Kamal Haasan’s contributions to almost every aspect of film-making confirm his status as an all-rounder
In a career spanning 60 years, with 200 movies in six Indian languages, Kamal Haasan has left a mark on nearly every aspect of film-making.
It’s not just the roles he has essayed with aplomb, and there are many of them, but it is in the way he has touched the industry with his contributions that makes him the talented all-rounder that he is.
Not just known for introducing cutting edge technologies to Tamil cinema, he’s also acknowleged as a good writer, director, producer, singer, dancer and choreographer.
Starting his career as a child artiste in Kalathur Kannama in 1960, Kamal Haasan, who recently launched the political party Makkal Needhi Maiam, is expected to wrap up his film career once he completes Indian 2 and Thalaivan Irukkindran.
While there are so many films that could be seen as highlights in his career, there are some films and creative partnerships that captured the imagination of society. On his birthday, The Hindu makes a non-exhaustive list of marquee films featuring the actor.
Finding his feet
Late film-maker K. Balachander not only gave Kamal Haasan his first full-fledged role in Arangetram in 1973, he also gave him his first big break in 1975 with Apoorva Ragangal, which was also the debut film of actor Rajinikanth.
Kamal Haasan went on to deliver memorable films with the late KB such as Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu, Punnagai Mannan and Marocharithra.
In the 1980s, Kamal Haasan, who had to endure the failures of films – for instance Raja Paarvai in 1980 where he played a blind man in love – reoriented his position with respect to the film business and dabbled in commercial cinema. He delivered runaway hits such as Sakalakala Vallavan, Kaakki Sattai and interspersed them with movies such as Moondram Pirai and Punnagai Mannan.
The 1987 film Nayakan, directed by Mani Ratnam, was a career-defining film that catapulted him to new heights.
From then on, there was a recognisable stamp of his on all his films as he began working as a writer for films such as Aboorva Sagodharargal, and the iconic Michael Madhana Kama Rajan, in which his collaboration with the late Crazy Mohan produced a laugh-a-minute riot.
Kamal vs Rajni
As the paths of the two top stars in Tamil cinema — Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan — diverged, the latter walked a fine line between commercial and middle cinema throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
After Michael Madana Kama Rajan, there was a Gunaa. Romantic comedy Singaravelan was followed by an iconic Thevar Magan. Indian and Kuruthipunal were followed by rip-roaring comedies such as Avvai Shanmughi and Kadhala Kadhala. A gut-wrenchingly tragic film Mahanadhi was followed by college drama Nammavar and the hilarious comedy of errors Sathileelavathi.
The end of the decade saw Kamal Haasan deliver one of his masterpieces – Hey Ram. Despite the failure of the film, he upped the ante with yet another big-budget double-role film, Aalavandhan, which released with extraordinary hype but failed at the box office.
The 2000s were marked by superb comedies such as Pammal K. Sambandham, Panchathanthiram, Vasool Raja MBBS and big-budget blockbusters like Vettaiyadu Vilayadu and Dasavadharam. Kamal Haasan has been relatively quieter on the film front – after Vishwaroopam got into serious issues — making only two more films — Uttama Villain and Thoongavanam.
Nobody has riled up the right-wingers, centrists and the Left equally as has Kamal Haasan. His films, be it Thevar Magan, Virumaandi or Hey Ram have always been at the wrong end of the stick.
Kamal Haasan’s Virumaandi in 2004 and Vishwaroopam in 2013 faced strong opposition from Dalit and Muslim organisations respectively. A frustrated Kamal Haasan declared that he would be forced to leave the country if his freedom of speech was not guaranteed.