Kamal Haasan in conversation with Rachana Dubey...
What does Kamal Haasan see when he looks into the mirror every morning?
(Laughs) I see a writer, a filmmaker and a friend like none other in the world. But I don’t talk to or through the mirror. I use the camera instead.
What do you do on a day when you’re not shooting?
I’m an ardent movie buff. I can watch three-four movies if I have time on my hands. I have a collection of 2000 films. Some I’ve seen at least 20-30 times. I also write, I’ve penned over 10 screenplays.
What are you doing today?
I’m in Hyderabad, at Ramoji Film Film City, shooting for the Tamil- Telugu remakes of A Wednesday. It’s the fifth day of the shoot. It’ll take us another 50-55 days to wrap up the film.
Why A Wednesday?
The film was recommended to me by colleagues and friends. Once I saw it, I decided I had to remake it and acquired the rights through UTV.
Apparently the rights were sold to you without producers Anjum Rizvi and Sheetal Bhatia and the writer-director Neeraj Pandey being paid their dues.
That’s between UTV and them. It’s best they sorted out the matter themselves. Why should I get involved?
Your daughter, Shruti, is scoring the music for both versions but the original Hindi film was songless?
It had music but it went unnoticed. I hope Shruti does a better job. She can’t let me down.
Do you know that the film was rejected at the Toronto Film Festival because it didn’t meet the criteria of an Indian movie?
Really? How can you have fixed perceptions of anything? These festival organisers live in a Utopian world. They live in a different time zone.
Why should we give them so much importance? It’s more important to be accepted by your own people in your own country. If your film works at the box office, it’s an Oscar in itself.
Why is the dubbed Hindi version of Dasavatharam releasing after a year?
That’s a question I have been asking the producers for the last one year. The original Tamil film was a huge success. But after that, we all got busy with our individual projects. Now, we’re back together.
The movie might have done better had it released last June?
I don’t want to get negative. And it’s stupid to analyse a hypothetical situation. Right now, there are no big releases with it. Even if there were, I’m sure Dasavatharam would have stood its ground.
So you’re cashing in on the impasse between the producers-distributors and multiplex owners in the city that has resulted in a freeze on new releases?
We’ve been planning to release the Hindi version of Dasavatharam for seven months. We couldn’t for technical reasons. The strike could help the film’s run but the movie’s success doesn’t depend on it.
Asin is a saleable name post Ghajini. Will she help in bringing in the crowds?
Asin has worked her way through the ladder. She was almost there when she did this movie. She became the No. 1 actress in Tamil cinema after Dasavatharam released. (Smiles) Dasavatharam helped her then.. now she can help the film.
What’s it like to be 54 and a father of two?
(Laughs) I find two more pleasing.. it has to do with my girls. And the advancing years haven’t had a negative impact on my
mobility or ability to conceive cinematic ideas.
If you see
, it will be hard to pinpoint my age since I belong to so many different age groups. As myself, I look 32. Occasionally, one has to cheat but I don’t feel 54 yet.
Does Shruti ask you for professional advice?
When we’re in need, we both consult each other. Otherwise, she’s pretty much on her own.. finding her own ground.
I’m more experienced but that’s only by default. Shruti has the leading edge because she is from the Gen Next. She’s more modern in her approach.
Will we get to see the two of you in a film together soon?
We wouldn’t mind but till we get a good script, we can’t do anything except wait.
Her debut Hindi film, Luck, is looking to a June release. Have you seen it?
I have seen the working stills. She would often tell me stories about her day on the sets.. all that she had done. I don’t interfere.
She must find her own ways through challenges. (Smiles) It’s not a Rajkamal International film. The day she works for my production company, I will pinpoint things to her.. tell her how to improvise.
Your younger daughter, Akshara, is a renowned dancer. Will she follow in your footsteps too?
I don’t know. Kids today have a mind of their own. When I was making Chachi 420, I had offered her a role. She was four or five then. She said she would think about the offer and let me know if she was interested. She thought for a day and said “no”.
Later, she reconsidered. She told me, “I know you didn’t like my answer so I will do your film. But I won’t shoot for more than three days. I have school.. and I have to play a too.”
(Laughs) Imagine she was a star even then! She eventually didn’t do Chachi 420. I needed a child artiste for 40 days. Now, she thinks she should have done it. She’s even admitted to me that she turned it down because she was scared.
Do you get along with Gautami’s daughter Subbalakshmi?
Sure. She’s nine going on 10, there’s still some time for her to enter the teens. Subbalakshmi is a curious child who asks lots of questions which is the sign of a thinking mind.
I’m relieved about that. (Laughs) Of course, sometimes, she asks questions which she shouldn’t ask. They are embarrassing and I don’t know what to tell her. She leaves me tongue-tied!
How do you look back at your relationships and the women you’ve been with?
My amma was the prettiest of all the women I’ve know. She’s gone now. My sister too got married and went away. My wives (Vani and Sarika) have left me as well.
Now I have my daughters and my newfound happiness, Gautami. There are times when one wants to cry, but can’t.. Despite the sadness in your heart, you have to wear a smile and keep moving on.
Popular actors down south have joined politics at some point. Aren’t you tempted too?
Why should I become a politician? I’d rather vote and get the right representatives in place. That’s more sensible.
India doesn’t need a leader and neither does it have to be led. It has to be run. And for that, we need younger politicians and a more positive approach. That will only happen if we all exercise our franchise and get the right candidate in office. I’ll vote for sure!