Interview Template 2
Kamal Hassan turns 51
By Subhash K Jha
First Virumaandi, now Vasool Raja. Two bigs hits in a year.
Both very welcome. Vasool Raja is even bigger than Virumaandi, though cinematically it isnít a step ahead. I am not sure if Vasool Raja is a regression or just a status quo for me. Iíve done this sort of a thing before.

As my own critic I feel I should move ahead. Iím looking at the larger picture. Both films have put me in a bargaining position. I want my output to increase. I think Iím a bit slow. There'll be more films from me, and hopefully theyíll take me forward. (Also See: Kamal's birthday, Special)

Are you looking at a less commercial kind of cinema?
All my films, even Nayakan and Thevar Magan, are commercial. Yes, perhaps Abhay was a little experimental. But that was my own production. Whenever I do something different itíll have to come from Raj Kamal Films.

The film that Iím now making in Hindi and Tamil will push the envelope. Bharat Shah will be part of the project. Weíre getting together again after Hey Ram.

Iím also buying the rights of a romantic Spanish film Tempus Fugit by Enrique Folch which I want to remake. When I asked the director for the rights he was surprised. He thought they just re-made films in India without permission.

How do you feel about your life right now?
Much much more comfortable. Itís like Iíve taken a vapour elation. I can breathe easy. I feel rejuvenated. I feel relaxed.

I am able to meet my elder daughter Shruti whoís in Chennai every day. I see my younger daughter Akshara only once a month. She lives in Mumbai with her mother. I was finding it hard to be normal without access to my daughters. I now have a smile on my face and itís showing in my films.

You have a new lady in your life?
Yes. Everyone in Chennai knows about her. Iím very happy and peaceful with her. In fact this is my most peaceful relationship ever with a woman. Ever since my mom who was more than 3 times my age, Iím used to volatile women in my life. Gradually my life is returning to an even keel.

Vasool Raja seemed fated to be a hit even before it was released. After a long time I was paid my full amount. But donít worry. I'll pump it back to what I love the most: movies.

How did Vasool Raja MBBS come to you?
My friend Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer of Munnabhai MBBS was very confident about the remake. He insisted I do the remake. He asked me to do it for him.

He has been asking me to do a film from the time he made his first feature Saza-e-Maut. Somehow it never worked out before. Iíd tell him that one set canít hold two eccentrics. I couldnít say no to him this time.

But my biggest reason to do Vasool Raja was that it became the property of L.V.Prasadís grandson. Prasadji and I went back a long long way. Among other things he produced my first Hindi film Ek Duuje Ke Liye. If I said no to his grandson Iíd have had Mr L.V. Prasadís ghost to deal with.

Because I've done several such comedies. But I guess nothing succeeds like success. Before I said yes to it I thought a lot about it because I knew Vasool Raja wouldnít take me anywhere I havenít gone before. When I returned from a holiday in the US, I said, ĎOk give me the money.Iíll do it.í Everyone around me was surprised.

I was supposed to start my project KG with director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao. Thatís what Iím working on now. I told the Vasool Raja director Saran that changes wouldíve to be made in the remake. He thought otherwise. He thought my performance would automatically bring a logistic of its own into the project.

Otherwise the director was sure he wanted to retain the qualities in Munnabhai which made it work in Hindi. I told the director to make sure of what he wants.

Because this time my contribution was going to be nothing more than walking into the costumes section and walking to the set. And thatís exactly what I did. Iíve contributed to Vasool Raja only as an actor.

But thereís an impression that you take an interest in every department?
Only if itís asked of me. Otherwise how do you think I produce all those failures (laughs). Sometimes some films I donít contribute to in any capacity except as an actor are successes. Like Sakalakala Vallavan where I was just an actor and a stunt-codinator.

How did you hit on the language to replace the Bambaiyya in Munnabhai?
Oh I had to go back to the Madras slang which Iíbe done in approximately 24 films before. What Iíve done in Vasool Raja is like Nana Patekar doing a Marathi accent.

Otherwise in spirit the two films remain the same. Iíve played my character as a dull, uneducated, slightly dimwitted guy, nothing like what Mr Sanjay Dutt has done. I havenít attributed great intelligence to the character. But he has tremendous compassion for the underdogs.

Munnabhai is a very simple tale. Itís like the Ramayan. Each rendering brings out new relevances. It all depends on where the accents are put.

Is this the first Hindi film that youíve done in Tamil?
No Iíve done several. I was in the Tamil remake of Manmohan Desaiís Chacha Bhatija. And the biggest debacle of my career was a Tamil version of Gulzarís Koshish. I looked like such a wimp in the film! It was like a school- play with me playing Daddy. It was directed by a late friend of mine D.N. Balu.

We both redeemed ourselves when he remade Raj Kapoorís Awara with me in the lead. When he went to ask Raj Saab for the rights the great man replied, ĎI donít sell my filmís rights. You go ahead and make it. Iím sure itíll be different.í So sweet. I was so moved. Iíve always been a great fan of Raj Saab.

And we were both fans of Charlie Chaplin. And now a docu-profile on Chaplin being made by an Australian woman will feature me.

Why did the docs in Tamil Nadu gets antsy about the title Vasool Raja MBBS?
Simply for nothing! It was so so silly. The honourable judge told them not to waste the courtís time. These are educated people and they should know better.

I spoke to some doctor-friends and they agreed there was nothing wrong with the title Vasool Raja MBBS. The minor crisis got blown over soon.

Anyway this title battle was different from my earlier one where Sandiyar had to be changed under pressure to Virumaandi after the chief ministerís intervention. Fate has always been fickle and unpredictable mistress in my life. Why should that change?