Pushpak: 28 Years of Kamal Haasan’s Silent Masterpiece

Do you remember Kamal Haasan’s silent entertainer ‘Pushpak’? Celebrate 28 years of the awesome film.

3 min read
Kamal Haasan, Amala and Tinnu Anand in stills from <i>Pushpak</i>

Released on September 10, 1987, Kamal Haasan’s highly inventive silent film Pushpak turns 28 today. We bring you some unknown facts about the masterpiece and memorable anecdotes associated with its cast.

Directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao and released simultaneously as Pushpaka Vimana down south, this National Award winning film won international acclaim when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Kamal Haasan as the unemployed, down on his luck bachelor in <i>Pushpak </i>
Kamal Haasan as the unemployed, down on his luck bachelor in Pushpak

An Exercise in Improvisation

The lead actors comprising Kamal Haasan, Tinnu Anand and Amala among others worked throughout the film without call sheets. The film was shot across a span of few months and most of the scenes were improvised on the spot. Weeks were spent on rehearsing the scenes and director Singeetham gave the actors a lot of freedom.

Tinnu Anand as the goofy assassin in <i>Pushpak</i>
Tinnu Anand as the goofy assassin in Pushpak

The Ice Dagger

A few years ago when I spoke to Tinnu Anand, he told me how the entire team of Pushpak struggled to create the frozen dagger. If you’ve watched the film, you’ll remember that Anand plays an assassin, and he uses an ice dagger to kill people. Anand said that every night they’d fill the dagger mould with water and deep freeze it before going to sleep. By morning, though it would’ve frozen, it would eventually break when it was taken out. Finally, it was director Singeetham who decided to make a dagger with acrylic that looked almost as though it was frozen.

Kamal Haasan and Tinnu Anand in <i>Pushpak</i>
Kamal Haasan and Tinnu Anand in Pushpak

The Bangalore Backdrop

Pushpak was predominantly shot in and around Bangalore where it ran for 35 non-stop weeks in cinemas. Post the release of Pushpak, Anand’s few visits to the city amazed him. Every time he walked into a hotel, people would recognize him, voluntarily come forward to pay his bill. This happened quite a few times, recalls Anand.

Kamal Haasan silently romances Amala in <i>Pushpak</i>
Kamal Haasan silently romances Amala in Pushpak

Pushpak’s Fandom

Amala told me about this particular incident which left a lasting impact on her. A few years ago, she walked into an office in Hyderabad. An unknown gentleman came and greeted her, and she realized he had a prosthetic arm. He told Amala how he had an accident during his college days and his arm was amputated. To cheer him up, his friends brought the DVD of Pushpak and played it every day till he got over the shock of losing his arm.

Kamal Haasan keeps the millionaire Sameer Khakkar in bondage at his bachelor pad in <i>Pushpak</i>
Kamal Haasan keeps the millionaire Sameer Khakkar in bondage at his bachelor pad in Pushpak

Singeetham and Kamal had made the film as a tribute to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931). According to Singeetham, Kamal’s role was the updated version of Chaplin’s most celebrated character, ‘The Tramp’.

(Karthik Kumar is an independent film critic and journalist. He actively follows and writes on popular South Indian cinema and covers independent films too.)

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