SRK! Here’s How Kamal Haasan Became a Midget Without CGI
If SRK wishes to shave off big bucks from the VFX budget to play a midget, he must head to ‘le goode olde days.’ (Photo: Yogen Shah)
If SRK wishes to shave off big bucks from the VFX budget to play a midget, he must head to ‘le goode olde days.’ (Photo: Yogen Shah)

SRK! Here’s How Kamal Haasan Became a Midget Without CGI

Shah Rukh Khan, in all probability, is doing his next film with Anand Rai, the director of Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (because he binge-watched Superman Returns and The Mummy Returns. Or maybe because he expected better returns after Raanjhanaa. Sorry for digressing).

Anyhow, SRK will be playing a midget (not dwarf – if you don’t know the difference, shame on you), who’s 3-feet-1-inch tall. To accomplish this feet (hehe), he announced that he will go the CGI way.

I would have a problem if I have to do it on my knees. I am trying to avoid that part because that looks unreal also, and in today’s time and age, you don’t want to do that.
Shah Rukh Khan

Doing the Trick Before CGI (and Most of You) Were Even Born

Totally agree with the Baadshah. But there was a time (1989) and age (the before CGI age aka Analog age) when Kamal Haasan did get on his knees to play a midget. And he totally Boss-ed it! Meet Appu Raja (Aboorva Sagodharargal), who is now 27 years older, and out of jail.

Why So Secret?

Going to the movies those days was like an arranged marriage (or any marriage, for that matter).

There were no teasers or trailers or ‘leaked footage’. No one knew what was going to unfold on screen. One just had to trust that it’ll end up being a good movie.

Obviously, the concept of ‘making of...’ didn’t exist then. And so it was only recently (around eight years ago) that the director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao (who was also behind Pushpak, the brilliant silent film) spilled the beans, followed by the cinematographer PC Sreeram and finally Kamal Haasan himself.

This actor/director/singer/composer/writer/producer loved working with Kamal, who too, is  an actor/director/singer/composer/writer/producer. Movie Magic! (Photo Courtesy: YouTube screen grab)
This actor/director/singer/composer/writer/producer loved working with Kamal, who too, is an actor/director/singer/composer/writer/producer. Movie Magic! (Photo Courtesy: YouTube screen grab)

The Beans

There was one and then there were three. The one was Kamal Haasan, who ran this idea by K Balachander, who shot it down, after asking him what he was eating. After almost a year of research (and spending three lakh), trips to Hollywood (too costly), consultations with electronic engineers (for prosthetics/props) and even magicians, Kamal decided to do it alone and produce it under his Raaj Kamal banner. No one else wanted to do the movie.

And then he....why don’t you hear it from the man himself?

Here, go straight to 10:06

The Two Other Beans

PC (not to be confused with Piggy Chops) brought to life <i>Nayagan</i>, <i>Shamitabh</i>, <i>Paa</i> and <i>Ki &amp; Ka</i>, to name a few. (Photo Courtesy: YouTube screen grab)
PC (not to be confused with Piggy Chops) brought to life Nayagan, Shamitabh, Paa and Ki & Ka, to name a few. (Photo Courtesy: YouTube screen grab)

PC Sreeram was the cinematographer for Appu Raja (Aburva Sagodharargal). It was his camera angles that played a major role in making you believe that Kamal Haasan in the movie was indeed a midget. He created simple, but very effective optical illusions to make Kamal look short, to distract the viewer from the legs and to hide them. You will find all of the tricks in the scene shared above.

Here’s my most favorite recent example of a non-CGI optical illusion to illustrate the point.

The third bean was ‘Japan’, one of the spot boys in the movie. He was the muscle in-charge of digging trenches or pits for Kamal to stand in, while PC took the shot.

Duped!
The three of them (Kamal Haasan, P C Sreeram and ‘Japan’), managed to trick an entire generation of audience!

Yes, Kamal Cheated!

Once news was out that Kamal didn’t actually bend his knees in some shots, there was (un)righteous indignation all around and people cried foul. But I think it’s misplaced.
Kamal did walk on his knees, he did use an extension to create an illusion of ‘bending-the-knee’ (someone behind the scenes would pull the strings to make it happen).

He also did fake it, by simply walking in a trench, or trusting PC Sreeram to do the ‘trick’.

But, in the world of make-believe, faking is an art. And Kamal, the quintessential artist.

(Vikram Venkateswaran is a freelance writer, TV producer and media consultant. Headings, titles and captions are his kryptonite. He just moved to Chennai and hopes the city likes him and is nice to him.)

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