Saturday, December 09, 2006


(I was supposed to post this on Metblogs, but can't finish now. May be you will read it. I intend to finish it sometime in the near future...)

I imagine a lean choreographer cycling to meet K. Balachander to get his first break in cinema as actor. I imagine this man, who looked a bit like Bruce Lee, to be passionate and talented. This man was to influence actors and audiences in India more than any other that come to my mind.

Born in 1954 in Paramakudi, Kamal Hassan had a spectacular debut in film, winning as a six-year-old his first National award. He would later dismiss his performance. “I was just following instructions,” he has said in many interviews.

After a brief period in which he was choreographer, Kamal entered the first great school of modern Tamil cinema – K. Balachander. Apoorva Raagangal, was a typical Balachander film, both experimental and contrived. The director, without really meaning to, was to introduce the other great star of Tamil cinema Ranjikanth in the same movie. Though Kamal had acted in many films before this one, it was this movie I imagine really launched his career.

Strangely enough, Kamal, however, kept his romance with Malayalam cinema alive. I imagine he would have loved its quiet, independent spirit. I have seen him in some of these films. His accent is deeply flawed, though his mastery over the language is admirable. It was, perhaps, this early flirtation that would enable the actor to emerge from Balachander’s shadow when his own box office power enabled him to turn producer first and then ultimately director.

Even as MGR and Sivaji Ganeshan’s star was on the decline, three films released in the late 70s would prove to be important for Kamal. Sigappu Rojakkal and 16 Vayathinile, his movies with the other great director of modern Tamil cinema, Bharathiraja...