Kamal Haasan has added yet another feather to his cap — a feather indeed decorated in French style. The multi-faceted star has been recently selected for the prestigious Chevalier de L’Ordes Arts et Lettres (The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters).
Being one of the most prolific actors of this era, here is a brief look at Kamal’s illustrious career that makes him the Ulaganayagan that he is. The 10 points used here to describe him are based on his popular movies.
Birth of the Kalaignan
(Birth of an artiste)
The year 1959 was a watershed period for Tamil cinema. For, it introduced a cherubic little face, one that would go on to mesmerize the audience for the next six decades. With Kalathur Kannama, Kamal announced his arrival on the film scene with a bang. He has not just survived in the industry for this long, but has actually ruled it with his consistent knack to learn and re-learn.
(Master of all arts)
Be it any department of film-making: acting, direction, production, choreography or even make-up, Kamal has the nuances of all these up his sleeve. Bringing a whole new meaning to the term multi-talented, the actor has consistently proved his mettle in almost all fields related to the world of cinema. Probably the man himself knows this too, for, a dialogue in one of his films goes like this: Raja kaiya vacha, adhu wrong ah ponadhilla. It loosely translates to “if our star tries his hands at something, it can never go wrong!”
(Here to conquer)
An actor known to be ahead of his times, Kamal has never shied away from experimenting with the latest technology in his films. Be it the Dolby Surround Sound in his cop thriller Kuruthipunal, the motion control camera that he put to use in his Aalavandhan or the Auro 3D in Vishwaroopam, the actor is truly a trend setter. His latest experimentation with DTH may very well revolutionize the whole concept of film viewing. So can the Red Eye camera that he wishes to use in his dream project Marmayogi.
It seems near impossible for other actors to emulate Kamal when it comes to playing diversified roles in films. From playing a ruthless vigilante, to a dwarf, a psychotic killer and even a woman, he has aced them all. An actor par excellence who is known to breathe life into his characters, it takes only a Kamal to move his viewers to tears with his portrayal of a father in harsh circumstances in Mahanadi or to tickle their funny bone in movies like Panchatantiram and Sathi Leelavati. This giant of an actor can play George Bush or a bumbling doctor will equal ease!
Unnal Mudiyum Thambi,
he says (You can do it, he says)
They say it takes an auteur to recognize another as one. So is the case with Kamal who is blessed with the uncanny ability to identify the potential of seemingly ordinary actors. And he does not stop there. He goes a step further to provide them platform to showcase their talent. Recent examples being his long-time associate Rajesh Selva, who directed Thoongavanam and subsequently Kamal’s next, Sabaash Naidu. Music director Ghibran, who cemented his place in history by scoring for three back-to-back films of the actor, is another such example. Kamal is an inspiration to several top actors of today, including Suriya who confesses that it is Ulaganayagan who is his role model in tinsel town.
While Kamal himself is an asset to the Indian cinema, several of his family members too have made a mark in the industry. Kamal’s brother Charu Haasan and niece Suhasini Maniratnam are veteran actors and his daughters too have proven their mettle. While his elder daughter Shruti is one of the most sought-after actresses today in the Tamil and Telugu films, younger daughter Akshara has acted alongside top stars like Dhanush and Ajith. His partner Gautami too was considered a top-class actress during her prime. Now, in what is to be a treat to the audience, several members of this talented family have come together for the upcoming film Sabaash Naidu in which Shruti and Kamal play father and daughter with Gautami and Akshara working behind the screens.
(Well done, Naidu)
For an actor of Kamal’s stature, it’s no big surprise that he has won several prominent awards. He was awarded the ‘Padma Shri’ and ‘Padma Bhushan’ by the Government of India for his contribution to the growth of Indian cinema. The actor was also named as FICCI Living Legend by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). He has also won a couple of state awards such as the Kalaimamani by the Tamil Nadu government, the Honorary Award by the Kerala government and three Nandi Awards by Andhra Pradesh. This is apart from the four National Awards, one Rashtrapathi Award and 17 Filmfare South Awards. Kamal Haasan also has a large number of international awards under his belt.
Kamal is also known as a man with a heart of gold. Being one of the first actors to have converted his numerous fan clubs into social welfare organizations, the actor is at the forefront of several charitable activities he carries out under his ‘Kamal Narpani Iyakkam’ initiative. Having done solid work to help the HIV patients, he has also been actively working for the welfare of cancer patients, apart from other works like cleaning water bodies. For his efforts in this regard, he has received various national and international awards. He has also decided to donate the income from his commercial endorsements for public welfare.
(Magnum Opus or Full Form)
If there is one actor who placed Tamil cinema on the world map, it has to be Kamal Haasan. Several of his films have gone on to win international acclaim. For instance, his Uttama Villian won the best film at the International Film Festival at Los Angeles last year, while he won the best Director in Focus award for his films Virumaandi and Hey Ram at the International Film Festival of Korea and that of Rotterdam respectively. Seven of his movies — ‘Saagar’, ‘Swati Mutyam’, ‘Nayagan’, ‘Thevar Magan’, ‘Kuruthipunal’, ‘Indian’ and ‘Hey Ram’ — have represented India at the Oscars.
Any actor with a highly impressive body of work like that of Kamal would feel it is time to hang his boots. But not this man, who still has the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old when it comes to cinema. The ‘complete hero’ Kamal still calls himself a novice as he feels there are miles to go before he can master the art. The 62-year-old’s zeal for cinema is unmatched, and it is this attitude of his that keeps him going and makes Kamal Haasan the enigma that he is.