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Kamal Haasan’s transition from Nammavar to Ulaganayagan, and back

Decoding Kamal Haasan’s political and philosophical leanings on silver screen, we glimpse at different shades of the politician that the actor is set to become.

regional movies Updated: Feb 21, 2018 19:00 IST
Priyanka Sundar
Priyanka Sundar
Hindustan Times
Kamal Haasan,Kamal Haasan party name,Kamal Haasan Madurai
Nammavar Kamal Haasan and his politics on the silver screen.

As Kamal Haasan began his political tour from former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s residence in Ramanathapuram on Wednesday, he had a lot on his mind. Talking about the parallels between his cinematic and political inning, he said that even in his films he began as Nammavar, became Ulaganayagan and today is Nammavar again. Haasan’s films were a mirror of his political and philosophical thoughts. So, from Nammavar to Viswaroopam, here is how his cinema dealt with ideas, politics and beliefs.


Haasan played the role of a liberal professor who teaches his students to be responsible citizens. The film earned him the tag Nammavar (Our man) from his fans. In the film, he not only makes his students literate but educates them. From dancing with them to dealing with rogue students, the film is about leading life the responsible way.

Thevar Magan

Thevar Magan dealt with riots that stemmed from caste-based politics in a village. Thevar is the man who is at the helm of everyday affairs in his village. His son, played by Kamal Haasan, is a man who is educated in the city and wants nothing to do with the village. However, when his father dies suddenly, the son has to deal with how casteism is leading to loss of livelihood and life. This film is an iconic representation of the role caste plays in rural India.


Who can forget the iconic Indian thatha? Directed by Shankar, this film has the signature ‘questioning the corruption in style’ of Shankar stamped all over it. Kamal Haasan’s portrayal of the old man who is grieving his daughter’s loss came for a lot of applause. The film effectively used the ancient martial art technique, Varmakkalai. Indian was also chosen as India’s entry for Best Foreign Language film for Oscars in 1996-1997.

Hey Ram

The man who shot Gandhi is Nathuram Godse. This is not what Hey Ram is about. The film is about a parallel narrative that travels with Saket Ram who also plans to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Saket, who is invited by Gandhi to walk to Pakistan, changes his mind and decides to live by Gandhian principles. The film faced a lot of opposition before release and some even alleged that the film was a declaration of Kamal Haasan’s Hindutva agenda. Ironically, the actor has started his political journey against the “saffron party” as he calls it.

Anbe Sivam

Anbe Sivam, loosely translated, means love is God. In the film, Kamal Haasan plays the role of Nallasivam aka Nall who raises his voice against low pay given to labourers and corporate manipulation. An accident changes his life forever and he decides that love, not violence, is the solution to all problems in the world today. This film was written by Haasan and established the actor as a humanist.


If Anbe Sivam was an ode to love, Virumaandi was about the importance of forgiveness. One of the iconic dialogues by Haasan went, “Manika Therinjavan dhaan manushan, Aana Manippu kekka therinjavan thaan periya manushan.” It means that a man who knows how to forgive is human, but a man who knows to ask for forgiveness is better. The film centred on this one ideal.


The film which had Kamal Haasan play 10 different roles touched upon many facets of the society that we live in today. One of which was about biological warfare and terrorism. This film touched upon the importance of research and the role that scientists and inventors play today in the larger scheme of life. This film was more of a commentary on where we are headed globally.

Unnaipol Oruvan

A remake of Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday, Unnaipol Oruvan (A Man Like You), is about how a common man can change the society once he sets his mind to it. It is also about the ethics of vigilante justice and the balance between right and wrong.

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First Published: Feb 21, 2018 18:25 IST