With a bunch of National Film Awards and hundreds of successful movie credits to his repertoire, Kamal Haasan has established himself as one of the biggest acting greats in the world. Apart from making his foray into politics, the actor is also in news these days for his upcoming movie Vishwaroopam 2, which is a sequel to his 2013 offering Vishwaroopam.
As the film approaches its theatrical release on 10th August, our Mumbai correspondent, Mohnish Singh, meets the thespian for an interaction. In this interview with Eastern Eye, Kamal Haasan opens up about his latest role in it Vishwaroopam 2, the state of the Hindi film industry and why most of his films have a political undertone.
Were plans for Vishwaroopam 2 always there from the start, or the sequel was developed later on?
It’s a full story that I conceived of. I thought the movie would be of around 3 hours 30 minutes or 3 hours 40 minutes but I was not in the mood to edit. The idea was to tell a story and what if you say it in parts. It’s been done in novels where the story is written as a series. So, I was thinking and this was my concept even 7 years back. That’s how we started.
Is there any political message that you want to give through your film, just like Rajinikanth’s Kaala (2018) did?
I have always given political messages. It is wrong to compare one filmmaker or actor to another as each has their own individual style, like even though they play the same game of cricket, each player has a style of delivering the same result. So, I have always been different and I always dared make politically relevant films. Making political comments, mimicry, make a laugh out of the matter is what a satire is, but I have gone beyond that. I have gone beyond that and made a point that I strongly felt as a citizen. As an artist, I sensitize my audience. I have done things that are necessary.
Almost all your recent films have a political undertone. Do you take up projects keeping your views in mind?
You can see it from the time of Thevar Magan (1992). Most of my films have a geopolitical thriller attitude to them. It started with let’s say Dasavathaaram (2008) but it became even more serious of a voice, almost akin to Hey Ram (2000), in Vishwaroopam (2013). It is not like Dasavathaaram – light-hearted – but the insertion of my ideas. It is a direct impartation of what I felt is troubling me globally.
Is there a particular reason you decided to convey political messages through your films?
It has to be done. I have given the largest portion of my life to cinema and it is not an exaggeration, except for the first three years of my life. Now I think whatever is left, I’ll have to give what made me what I am and what is everybody’s duty to be.
Reportedly, you are planning to stop working in films after venturing into politics. Would you still be producing movies under your home banner?
You mean if I take a position politically, if I take an office? MLA MGR has done 15-20 films after becoming an MLA, but he was not a party president then. From the moment he became a party president, everything changed. That might happen to me also because it’s a bigger responsibility. We are not just talking about entertainment anymore; we are talking about the business of Tamil Nadu. How it has to be done? And we have been critics. When critics are asked to make a film, they invariably fail. Very few critics actually prove a point like true to good art. They walk the talk, they came and did it. That’s what we want to do, aspire to do. We don’t want to be an armchair critic, complaining and commenting. We don’t want to be a commentator. We want to be a player.
What, according to you, are the advantages and disadvantages to a person who acts writes and directs in his movies?
There are more advantages as compared to the disadvantages because, during the old times when the cinema was a new industry, everybody was multitasking. One person did almost everything. And what do you call a director like Guru Dutt Saab? How many hats did he wear, including acting? He wasn’t that keen on acting but when he didn’t get Dilip sir’s call sheet, he started acting.
What is your take on the current situation of Hindi Film industry?
It’s better than what it was. New blood is flowing freely and that is very important. It wasn’t like that before. There was a deadly divide before between art and commercial cinema. When you sell tickets, it’s commercial. When you make a film, it’s art. So why divide that? This has been my saying for the past 40 years. It became a kind of caste system – one doesn’t touch the other, a parallel of sorts. I didn’t like it at all. I wanted great filmmakers. That bond is happening slowly but not to my satisfaction yet. I want more speed.
Any Hindi film that you watched of late?
Because of my busy schedule and the misfortune of digital cinema, you can stop going to the ticketed cinema. So, that is the misfortune I am suffering now. I was watching Raazi. I wanted to watch it and because of my connection to the person involved in the film, but I couldn’t watch it fully. Though I am trying to do my best with the reschedule. Most filmmakers don’t have time to watch other films. Now, I am not only a filmmaker but also a politician, so time is a concern.
What political message would you like to give in this current state of being?
The elections are coming and what is your part in it? We always distance ourselves from it. Politics should not be treated like lavatory cleaning, Gandhi Ji took both with equal seriousness. That’s where it starts and that is what we have to do. Politics is not below, it is our toilet, it has become a toilet because we have delegated it to too many people and thought we have everyday things to do and we thought this is not part of our responsibility. We think a creature named politician will come and take care of it. We forget that we are that politician, we make that politician, we could be that politician. We were all politicians when we were struggling for independence.
There were many controversies when Vishwaroopam was released, especially in the form it was said to be released. Can you comment on that?
The story behind was not fully perceived. What is wrong with bringing DTH? How was it so wrong? How is that a film had to be banned because some filmmaker is thinking of using a new methodology of dispersing his material to the public? You must understand the politics, the corrupt politics and the mafia behind it because those involved in the government were involved in investing in the cineplexes around Tamil Nadu, they were purchasing theatre. So, they thought this will be a disruptive situation. They wanted this movie stopped to further their gains. When there was a difference of opinion on a very legitimate thing, they started punishing the film by banning it. To find the reason for banning, they used the community. It’s ugly, tyrannical politics which the nation didn’t understand because the subversive technology of DTH and theatres were whipped up by politicians and business also interested, that new technology might hurt, it will not. It has come now. It didn’t even take 10 years. It’s already here. There are many platforms now, many of the big companies are now involving in it.
You host Bigg Boss Tamil, have you ever thought of participating yourself?
I went on a bigger show, there is no escape from it, there is no running away from it. Everybody is watching and they will put me on the docks. In Bigg Boss, when the season is over you are out. This political journey whatever right or wrong I’ll do will live after me. That’s the show I have entered and I am anchoring the Bigg Boss show. The reason I took on that is also a part of my political plan in a way that I address 3.2 crores tuners. Every Saturday, I address that kind of crowd which is an enormous opportunity.