Kamal Haasan On Why Unlike MGR, He Can’t Be Actor and Politician

Interview: Kamal Haasan says he was thrilled to be compared to Guru Dutt by none other than Waheeda Rehman.

Indian Cinema
5 min read

Just a week before the release of his new film Vishwaroopam 2, Tamil star (and now politician) Kamal Haasan flew into Mumbai to publicise his upcoming action drama. I had a brief chat with the actor on a breezy Tuesday at the city’s erstwhile hotspot but now decadent Sun n Sand Hotel in Juhu. All of Kamal Haasan’s schedule seemed to have gone slightly awry as he juggled his responsibilities as an actor and filmmaker with those of a busy politician.

Here’s what the national award winning and immensely talented artiste had to say about his balancing act as an actor and politician and lots more.

Interview: Kamal Haasan says he was thrilled to be compared to Guru Dutt by none other than Waheeda Rehman.
Kamal Haasan talks cinema and politics.
(Photo: Yogen Shah)

Q: Vishwaroopam was quite controversial at the time of its release – most of it you had alleged was manufactured. Given that how little it takes for people to get offended by any film these days, are you apprehensive of any similar trouble around Vishwaroopam 2?

Kamal Haasan: I don’t think so, because at that time it was an unnecessary political ego that interfered with a small film like Vishwaroopam. It was a whole political machinery that was set against a small film company and a community was involved unnecessarily. It was all a foisted and framed thing, I don’t see such things happening because they have other things to do, the elections are coming near and they won’t indulge in such petty egotistical games. I HOPE! (laughs)

Q: In the five year gap between Vishwaroopam 1 and 2, over a thousand films have passed through the Tamil audience. Aren’t you worried about the recall? Will they still be able to connect to the film?

Kamal Haasan: Yes, that was my constant worry and trepidation but fortunately that’s not the case, because as I see, I don’t know whether I should thank the digital era for that because constantly there are reminders and recollections and it’s all over the web, they are talking about the older film, the new film. Fortunately, we are also airing the first part on national television (Zee Cinema) and also local television channels and so that’s sort of working in its favour unexpectedly. We are quite surprised and happily so.

Interview: Kamal Haasan says he was thrilled to be compared to Guru Dutt by none other than Waheeda Rehman.
Kamal Haasan on the poster of Vishwaroopam 2. 

Q: You’ve been able to keep cinema and politics separate. You are now being seen more as a politician nevertheless. Has this changed Vishwaroopam 2’s narrative in any way?

Kamal Haasan: Not at all, because it was already done. Because it was conceived as a single entity divided in two parts and delivered in two parts.

Q: Why the change in music director? SEL’s songs are still being played on TV and find their way into ringtones. The title song now sounds completely different and is kind of a rousing take on the original. Why Gibran this time?

Kamal Haasan: There was a logical logistical problem, no ego or no disconnect between me and the music directors. I love working with them (SEL), but they had ideologically decided to fight the copyright laws and they couldn’t sign and I was committed to the music company. I needed to recoup the money and I had to make a deal that way. It was a amicably understood and agreed upon decision. I had to go for another music director and the challenge of taking a popular song and redoing it is a challenge that only the talented and daring and adventurous would take. You take Vande Mataram, Rahman saab recomposed it, that takes a lot of confidence, a lot of guts and a lot of support. We had that, and it’s the new song that’s being hailed now, and it’s kudos to Gibran.

Interview: Kamal Haasan says he was thrilled to be compared to Guru Dutt by none other than Waheeda Rehman.
Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in Kaagaz Ke Phool.

Q: How special is it working with the legendary Waheeda Rehman?

Kamal Haasan: For me it was fantastic because I never thought that this would happen in my life. That way I had become sort of a film buff. I never thought that I would act with Kaagaz Ke Phool’s heroine, however old or aged she is. I mean, it is unbelievable, it’s like I walked into another era, an era that’s not humanly possible to step into. She said something that gave me goosebumps and made my day. As far as I am concerned, Vishwaroopam 2 is already a super hit because she said - ‘the way you are working, I am reminded of Guru Dutt saab’ and I sort of went into a tizzy. I went and told everyone, my brother, my sister, I called up everyone and said ‘you know what I heard today?’. I felt very juvenile and childish doing it, but I enjoyed it.

Q: MGR, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and even Annadurai have used cinema to propagate not just their ideas, but also their political ideologies. Will you do so too? Do you see it as the way forward?

Kamal Haasan: I have always been doing it. My politics came out through cinema where I could afford to speak about it, invariably it happened to be cinemas where I wrote or I produced.

Interview: Kamal Haasan says he was thrilled to be compared to Guru Dutt by none other than Waheeda Rehman.
Kamal Haasan will now turn full time politician.

Q: Will you be phasing out the actor in you as you focus more on Kamal the politician?

Kamal Haasan: Absolutely, it will happen. It’s very difficult. See, when MGR ji was an MLA and he was also acting in 10 to 15 films after becoming an MLA, he was not the party president, there were other party people taking care of the party. I am the president of a party, if I go into election mode, that’s a lot of commitment. I’ll have to be doubly prepared even if I have all the time. I see that going that direction only, I mean, phasing out cinema and going into what should have been my duty even 40 years back.

Q: You are most remembered by the Hindi audience for Ek Duje Ke Liye, Sanam Teri Kasam and Saagar – all of these films had an excellent soundtrack. Do you have a personal favourite film and soundtrack of your own?

Kamal Haasan: For me, Hey Ram, because the songs, the way they were made, it was composed by another music director, I had shot the songs and Mr Ilayaraaja came back and with the sync on that recreated the music. It’s a separate music exercise you could teach in music schools for cinema music. It’s fantastic, I mean, it’s one of my favourite exercises. IIayaraaja on his own did something like Pushpak, a film without dialogues, it’s unique. Like that he approached film background score and film music from a oblique point and made it into a success. How do you make a hit song, which in itself is a difficult exercise and that too from a difficult rope walking situation. It’s like doing a monocycle on a single wheel and mixing a cup of tea with your leg and drinking it!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from entertainment and indian-cinema

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More