of callous producers seems to have left a bitter taste in your mouth?
I cannot generalise. For every bad producer that I met I have also met a good one. However dismissive producers disturb me. I have heard guys saying, ‘These guys fuss too much over the script.’ Or still others suggesting-’Sir, take two nice girls, go to a foreign location and shoot the film.’ It is almost like they are suggesting that I have a picnic. Or even better it is suggested that there should be more female characters on set because it is more fun. This is the wrong attitude.
Do you think the rest of India woke up to the Kamal, Rajini phenomena rather late?
I don’t think that is true, at least in my case. The Hindi film industry has been on my side from the time I did Ek Duuje Ke Liye. When I needed them to have their eyes open for me, they were there. It is my fault that I haven’t made too many Hindi films. I still have people from across the country meeting me at airports and asking me, ‘When is your next film?’ How can I tell them it will take another two years? So I say, ‘Soon’. It is my fault that I release a film once in two or three years. This is not the best thing to do. So, in answer to your question, the people of India have been with me. I am Rip Van Winkle. I do not want to miss out on any segment of the audience, so I have made my film in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
Why have you been caught napping?
The thing is now I write and direct my movies besides just acting in them. That takes a whole year out of me.
Nayakan has a place in film history. Yet we haven’t seen Mani Ratnam and you join forces on a project.
My film with Mani may or may not happen. We talk but nothing seems to materialise. Shekhar Kapur and I have been talking of doing a film together for the last 35 years. And we are still only talking…
Your daughters — Shruti and Akshara — are both in the movies. Are you happy for them?
Of course I am. Though I always thought Akshara would be in front of the camera and Shruti would be behind it.
After 200 films you still have a childlike enthusiasm towards your work. And for an actor who is his late 50s, you also seem to have preserved your looks very well.
Thank you for the compliment. I have my father to thank for this. I haven’t gone to a plastic surgeon yet. Of course, if it comes to it, I will do anything to preserve my looks.
Will we see Rajinikanth and you in a project again?
If you have Rajini and me on board, the sky is the limit to how much you can sell a film for. But there is also a limit to how much you can pay the two of us as actors. When you finish giving him and me our remunerations, I don’t think there will much of a budget left to make the movie with.