Ten times Kamal Haasan stirred up Tamil society

Last Updated: Mon, Apr 03, 2017 11:30 hrs
Ten times Kamal Haasan stirred up Tamil society

Kamal Haasan. We’re always looking for his next release. And with his release we know to look for him in the news. Every time his film rears its head, the wait might get a tad longer for it is likely to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. There will be protests, cases even. He’s survived it all and treated us to some pretty awesome movies in the past. But ‘Kamal Haasan 2017’ is an upgrade on all the drama and hullabaloo that surrounds the Ulaganayagan.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right. But when Kamal flexes it, we can’t help but flinch because as fans we know the hurt that’s coming his way. Even before a release was in the offing, he was speaking his mind.

Starting with the massive Jallikattu protest, Kamal squared off against politicians alongside the masses. He even came into the crosshairs of Subramanian Swamy. What started then snowballed into him airing his thoughts on the political turmoil that has gripped Tamil Nadu. His slew of Tweets over the split of AIADMK and what ensued brought about a police complaint that he was provoking the public.

And now, he’s been slapped with a PIL for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. This time it’s his take on the Mahabharata.

Meanwhile, Kamal’s personal life has also seen some upheavals. He suffered a setback last year with a multiple fracture. Then came the split with his long-term partner, Gauthami. He lost his sister-in-law early this year. And a couple of days ago, his brother Chandra Hassan.

Kamal Haasan is no stranger to tragedy or turmoil or stirring a hornet’s nest. He’s played enough characters who’ve been dealt a bad hand. Here, we recap some of his memorable heroes and anti-heroes with sometimes harrowing, sometimes privileged circumstances who like Kamal have questioned society and the vagaries of life. We recap not so much that he might draw from the strength of these myriad people, but for us as fans to hope that the man who played them all will endure.

Varumayin Niram Sivappu
Kamal plays Rangan in this K Balachander film. A spirited, honest man who sticks to his principles no matter what the cost quite like his idol - Subramania Bharatiyar, the poet, reformer and patriot. On his quest to make a living only by being true to himself, he realises that his options are few, hunger is a companion and that he has no use for pockets.

Probably the most poignant scene is when Rangan and his equally cash-strapped friends create a racket with empty vessels to pretend that they are having a grand meal, all in an effort to stall Devi (Sridevi) from discovering their dire situation.

Through all this Rangan stays strong, never taking a shortcut and eventually learns a skill and trade that not only brings in the moolah but contentment and love.

Salangai Oli
Here, Kamal plays Balakrishna, a multi-faceted and talented dancer. A stickler for his art, he never compromises even if it means penury. Disillusioned with the ways of the world, he turns to alcohol and ekes a living as a bitter art critic.

In a choreography that has been singed into our minds, Balu’s derision and passion surfaces to the song Thakida Thadimi as he dances across a narrow pipe over a well.

Things get better but only long enough for him to share his learning with a pupil. He dies a genius denied the spotlight.

Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
This time under the direction of K Balachander, Kamal is Udhayamoorthy, son of a Carnatic vidhwan. Born into a legacy, Udhayamoorthy is unable to find his place in the world under the diktats of his overbearing father. Through the people around him and outside his privileged life he realises the dissonance and distance between him and ‘them’. Central to it is caste. And Udhayamoorthy addresses it even if it means leaving behind the life he knows.

This film is mostly remembered for its superhit song Valayosai, where a dishy Kamal woos Amala on the footboard of a bus. But the film is about Sathya vs. Politicians.

He’s a man with a short fuse when it comes to injustice. Unemployed, he finds work with a politician whom he believes to be virtuous. And when he realises his folly, he doesn’t hesitate to take law into his own hands.

A classic and an absolute favourite with all Kamal fans, his rendition of underworld don Velu Nayakar throws light on the choices afforded to the bottom feeders, their struggles in life and with their conscience.

Neenga naalavara? Kettavara?’, will always remind us that life is never really black & white.

Thevar Magan
Saktivelu, a graduate from London, returns to his roots - a village mired in caste violence. He barely gets a taste of it before he is thrust to the front to lead his fellow men.

Over the course of the movie we see him unlearning his gentrified ways while the people around him adapt and reform to his approach for a life of peace beyond discrimination. But it proves to be a bloody, uphill battle.

The caste violence that continues to make news today, makes this 1992 film relevant in 2017.

How we wish we had a Dr Selvam as our professor to teach the hell out of History and also do Muthu numbers with the right amount of tongue sticking out!

Kamal’s radical Professor questions sex-segregation in classes among other things. But the engineering colleges around don’t seem to have learnt their lesson.

Anbe Sivam
A cult hit, this film is a masterpiece. Kamal Haasan’s portrayal here is so lucid. As Nallasivam he questions the idea of God. A question he continues to ask off screen as well, and often gets into trouble for.

As an atheist and socialist, Nalla gives the rather yuppie Aras (Madhavan), a crash course on life while on a journey.

Kamal’s role as a badass grandpa, a former freedom-fighter turned bribery-vigilante, was received with thunderous applause. We may or may not agree with Senapathy’s methods, but it is hard not to root for him.

Vasool Raja MBBS
A superhit flick, Kamal’s thug-turned-student flipped the spotlight on the lack of empathy prevalent in the medical fraternity. He stands up to the all-powerful Dean who believes in staying objective and emotionally detached from the patient. Vasool Raja turns the tide and that too, with great success.

His concerns that tools of compassion don’t feature in the curriculum, is a relevant one. Especially when you read reports of apathy in government hospitals and instances where you have medical students throwing a dog off a roof.

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