CHENNAI: On the sets of A Bhimsingh’s Kalathur Kannamma, starring Gemini Ganesan and Savitri, a five-year-old child artiste kept disappearing from the sets during breaks. Later, he was spotted at a theatre in AVM Studios watching films. When he returned, he would imitate the scenes for his co-stars and director. That was almost 55 years ago, today the child artiste is better known as Kamal Haasan. An actor who has spent more than five decades in the industry, the legend turns 60 on Friday.
Veteran filmmaker S P Muthurman, who assisted Bhimsingh in the project, remembers vividly the child’s enthusiasm and love for the celluloid medium. “Kamal was very different from the other kids, who starred in the film. He never played during breaks. Instead, he chose to go and watch films in the theatre hall in the studio. I was very sure he would make it big someday. That was the star in the making and no wonder, today he is the Ulaganayagan.” Muthuraman later went on to direct Kamal in films like Oru Oodhappu Kan Simittugiradhu, Thoongadhey Thambi Thoongadhey and Ennakul Oruvan.
Renowned playwright and script writer Crazy Mohan, who collaborated with Kamal in 25 films, says that he owes his career to the actor.”I attribute my success to him. He was the one, who encouraged me to give up my full-time job and take up theatre and films. Every work of mine is vetted by him,” he says.
The two have worked together in some of the most memorable laugh riots in Tamil cinema like Aboorva Sagodharargal, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Pammal K Sambandam, Panchathanthiram, Vasool Raja MBBS, etc. He reminisces, “He gives a lot of importance to rehearsals. During the masking of Michael Madana…, I rehearsed with him, playing the role of Thirupurasundari.”
Veteran actor Sowcar Janaki wonders how a person could be so forthright and yet be adulated by all. “I had a lengthy role for Hey Ram and later it was chopped. Yet, Kamal paid me my full amount. That amount came in handy for my heart surgery,” she says.
For his birthday, Kamal will be leading a team of young volunteers in cleaning a lake here.
Action King’s anecdotes
When Kamal called me telling me about Kuruthipunal, I immediately went to his office. I told him I would do the role, he didn’t even have to narrate the story to me. However, he narrated the story to me personally. I asked him why he was giving me a character that was elevated. He did my makeup for a few scenes. It was very inspiring to work with an artiste like him. He is so dedicated, punctual and energetic. I wish him many years of filmmaking and acting.