As Kamal Haasan turns 63 and rumblings of his political entry get louder, popular film personalities who have worked closely with the actor open up to S Subhakeerthana about him and the politics of his films
Yugi Sethu, actor-writer
Kamal Haasan and I have always discussed a lot about communism and capitalism. In one of his films, Anbe Sivam, that discusses communism, I got the opportunity to play a small role. I remember telling him then my view that if you’re not a communist at 20, you don’t have a heart, and that if you are still a communist at 30, you don’t have a brain. I’ve always thought of him as an intellectual who can adapt to various situations. He is very firm in what he believes.
Crazy Mohan, actor-playwright
Behind every successful man, there’s a woman. Behind my success as a screenwriter too, there was one: Avvai Shanmughi. While I don’t want to comment on the man’s ideologies and if he’s incorporated them into his films, let me just say this. I’ve noticed firsthand that he has a never-ending quest for perfection in whatever he does. That’s what made him a star. I believe it will help him reach great heights in whatever it is he chooses to do in life. Actors, it is said, wear masks, but I don’t think he ever does that. Kamal wrote, “Kadavul paadhi, mirugam paadhi…” In my opinion, he’s Sivaji paadhi, Nagesh paadhi…
Ramesh Aravind, actor-director
I don’t think Kamal Haasan has tried to consciously project himself as a leader of the masses through his films. I’d say that in films like Indian, he’s fighting against social injustice. For the longest time, he has been mentioning a film called Thalaivan Irukkiran that he wants to make. I’m a big admirer of his commitment to excellence in everything he does.
He’s always called for humanism over religion in his films, especially in Anbe Sivam. That’s why he’s my favourite actor. There’s all this talk about his entrance to politics, but it’s interesting that during the days I worked with him on films, he always seemed to be averse to crowds. It’s fascinating to see this change in his career.
Shruti Haasan, actor
I love Mahanadi a lot because it’s a brave and honest film. It shows you simplicity and naivete, and at the same time, the darkness in people. It stays with you for how real it all is. And of course, there’s also Hey Ram, which makes me very proud of him. I have so many memories with him during the film’s making. What I love most about it is how it merges fact into fiction.
A lot of his films have shown him as a protector of the oppressed, including Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and Indian. He was also among the first actors to transform his fan association into a social welfare community. It shows that he deeply cares about the society. I also admire how he doesn’t smoke in his films.
Rajesh M Selva, director
Kamal Haasan has always made many a poignant point against the system through his films. His Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu is my all-time favourite film. It talks about the politics of hunger and unemployment. I’m also a big fan of Thevar Magan, which talks about caste and power struggle. In one scene in the film, he rescues people from the floods, and even today, I get goosebumps remembering his narration. I also like Virumaandi, a film that talks about capital punishment. Many of his films have made sensible points that are relevant to the masses.