Anuja Chandramouli



A controversial hero!, Kamal Haasan, Vishwaroopam


Kamal Haasan is currently locked in a tussle with the theatre owners regarding his groundbreaking decision to release his magnum opus, Vishwaroopam on the Direct – to – Home (DTH) platform. The plan was to charge Rs 1000 for the Tamil version and Rs 500 for the Telugu and Hindi versions but the theatre owners are having none of it. At the time this article is being written, the release of the trilingual in theatres as well as DTH has been postponed. Kamal Haasan has said that he will not let down his DTH partners and the film will be released in both formats at his convenience. He has also issued legal notices to 13 persons who according to him have blocked the film’s release. And the standoff continues with Kamal Haasan being the proverbial unstoppable force and his opponents, the immovable object. One gets a feeling of déjà vu as this is certainly not the first time, Kamal Haasan has churned up a controversy and will certainly not be the last.

Over the course of a rich career Kamal Haasan has repeatedly proved that he is a risk taker. In the early days, when he had carved a cozy little niche for himself as the eternal lover boy who danced like a dream he chose to avoid getting typecast and took risks and began experimentation on a scale that was certainly unprecedented. The results resulted in a veritable smorgasbord of gourmet delights for connoisseurs of Tamil cinema. With his Sappaani character from 16 Vayathinilae, Kamal proved that only he can play such a thankless character, somehow make him endearing and have the audience rooting for him. He sparkled as the serial killer in Sivappu Rojakkal, dazzled as the dwarf in Apurva Sagothargal, was haunting as the star – crossed lover in Punnagai Mannan, made you laugh till you hurt in Michael Madan Kamarajan, turned in an Academy award worthy performance in Nayakan and won your head and your heart in Thevar Magan.

Thanks to his artistic recklessness, Kamal Haasan has three National awards and more Filmfare awards than any other actor. The controversies followed thick and fast. The Thevars objected to manner in which they had been portrayed in Thevar Magan, he was accused of showing the Mahatma in unflattering light in his Hey Ram, Sandiyar became Virumaandi because the leader of the Dalit party, Pudhiya Tamizhagam had protested, when Manmadhan Ambu hit the screens one of the songs – Kannodu Kannai Kalandhal was chopped off as it was felt that lyrics portrayed Hinduism in unflattering light. Kamal Haasan has famously made light of his tendency to attract controversy but the flip side is that the actor seems to have become increasingly alienated and withdrawn into a tortoise shell of his own artistic sensibilities.

In the past, perhaps as a direct consequence of the tension fraught upheavals his films seem to generate, Kamal has opted to create showcases for himself that have mostly had mixed results since such ventures usually try to bring out every single skill in an actor’s repertoire which may not have the best results for the end product. However, Kamal Haasan’s dedication to his craft is unmatched as he has shown more often than anybody can remember. He puts himself through all manner of physical discomfort, has no qualms marring his classic good looks opting to go with looks that can only be described as grotesque (think Guna or most of the characters he played on Dasavatharam), and he has shown unmatched courage both on and off the screen.

So with Vishwaroopam all set for release, some of us don’t really care about DTH or theatre owners. We just want  Kamal Haasan, the artiste extraordinaire to dazzle us with the genius of his performance. We wish the waves of controversy that seem to be buffeting him endlessly to cease and desist and to give us back our hero.

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