Uttama Villain- An immortal work by a mortal

Uttama Villain is Kamal Haasan cementing his intellect and his love for the medium that made a man out of a six-year-old boy.

Uttama Villain starts in a very unconventional way for a vehicle carrying one of the biggest stars in Tamil cinema in a supposedly comedy caper. We are immediately introduced to a middle-aged superstar Manoranjan (Kamal Haasan), not in his fame alone, but also behind his fame.

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He is an alcoholic trying to stave off consistent headaches.

He owes much of his financial success to his father-in-law, who is a film producer.

His teenage son is busy trying to make out with his girlfriend during his father’s film screening.

He himself has an extramarital affair with his family doctor Aparna (Andrea Jeremiah).

He has fathered another child with a woman named Yamini and has just discovered about this.

All this is revealed within the first 30 minutes or so of the movie.

Doesn’t make for a very pretty picture about the man behind the stardom. But that was what the title implies- Uttama Villain. There is no grand introduction here for Kamal Haasan, because this is a story about a man, not a hero. A man with all his flaws, who realises that he is dying and wants to make one last film with mentor-director (K Balachander) to immortalise himself beyond the limited time he has left on earth.

There is no judgement of bad or good. It’s a humble, at times too honest a portrayal of a movie star who tries for one last hurrah, to do justice to his own existence. And as expected, while exploring a topic as deep as life and death, Kamal Haasan, the ever renowned atheist, does not try to justify it with religion, but leaves the justifications, vague, almost open to interpretation.

In the final scenes of the movie, Manoranjan will be wheeled to the hospital as his illness finally gets the better of him. But even in his final moments, he would be begging KB to allow him to take one more shot of a song they were shooting. KB acknowledges that Mano would never be happy until the final edit, but tells him, “listen to me this one time.” There was no retake. The superstar did not get to see the final edit, of what, poignantly, is the montage of his best performance to date.

As his family, from his long lost daughter, to his estranged wife, all gathered to cheer at his performance in a hospital, he breathes his last under surgery. He has done his part.

Then there is the recurring theme of the movie- “There is nothing sadder than immortality. There would be no listeners to an endless story.”

This was not a Ramesh Aaravind-Kamal Haasan comedy gala. Yes, the final movie Manoranjan ends up making is a comedy caper involving a folklore story involving a 8th century street artiste. Here, we are treated to generous dosage of laughter fits while admiring Kamal’s stunning eye movements and graceful Theyyam performances.

But the mainframe story, which runs parallel with the comedy film being shot, is as serious as it gets. While the comedy film tells of king who wishes immortality, in the mainframe, we have superstar who is trying to face his own mortality the best way he can. The way he interacts with his son, his wife, his love, his long-lost daughter, is not upscaled drama alone- it’s real, it’s imperfect, it’s full of human interactions. If you wear your heart of your sleeve, it would be difficult to keep your eyes dry in any one of these moments.

Kamal Haasan displays five dimensions here- first as the raging superstar, almost being a self-critical parody of his own self, which takes plenty of guts, as the comedic street artiste, as the Theyyam performer with an amount of grace so unreal for a 60-year-old (the finale Iraniyan Nadagam was epic), as the poet-singer (he wrote and sang most of the songs and you’d be hard pressed to find better theatre modulation and lyrics in any other album), and finally, as the man who wrote a parallel screenplay with such finesse.

Adding another dimension to the two dimensions existing in the movie, this is Kamal Haasan in an indirect way trying cement his own immortality while facing his own mortality at the age of 60. He’s not trying to appear young anymore, he’s trying to accept that he is middle aged.

Pooja Kumar at times looks out of place in the folklore setting, but it’s difficult to find chinks in a film with such heavy emotional performances. This movies does not have a cameo from K Balachander, in fact, it has the most extensive supporting role KB has ever played in a movie. And he is brilliant in every single frame he appears alongside his most prised disciple.

Andrea as Aparna shines in a grey role, who unconditionally loves Mano despite being unable to be formally recognised to the public as the wife. Urvashi is also brilliant as Mano’s wife who suffers from her own mid-life crisis. MS Bhaskar steals the show, however, as his manager, and it’s such a great pleasure an actor of his known calibre was given such a central pivot to the story.

Then there is the prodigous Ghibran with his stunning array of musical compositions. Uttama Villain is high on quality in the music department, though it must take a keen ear and an understanding of the folklore history to comprehend the amount of genius that flowed through the music department here.

But as the final montage says- “Love and intellect” are the immortal elements, one with which you cement your own immortality (said while juxtaposing with a legion of stars on the sky).

Uttama Villain is Kamal Haasan cementing his intellect and his love for the medium that made a man out of a six-year-old boy.

But it is an immortal body of work- not made for today alone, or tomorrow’s entertainment, but maybe for decades to come, for the times when there will be no Kamal Haasan peering over with his own genius smile and his impeccable love and experimentation of the medium.

The only question is if this depth resonates with the audience of today. But if there is anyone questioning their own mortality without any religious twist to it, UV is as inspirational, real, and close to heart as it gets.

There are movies and then there are movies. This is the latter.

I’m glad to be part of the crowd who resonated with the love and intellect of this particular galaxy of stars. The thing is, this legion of stars forms one personality- Kamal Haasan, in his many hats.

Multitasking didn’t always work well for Kamal, but when you make a honest movie, it all falls into place. It did.

UV is a movie for the shelves. It will come again handy someday. It celebrates death. It celebrates going away with a bang. It resonates with a man who had lost his guru

KB sir must be beaming from wherever he is. In Kamal Haasan, KB’s intellect has been immortalised.

Thank you Kamal, for being on the dais, for daring to write this.

Uthama Villain- Music Review by Ram Anand

In fact, this album packs so much quality you would run out of words to pour on the soundtrack.

When Uthama Villain was first announced, it was termed as a dark comedy about an ageing superstar, which gave the impression to a lot of film buffs (like me) that Kamal Haasan is doing one of those mandatory stopover comedies before releasing the much anticipated Vishwaroopam 2. Kamal had directed and wrote Vishwaroopam 2 himself, so that obviously is a more serious project compared to Uthama Villain, which was written by Kamal but nevertheless directed by Kamal’s close friend Ramesh Aravind.

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But the first look of the film and the subsequent trailer had begun giving us a glimpse about Uthama Villain, and the glimpse isn’t as straightforward as many had expected it to be. The film doesn’t feel like your regular jaunt of Kamal Haasan comedy. This was packing much more depth than just mere humour, and M Ghibran’s album for Uthama Villain is a testament to that. In fact, this album packs so much quality you would run out of words to pour on the soundtrack.

It’s difficult to say whether it is Ghibran’s talent that makes Uthama Villain music soar, or whether it is the factor of having Kamal, whose musical knwoledge is also par excellence, in the recording studio. Kamal had crooned for most of the songs, and the soprano range of his voice is absolutely top shelf.His lyrics (he wrote most of the songs) are pure Tamil literature, a class of its own.

One of the best soundtracks in a Kamal Haasan movie in recent times, and one of the best BGMs found in a Kamal offering, and here’s why:

Love Aa (Kamal Haasan, Sharanya Gopinath)

The album starts with a foot tapping romantic number in Love Aa. Ghibran uses quirky touches to make this song standout in a highly diverse album. Kamal and Sharanya’s voice are enigmatic, and they compliment each other greatly and with absolutely uniqueness. Ghibran’s constant tweaking with instruments works extremely well and the creativity he shows in composing this number is comparable to the celebrated music directors in the industry. This number is likely to be accompanied by the only modern dance number of the film, and this will definitely stay in the charts for some time to come.

Kadhalaa Kadavul (Padmalatha)

If you don’t remember Ghibran’s previous albums, read Vaagai Sooda Vaa and the completeness of that stunning album, which was filled with extremely melodious numbers. And then you come to Kadhalaa and you are simply blown away. Padmalatha’s voice is a thing of beauty, and what’s more beautiful is Ghibran’s musical arrangements. The small interludes of a male voice, and the brilliant use of flute in the middle stanzas is the work of a musical genius. This song runs through effortlessly, like a perfect lullaby. And you are hoping that all the emotions that this track evokes is reflected in the film. Absolutely gorgeous and captivating.

Uthama Introduction (Kamal Haasan, Subhu Arumugam)

Now we enter the territory of Uthama Villain, the title of the movie, telling the story of a man can Uttaman. From here on, the album takes a storytelling turn, with plenty of Theyyam and Carnatic influences. Kamal’s knowledge in classical music and his soprano range means that he brings a wealth of talent to the musical table and Ghibran elevates it further with fantastic arrangements. Uthama introduction runs at just under three-minutes long, and the moment you are able to appreciate the classical notes in this number, you’ll be captivated. Subhu’s lyrics are brilliant, and Subhu Arumugam’s vocals compliment the style of the song. While this number does tell a story, it is by no means a boring composition. Ghibran ensures there are plenty of turns which excited the listener, and you end up tapping your foot at the high tempo of the beats. Addictive.

Saagavaram (Kamal Haasan)

Saagavaram is paced a little more quietly, telling the story of Uttaman pleading for immortality from his King. At just under three minutes, this is another masterful beauty. Kamal’s range of voice is captivating- he underplays the baritone of his voice and sets out on the pleading tone. There is a slight pang, something very poetic about the feel number. Kamal’s lyrics bring with it so much depth to the overall number. In a way, this song reminds one of the Dasavatharam number, but this packs so much more class, and rightly so.

Iraniyan Naadagam (Kamal Haasan, Rukmini Ashok Kumar)

Stunning! This is not so much about the composition, but that man- Kamal Haasan behind the mic. This is the tale of a King who is incensed that his own child is not praying to Him as the God. Kamal is voicing an agitated, bashful, and angry King. With plenty of Theyyam influences in the instruments, Kamal simply owns this number- more so after listening to Saagavaram. In the previous number, Kamal refrains the high pitch of his voice, and he goes all out here, at times reciting like an energetic poet. He is breathless, full of expression, and brings out the full soprano of voice. This about Kamal Haasan, the voice. How people never discuss Kamal’s talent behind the mic is beyond belief for me.

Also there was this brilliant bit of lyric in the middle where he says- “If anyone becomes God, everyone will start praying everywhere, even rubbish will end up in heaven, and thus the world will be destroyed.”

Mutharasa Kadhai (Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan)

This tells the story of another king in another kingdom (separate from Uttaman), and the music is once again majestic. Sofia’s Symphony orchestra accompanies the grandness of the carnatic beats brilliantly. Kamal again in his storytelling mode, while Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan, and Padmalatha lends vocals for a number that is filled with chants resembling the villagers and a slow progression of story telling. Would go extremely well with the movie.

The orchestra bits are a winner though.

Uthama Kadhai (Yazin Nizar, Ranjith Iyappan, M.S. Bhaskar)

Undoubtedly the best number of the album. Yes it tells a story but the symphony is used generously in this number, to a captivating effect. M.S. Bhaskar’s vocals at the beginning makes you wonder why he had not been behind the mic more often that he has. The percussion, arrangement, and slow haunting symphony builds up as we are narrated the story of how villagers considered Uttaman a ghost after he returned from death. The vocals and the different pitches throw is pleasant surprises for the first three minutes. Kamal starts storytelling in the middle stanza onwards- but yet again the symphony is so magical that you could continue listening to the number that stretches over seven minutes long. This song displays Ghibran’s talent at its best, and what a talent it is. And of course, it closes with the haunting Uthama Villain theme.

Take a bow, Ghibran.

While I am not going to review all the instrumental numbers one by one, I have picked the two best instrumental numbers for mention.

One, of course, is the Uthama Villain theme, which is haunting, and again displays an absolute genius at work- look at the orchestra use in the build up. Probably the best theme music you would get to hear in a long time.

The second, is the Letter to Yamini, an instrumental love ballad, which Gibran builds up with some of the brilliant mix of piano and sitar touches. When the orchestra kicks in, the instrumental takes a life of its own- its epic, its haunting, and it tells so much without as much as a single word. I rarely pick up on instrumentals, and I’m not going to compare Ghibran’s work here with anyone else. That would be an insult.

This man is a genius on his own.

And it’s a pity he had not composed for more movies.

This is the work of a genius and an epic album. 

Rating: 10/10

Picks: Love Aa, Kadhalaa, Uttama Intro, Uttama Kadhai, Uthama Theme, Letter to Yamini, Iraniyam Naadagam (basically most of the album).

 

 

Kamal 60- Best eight scenes of Kamal Haasan

“As they wail and cry there, If I chant Rama here, would Rama be happy? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your Rama and tell me.”

It is difficult to digest the work of someone who had done hundreds of films, acted in hundreds of different roles, and has donned the hat of actor, writer, director, singer, lyricist and what not on screen. It’s not easy to encapsulate Kamal Haasan’s body of work that has spanned over five decades of versatility.

Kamal 60

What I’ve done below is to try and surmise all that into eight defining scenes from my favourite Kamal Haasan movies over the years, dissecting them in my attempt to understand the nuances and body of his work. These scenes didn’t need to be about Kamal’s best performance in terms of acting abilities alone, it also may about how the scene is arranged, and how this genius often plays around with semantics with the scenes in which he is involved.

Most of these movies are either written or directed by Kamal himself, so the semantics of the scenes transcend his acting alone. Probably that is why generally popular movies like Apoorva Sagodhargal (in which he played a midget), and the legendary Nayakan (generally accepted as one of his best performances) is not listed here. Because for these scenes, I’m looking at the Kamal-heavy touch.

Vishwaroopam’s transformation scene (2013)

You can forgive the man if he was doing an ode to himself with this scene. Rightfully, he did because he can. This was an intense fight scene that was conceptualised, choreographed, written, directed and performed immaculately by Kamal himself.

Caught by terrorists who are ready to kill him, Kamal’s character is trembling with apparent fear as he accepts the fact that he is going to die. He begs for an opportunity for one last prayer, asking them to untie his hands. At the smack conclusion of the prayers, he kills everyone within distance (about eight people) within a span of just as many seconds (two slow water drops).

This scene took three days to shot, understandably so, as it was not another fight scene. It was the defining moment of the movie, and every move was immaculately sequenced by none other than Kamal himself.

Again, it is the play with semantics that is the most appealing. The water drops represent the speed with which he commits the killing, underlining the fact that this man is a highly trained, expertly skilled killer. The gore shown the killing- he steps on someone’s face, punctures eyeballs with his index fingers, grabs someone by the crotch, and cuts off someone’s hands, again underlines what he is capable of.

The woman watching the scene unfold in front of her is amazed and horrified at the same time. While she’s amazed at the transformation, she is also horrified at how coldly he executes everyone in the room. Just moments earlier, she had seen her boyfriend shot in the head by the terrorists. A fight scene had never contained so many layers.

Hey Ram’s brotherhood scene (1999)

Maybe you think Shah Rukh Khan can’t really act, and all he does was the regular machoness and bravado that brings in the box office moolah. But there was this scene in Hey Ram where that household name SRK came close to matching Kamal in an intense scene set during the communal riots in India. Again, the genius here is Kamal because he wrote and directed his scene, perfectly if I can add.

This timeless classic has long-lost friends Ram (Kamal) and Amjad (SRK) meeting each other while they are stuck in the midst of communal riots between Hindus and Muslims during India’s partition days. Ram and Amjad were like brothers once upon a time, but now Ram is just hell bent on killing anyone who is Muslim to avenge his Bengali wife’s rape and death.

The anger shows in Kamal’s eyes. And Amjad is trying to reason with him, trying to find a semblance of a man who used to call him a brother. Towards the end of the scene, an angry Kamal who is blaming Gandhi, the one who is telling Amjad to go back to Pakistan, suddenly becomes protective when he knows Hindu extremists are around the corner and that Amjad would be shot if they found him. The brotherhood is suddenly rekindles. Amjad teases him with it, but Ram just wants his best friend safe.

“Gandhi was right after all, we can be brothers.”- Amjad says.

The dialogue was written by Kamal.

Anbe Sivam’s who is God (2003)

No Kamal Haasan list can ever be completed without this scene. This scene is not about what Kamal does, but is about what Kamal does in the background of the scene.

Madhavan had just seen a boy, who survived a train crash and had just been transfused with Maddy’s rare blood group, die in the ambulance en route back to his own family. He is questioning the “design” and the poetic justice in giving the boy renewed hope and then abruptly snatching away. A religious person, he is questioning God’s wisdom.

Kamal, whose jaw is deformed following an accident, who limps while walking, is sitting next to him. Even while Madhavan is there ranting and emotionally raving about the boy’s lost hope, Kamal could be seen twitching his jaw- which is the trait of his facial deformation. He, not for a single second, failed to do this in the entire movie. He literally lived under the skin of the character.

Kamal, then, half sarcastically, half poignantly, explains God to Madhavan.

“The ability to cry for a kid that you never knew, that is God,” he says. Again, this scene was not directed, but it was written completely by Kamal. The dialogues are priceless.

“How do you know (that I am God)?” Madhavan asks.

“Because I am also God.”

“Who told you that?”

“A lady with a tea stall up the hill told me. You don’t understand right? You shouldn’t. That is God,” he says, nonchalantly, with a twitching jaw. Even in that strain of acting, he emanates the wisdom of theological understanding.

To do a scene like this in a country that is so predominantly entrenched in religious rituals even while starting a movie, and at the front credits of a movie, required guts. That’s one thing Kamal’s creativity never lacked. It always came with boldness to venture into new territories.

This was the scene that showed him not only as an actor, but also a thought leader.

Mahanadhi’s where is the justice (1994)

Good actors can act out a scene. Great actors can bring emotions to a scene. Legendary actors can spark a seemingly innocuous scene with just, just, their facial contortions. Kamal’s character is watching his daughter, whom he had just rescued from a brothel, sleep. She starts mumbling in her sleep, and he is watching her heartbroken.

At one point, the daughter mumbles, “viddingeda thevadiya pasangala”, and his facial reaction changes drastically. You get the pang. He can’t bear listen to his daughter speak such language. He breaks down, he wails, he cries, almost like mourning. Her innocence is lost. His sense of injustice is heavy on these shoulders.

His sits on the stairs with his love interest and questions social justice.

“Why does a bad man get all the respect a good man is supposed to get? Why then, did people tell me to be like Gandhi and Rama when I grew up?” he asks.

“What sins did I do that I had to continue suffering like this?” he cries. You could almost feel the pain. You could almost feel injustice. You can definitely feel the defeated soul. His facial contortion had showed how ugly the fabric and laws of society can be.

The scene was written by Kamal.

Unnal Mudiyum Thambi’s I didn’t do anything wrong (1987)

In this K Balachander epic, Gemini Ganesan, a carnatic musician, is fuming mad at his son, Kamal, because the latter could not make it to the father’s temple performance. Kamal was instead busy saving lives after a group of slum huts burned in a raging fire. His father disapproves of Kamal’s proximity with the “lower caste” people.

Kamal comes back home after a long day and apologises to his father. His father insists that Kamal had done wrong by choosing to save lives rather than serving God.

Now, Kamal is angry. He had saved lives and is being derided for it.

“As they wail and cry there, If I chant Rama here, would Rama be happy? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your Rama and tell me.”

His father chooses to fast for two days to make up for his son’s “sins”. Kamal insists that he deserves a good meal at least, and serves himself a large helping. But slowly, the ego gives way to a son’s yearning. Tears form.

“In other houses, if their son did something like this and came back home, they would give a pat on the back. But he, he wants to fast,” he says, never taking any rice, just feeling defeated.

Thevar Magan’s the seed is mine (1991)

This is where two towering legends did their battle in the courtyard. Who won? I don’t know. Such was the gravitas you can only admire. Sivaji waits at home for his son, Kamal to return from visiting one of their fellow villagers at the hospital. Kamal is disturbed by the communal violence in the village and wants to go back to the city where he had been educated. He wants to become and entrepreneur. He’s about to tell that to his father.

His father is shocked. He tries to reason with his son. The son invites the father to leave the village behind and come with him, but the father refuses. “This body will die here.”

“Go, then, go. You change the villagers here. Try to bring them there. But, they will only come slowly.”

“But father, I might be dead by the time they change.”

“Die, die, everyone has to die someday, right? But before that live a life that is useful to others. Do you expect to eat the fruit right after planting the seed? Today I will plant the seed. Tomorrow your son will eat the seed. I won’t be alive to see all of that. But the seed, is mine!”

The intense argument fritters into both father and son becoming emotional towards the end, but in between a classic, timeless dialogue, written by Kamal himself, had been delivered.

Decades later, Kamal used the same dialogue in a real life situation when he faced the threat of bankruptcy due to attempts to ban Vishwaroopam.

Kurudhi Punal’s let me die with honour (1997)

One of Kamal’s best movies was the underrated 1997 flick Kurudhi Punal, about a bunch of cops attempting to infiltrate a radical terrorist group. In the final scene of the movie, Kamal, the police officer, who had been captured by the terrorists, is being tortured endlessly to get him to reveal the details about his covert operation.

A broken teeth, heavily deformed face, and splitting blood, Kamal tells the terrorist, “Sollamaaten, da!” in an almost childlike manner, as if he is learning to speak again midst of all that blood. When a fighting ensues and his covert agent comes close to being identified, Kamal asks his own subordinate to kill him, as that is the only way the covert agent will continue climbing up the ranks of the organisation.

“Kill me, my man! Let me die with honour!” he exclaims before being gunned to death.

Virumaandi’s dead grandmother (2004)

This scene is all about intensity. Kamal crawls in playfully to his house to sneak up on his grandmother, who appears to be sleeping. But turns out, she is dead. He is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is now orphaned and had lost the only blood relation he had left. He curses her and mourns her at the same time.

“Naaye, thaaye” he cries (calling her both a dog and a mother.)

Virumaandi, written and directed by Kamal, was about the consequences of capital punishment and was a subtle call to abolish death penalty.

 

Inspirations at 25

The filmmaker inside me might not have a shot a single scene since 2011 (when I shot a music video for a friend), but this is not my trade for me to be rusty after two, or even five years. This, is my talent.

Sometimes, when you reach a certain age, you are no longer able to differentiate between a half empty and a half full glass. It’s a mixture between enthusiasm and also fear. But gladly, for me, the fears do not revolve around job security, future, finances, or marriage.

Instead, it is about making my dreams come true that still consumes me and morphes into my greatest fear and also my greatest enthusiasm at the same time. It scares the shit out of me but yet it is what keeps going with passion and zeal every day.

But I choose to feel proud, over the fact that 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary since I first decided that I would eventually become an author and a filmmaker. Of course, I can somehow, in my own twisted way, call myself an author, thanks to my self published 2011 novel The Rainforest Unicorns, and also my unpublished 500-page saga Last Man Dreaming, which I completed back in June.

But the ambition of becoming a filmmaker has somehow been neglected and has taken a back seat in the midst of me focusing on my increasingly consuming yet fruitful career in journalism, while balancing it with my hours doing creative writing.

It is a bit of let down for a man who wrote his first full film script at the age of 19, which I still have today, six years later, and could still use with minimal tweaks, to make my first full feature film (if anyone would give me that money). It is also a bit of let down for a man who first envisioned a science fiction story spanning a trilogy at the age of 16, (a story that I later re-developed twice in the form of novel drafts, and plan to write a three-part book sometime later).

Circumstances, though, aren’t the same for everyone. Being born in Malaysia and harbouring these dreams are not easy. You know, you kinda have to make a living, and nobody will tell you that pursuing these dreams will put food in your mouth when it matters.

Of course, it’s not easy anywhere in the world, but here, we don’t even have decent opportunities to explore our filmmaking ambitions to begin with. It’s a pain in the ass to get a proper team with proper technical knowledge, and it’s an even bigger pain in the ass to get actors who can actually act given that drama schools are run as though they are for the elite (read, for those who can afford that extra time which doesn’t pay). The rest, we all rot in our offices, slowly clobbering our passion to death with each passing punch card.

Given all these factors, I woke up yesterday to being told that it’s my birthday and I’ve failed to reach the target I set for myself ten years ago, which is to become a director by the age of 25.

But then again, I bask in the fact that nothing has changed- the enthusiasm remains the same, the passion remains the same, and the inspirations come in abundance. The filmmaker inside me might not have a shot a single scene since 2011 (when I shot a music video for a friend), but this is not my trade for me to be rusty after two, or even five years. This, is my talent.

The 16-year-old still lives inside me, and that my spark of inspiration, and the many inspirations after that, remain vivid in my thoughts till today. Looks like no amount of years can eat away into that passion.

Luckily, my passion is still alive. Now, I owe to myself to take it by the scruff of the neck and start making real progress. I might have starved my passion, but now is the time to feed it again.

And, in a rush, all minute moments of inspiration that made me who I am today comes rushing back to my fodder of thoughts, and my fodder of writing.

My moments of inspirations with those teachers of mine whom do not even know they have been guiding me all along:

1. That English teacher whose name I do not remember- when I was 16 and in Form 5. This was when I attempted to write a story and pass it off as an essay for my SPM trials, and she gave me 48 out of the 50 marks available. She attempted to get me to write for the school magazine, but that failed miserably (because I always exceeded the word limit), and she finally gave up while warning to keep my words in check when I write the real examination. But my overzealous self did not listen of course, I wrote a story for 1,000 plus words for my SPM essay and flunked with a B because I gloriously exceeded the word limit.

2. A Biology lecturer I vaguely remember from my short stint at Nilai college, who saw me writing a short story at 8am in the morning in the lab, half an hour before a Biology class during my American Degree Programme course there. He told me, you don’t belong here. He couldn’t have been more right, though I never had the time or maturity back then to thank him.

3. Kamal Haasan, for teaching me what real acting was. For Anbe Sivam, in which you never missed a single twitch in your jaw when you played a man disfigured from a serious accident. For having that innocent smile on your face, for redefining what is joy and also loss, on screen.

4. Mani Ratnam, my guru, for those title credits and the first scene of Aayitha Ezhuttu which stirred something inside me, the building tempo of background music, and the almost careless way with which you portrayed the character of a hit man, ranting on about his wife, moments before committing murder. For giving me that first moment inspiration.

5. Mani Ratnam, again for that climax in Raavanan, which keeps playing in my head as if it’s a form of poetry in motion, for the thoroughly brilliant portrayal of shades of grey in both the perceived evil and the perceived duty bound man in today’s world. For blurring the lines, for making Seetha come close to touching Raavan but pulling him away at the last moment, without ever showing what happened next. Thanks, for being a genius.

6. Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman for those numerous times in which you showed that I’m not a over romantic fool for dreaming about making Indian movies and not Hollywood movies like how the rest of the world seems to think. For showing that art exists even in our song sequences, for showing the songs in Indian movies is not about running around trees like how some self-absorbed tools think, but is rather a great vehicle to tell a story within a story. For shooting Pachai Nirame, which portrayed the different colours of love with such effervescent beauty, for Usure Pogudhey, which could make any filmmaker worth his salt take his hat down and applaud with sheer jealousy as to how it was shot, conceived, composed, and written.

7. Kamal Haasan, again, for making Hey Ram, which showed it is possible to make world class movies in Indian cinema.

8. For that random chance with which I got my hands on a Paulo Coelho novel back in 2007, which taught me a great lesson- that I’m not a filmmaker alone, but rather a storyteller. For showing me that I had an author inside me.

And above all, a thanks to my continuously superficial self which listed eight inspirational moments in my life (being born on 8th, and having already made eight as my favourite number).

Not to forget, to all my friends, well wishers, family and loved ones who, over the years, have stopped laughing at my dreams and have instead nodded in subtle recognition of my talents.

Despite the fears that may envelope me and those who care for me, this should be the year for me to start making a dash for my dreams. I’ve walked on the sidelines for long enough, it’s time for enter the competition and start sprinting.

For that “director sir” inside me.

Vishwaroopam- Movie Review by Ram Anand

But as per Kamal’s own prediction, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will be a real pity if the Tamil audience for the umpteenth time lets down Kamal Haasan’s faith they, too, could appreciate mature movies. This is a challenge for Tamil cinema- will the bar be raised?

PROBABLY reaching the final leg of an illustrious career, Kamal Haasan understandably has threaded more dangerous waters of late in an attempt to realize all his ambitious projects. Apart from Manmadhan Ambu, which smacked of a film made by a man on vacation mode, Kamal has spent the best part of the last decade trying to materialize his dream projects, one way or another.

After handing over directorial reigns for Dasavatharam to KS Ravikumar despite it being one of Kamal’s more eloquent projects, the man probably learned that if he wants the product quality to do justice to the script’s potential, Kamal is better off directing it himself. And thus, Vishwaroopam was born, after nearly two years of being in production.

And that quality shows in Vishwaroopam- it is the evidence of two years’ worth of labor, though I do not think anybody could quite understand the amount of effort Kamal Haasan would have put into this project (as the writer, director, lyricist, lead actor, and producer). All we could do is watch in awe as he introduced to the audience as the rather feminine Kathak dancer, who rhymes impeccably to the beautiful composition called “Unnai Kaanadhu”. He walks with his Bhavanam, talks with it, and even bats his eyelids in a pleading manner even in the gravest of situation. You are busy laughing at him, for all his small antics, until the other side of the character is introduced- which is the core of Vishwaroopam. Yes, he stands up, whacks five baddies, and gives this one cold stare. Enough. That one look was enough to change the mood of the entire movie. This is a legend in his best elements.

I don’t intend to put in the spoilers for this movie, except that it is a generally a spy thriller based on the world of terrorism. But the movie’s biggest success is the different facets of Kamal Haasan competing with each other. There’s the feminine Kathak dancer, the young and fresh looking Jihadi who just joined a terrorist network in Afghanistan, the lyricist who wrote the beautiful and haunting lyrics of ‘”Anu Vidhaitha Boomiyile”, the man who sang the classical stanzas of Unnai Kaanadhu, and of course the filmmaker who started the movie with a rather silent silhouette shot of pigeons going around New York.

Kamal Haasan is excellent in almost everything that he had done in this movie. He makes you laugh, he makes you cringe, he makes you excited, and he also makes you feel- not for him, but for the life of a terrorist. The film is not advertorial for an anti-terrorism movement nor one for terrorism and conspiracy theories. It merely shows that the workings of the terrorist networks, and the state agencies that are also involved in the mad cat and mouse game. If anything, it says one thing- that terrorists are humans too. They are not demons who only know how to do one single thing in their lifetime.

Note the brilliant scene when he gives a running commentary on Osama bin Laden’s death, saying: “Manashala odu saave ipidi Deepavali mathiriya kondadarathe?” (do we celebrate a man’s death like Deepavali?)

The script is taut, though there are some rough edges that could use with some fine-tuning. But having watched the end credits, I am convinced that the loose ends of the film have actually been filmed but will be released in Vishwaroopam 2 (yes, there’s a sequel, but please, this movie must be a hit first before Vishwaroopam 2 can be released).

This is not Kamal Haasan’s best work as a director (Hey Ram and Virumaandi are both better works), but you can’t help to be amazed at the level of detail he brings to a film as a filmmaker. If Virumaandi portrayed the raw village life, Vishwaroopam details the working of a modern terrorist network with an almost alarming accuracy, and also the bomb plot in New York is not your typical run of the mill, “I have a terrorist, I have planted a bomb, and yet you can heroically defuse it” plot. It actually has a proper plot and a proper detail, not just bunch of headless chicken randomly running around the town looking for a bomb.

Pooja Kumar is decent in her debut, though not spectacular. She is however extremely pretty in some of the scenes. However, the real badass lady of the movie is definitely Andrea Jeremiah, who does to Vishwaroopam exactly what she did to Aayirathil Oruvan- bringing in some swagger and attitude, though she did dissipate towards the end of the movie. Shekhar Kapur also does a decent job, while Nassar in his short role was pretty convincing as a Afghani.

However, the real show stealer apart from Kamal is definitely Rahul Bose. There couldn’t have been a better choice for the role of an antagonist, and though he looks merely cold and vengeful in the scenes in New York, Bose at times overshadows Kamal himself with his brilliant performance as a young Afghani jihadi with his strong Pashto.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is tremendous though there’s no scope for any song and dance routine here, with the Unnai Kaanadhu number obviously taking the cake- aided by its beautiful choreography.

On a whole, Vishwaroopam pushes boundaries hiherto unseen in Tamil cinema, and the picture quality is sure to mesmerize you. The English subtitles shows Kamal’s seriousness in making a movie for an international audience and needless to say thats exactly what he had managed to achieve. This is not just a Tamil movie, but it has strong international standards thanks to the brains behind it.

But as per Kamal’s own prediction, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will be a real pity if the Tamil audience for the umpteenth time lets down Kamal Haasan’s faith they, too, could appreciate mature movies. This is a challenge for Tamil cinema- will the bar be raised?

Rating: 8/10

A Kamal life

Kamal Hassan has given a very expensive value to success indeed.

A few days ago, as I was watching Kamal Hassan’s 50 years in cinema commemoration event; Mamootty was giving a simple and straightforward speech about the man himself- stating that if so many people can praise and humble themselves in front of him, the sole reason that he is an actor, an artist of great caliber doesn’t justify all the praise Kamal gets, but instead, Kamal must have been a ‘great human being also’ in order to justify all that people shower on him.

I have read in various spaces how people constantly have waxed lyrical about Kamal’ s achievements and his credo that has taken him to great heights, and how his attempts influences and induces courage in some, and admiration in others. But how many of us had really given any kind of credit to Kamal Hassan for the man that he is, the person that he is?

It takes a very brave man, especially in an easily vindictive society like ours; it does take a very brave man to carve out his life entirely based on his ideologies. And that man was Kamal Hassan. One a many wouldn’t prefer to go to those areas which they consider ‘grey’ about him and discuss about it at any length, but I am more than happy to do so- and praise him with it as well. And the reason I had already stated above- it takes a very bold person to base his life upon his ideologies.

Kamal’s biggest point of controversy, as has been pointed out all these years- is that he was an atheist. First of all, let us acknowledge that fact that none of us, lest you or me, are aware of the entire truth as to what life breaks down to and what it is all about. All of us are travelers searching for that same faraway answer, and those hints we get, we keep them in our knapsack. Some of us have more hints (knowledge) than the others, but none, I can heartily and boldly state, knows the whole truth of it. Some find their calling and their purpose within the realms of religion, and Kamal finds his (as per his own words) in the society itself. There is nothing wrong in embracing those than you can see and attain a spiritual viewpoint based on that point itself. For the record, I’m not an atheist. But I will give all the credit in the world to Kamal for his ideas and his stronghold of them. I always say it takes a very strong person to be completely spiritual in a religious realm and also to be an ideological atheist. The former is because it takes a great man to be humble, non-assertive and completely submit himself to the powers that be above him. My friend once remarked to me that religion is a foundation and which we can fall upon, usually in times when life seems to be out of our control. All of us face hardships in life, but it does take a great man to discard that foundation so early in his life. What would that man fall back on? To entirely keep faith all by himself- that quality is as admirable as any.

His ideologies are universally adaptable- you can tell them to a Christian, a Muslim, A Hindu, and a Buddhist and it would ring true every time- Love is God. I have seen plenty of people who know perfectly well how to love God, but are the worst when it comes to loving those around them. Love each other- that credo is the same in every single religion in this world, and Kamal lives beyond the confinement that keeps us separated from each other with sensitive barriers. If everyone takes that credo and believes Love is God, will there be any terrorists left in the world? Will there be Any soul that would wield a knife and stab someone without being wretched by guilt for what he has done?

Some like to point to his family life as an indication of his imperfection- but which of us are perfect? The path Kamal has threaded was a path that he wants depending only on his passion and his ideologies. It wasn’t a familiar path- in fact I might say, he alone took up that road and travelled in it. He is bound to have made mistakes along the way- and lest I assert that he has paid the price and faced the consequences of his own mistakes. I have visited layman houses in India and find they do not think highly of that man just because he was married twice and at one stage of his life;was having children out of wedlock. But still for the young generation that would like to travel that same path, his journey is marked before us, so that we know what mistakes we could avoid to reach his heights. Normally we point at a loser and say- ‘Look, don’t do what he did, and you’ll be fine’. And yet today, we stare with such glaring amazement at the pinnacle of a mountain- despite stumbling, and being discredited along the way, he still conquered that mountain, and he has left for us the indication on what mistakes we could avoid, so that our journey is a much smoother one.

To those who still wish to criticise him, he still managed to create a family like this, and how many of the so-called flawless men have managed to create such a family?

There is a saying in English- Success is measured by how much others measure their success using you as a yardstick. Kamal Hassan has given a very expensive value to success indeed, and me, and many other who adore him, use him as a yardstick to measure ourselves.

A great person is someone who manages to inspire and teach one of his students; but what do you call Kamal when he inspired me and many other (among my friends), whom he had never seen or heard about in his life? The mark of his legacy lives on us, for we acknowledge that flawed human that he was, and the great pains he took to improve himself and come out of that rut and proceed to his destination. And we know that even if Kamal has already conquered that mountain; he is already setting off to conquer another, and we shall continue behind him. Whichever path we may take when our calling comes, we do not know, but lest assured a piece of him will live on in those paths.

What have I expressed here is my personal testimonial of Kamal Hassan. Some may have assumed that I am a wannabe actor, but lest you are wrong. I am only a wannabe director, and a novelist, but nevertheless in terms dedication to the profession you are involved in, and as the complete artist that he is, he is still my idol. As Vivek so rightly asks in his poem of Kamal- ‘Is there any department that you do not know?’

I apologize beforehand if I had offended anyone with my views, but nevertheless I felt the necessity to express my views. And I take my leave with another one of Kamal’s credo- ‘No pain, no gain’.

That, in as simplest as four words could do, sums up Kamal Hassan- the person, the legend, the actor and everything else.

Best works:

Legends are those you cannot describe in words of. Of course Kamal has several avatars, in terms of his acting, this has to be his best work. No matter how cheerful I am, this is the only scene that can ever make me cry, without the help of the whole movie.

Look up at 3:18. Can anyone act like that?