The director who escaped Kamal’s brilliance!
the final analysis of 2009 was carried out there
were a few films that kept repeating themselves
in almost all the lists. One among them was Unnaipol
Oruvan. It was arguably the best movie, had the
best performances and had the strongest impact
on the audience. Of course, this result was expected
from the movie because the man behind it was Kamal
Haasan. That is a fair enough claim. But aren’t
there more people who also deserve to be called
the ‘man behind the film’. I am not
talking about Mohanlal or Neeraj Pandey or UTV.
Perhaps you might have noticed the trailers and
promos of Unnaipol Oruvan which said loud and
clear: A Film by Chakri Toleti. This name seems
to have been rather unceremoniously forgotten
once the film was released and went on to become
a big success in all aspects.
speaking, Chakri Toleti is the most important
person in the movie, its director. But, his name
was hardly mentioned or remembered in the aftermath
of the movie’s success. Everyone talked
about Kamal, Mohanlal and the rare few noticed
Ganesh Venkataraman and even lesser
took note of Shruthi Haasan. How often does it happen
that a director gets almost no credit for a movie’s
success? Never! But, Unnaipol Oruvan was a special case
and Kamal got all the limelight and applause. Wait,
is this the case only for Unnaipol Oruvan or have we
seen something similar before. Yes, similar things have
happened before. I had written something more than a
year back which had carried almost the same idea. The
only difference was that the name Chakri Toleti was
substituted by K.S. Ravikumar and the movie was Dasavatharam.
Even as illustrious director as K.S. Ravikumar had found
it tough to get his share of attention and applause
from the audience for a movie like Dasavatharam. It
is almost always the case with Kamal Haasan movies that
the director is forgotten in the torrent of praise and
accolades that are showered on the Universal Star. It
can be said that the sheer brilliance of Kamal often
blinds us to the efforts of the director. Sometimes
(as is the case of Unnaipol Oruvan) the amount of attention
focused on Kamal and his brilliance and the relative
oblivion of the director gives the impression that the
movie could have in fact been ghost directed by the
man himself. We have many examples which prove that
it is extremely difficult for a director to create an
impression with a Kamal starrer because of the overwhelming
skill and popularity of the star. The thing to note
here is that all the credit of a movie, even the discredit
goes only and only to Kamal. It is funny to see how
even the flaws in a movie are seen as Kamal’s
responsibility when somebody else is actually the director.
Remember the amount of doubts and criticism that Dasavatharam
had to face; not one of them held KSR responsible, everyone
was taking it out at Kamal.
But, this tendency of Kamal’s sheer brilliance
to overshadow the skills of the director is not new.
This can be traced as far back as the days of Thevar
Magan. I am not sure how many people actually know that
the film was directed by Bharathan, everyone sees it
as a Kamal film. So is the case with Mahanadi or Guna
or Michael Madana Kamarajan. The classic example maybe
Anbe Sivam, directed by Sundar C. Now, how many of you
will dare call Anbe Sivam a Sundar C movie? I bet even
the director himself wouldn’t do that.
It can be said that all Tamil cinema fans are like devotees
and their idol is Dr. Kamal Haasan. The devotees tend
to attribute anything that happens in their life as
the will of God. Similarly, Tamil cinema fans attribute
everything that happens in a Kamal starrer to Kamal
himself, irrespective of whether he is the director
or not. Such a comparison might be viewed as an antithesis
to Kamal’s thoughts and (non)beliefs, but I couldn’t
find a better analogy.
But, it is not Kamal Haasan’s fault that his directors
don’t get noticed much. It is his high standards
and perfectionism that attracts all attention towards
him. It can never be said that Kamal tried to usurp
credit from his directors. In fact, there is a school
of thought among Kamal fans that most of his classic
films have been directed by him. The official director
has directed the film in naught but name. That is a
very lofty claim, something that Kamal himself will
refute. But, knowing his talents and brilliance, it
doesn’t look completely unbelievable too.
Yes, it is tough for a director to create an impression
with a Kamal starrer even if he does a good job. But,
there are a select few who have managed this tough feat.
We don’t have to go all the way back to Nayagan
and Mani Rathnam. Even in this decade there have been
a few instances when directors have managed to garner
attention with a Kamal starrer. KSR sort of pulled it
off with Panchathantiram (but that was because it was
a multistarrer), Saran too had a fairly close shot with
Vasool Raja. But, the man who did it without a shadow
of doubt has to be Gautham Vasudev Menon with Vettaiyaadu
Vilaiyaadu. It was not a multi-starrer, it was a well
executed movie, it showcased a stylish and restrained
performance from Kamal and in spite of all that it is
remembered as a Gautham Menon movie. Yes, Kamal’s
brilliance did shine throughout the movie, but never
did anyone forget that the entire movie was directed
by the man who gave us Kaakka Kaakka. That is perhaps
the only instance in the decade when Kamal’s brilliance
has not overshadowed a director’s contribution.
In fact we can say in jest that Gautham is one of the
few directors who escaped the effects of Kamal Haasan’s
brilliance. Let’s see who does it next.
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