I’m trying to be excellent, not perfect: Kamal Haasan


Padma Shri Kamal Haasan doesn’t always talk about the choices he’s made. But on his recent visit to Lucknow to promote his film, the actor voiced his opinions.
A non-conformist who likes to have his way in his movies, the maverick actor-director says, “It’s this unconquerable urge in me that makes me make films that I do. I’m an audience. The primary thing is that I love cinema. I love to watch cinema. I emulate the audience. They don’t want to watch the same things. They are more adventurous and probably the biggest power in the film industry is the audience. And they are maverick. So, I emulate them,” says he, “I love to surprise them. See, no one wants to wear the same design everyday, unless you’re a Congressman wearing the same white clothes everyday! So why watch the same stories rehashed? And art is more complicated. It’s all about change and I’m conforming to that change, constantly.”
Often labelled self-indulgent for following his own rules in the industry, Kamaal doesn’t taken that at face value. “I have learnt dancing – Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and now Kathak, I have played 10 characters (in a single movie), I perform stunts and remake films from other languages too. For what? For the love of cinema. Is that being self-indulgent? No,” he asserts.
Perhaps then, it would be more apt to say that Haasan’s films are usually ahead of times, whether it is his silent film Pushpak, or Appu Raja, in which he played a dwarf or Nayakan where he played 10 characters. “I don’t know why people say I’m ahead of times. I’m in fact running behind time! I am limited by my comprehension. I may be ahead of a few of my peers, but not ahead of times. See, given an opportunity, I’d love to create new horizons, but creating new horizons is a very lonely business. I did make these films, maybe a few people didn’t like them. Maybe they weren’t ready. It took some time. But I didn’t take that as failure. It gave me an impetus to test even more new waters. All I’m trying to be is excellent. Not perfect, because no one can be perfect,” says Hassan, who has quite a way with words, “Filmmaking is not an isolated endeavour; it’s like fighting a war. You may win the war or you may lose. Your partners may abandon you and you may have to beat a hasty retreat or maybe your courage fails you.”
And how about casting daughter Shruti in any of his films? “Yes, as a producer I know now that she has had a major Hindi hit, her one hit. One more in Hindi and that will really make her a national star, so yes, she’s a saleable actor and I will surely work with her. I’d like to pay her more and would like to have two stars under one banner,” says the proud dad. And does Shruti seek his advice in films? “Advice. That’s one word I don’t like. As a kid I used to have massive arguments with my dad because he would suggest something and I would suggest something entirely opposite. So, we used to have these sometimes angry discussions. Similarly, Shruti and I do discuss her films, my films, but ultimately it’s her choice. She’s not me and I’m not her. We have different choices and I want her to make her own choices, like I have made mine, always.”
Which brings him to talk about his younger daughter Akshara. “She’s into music and is learning dance also. She wants to study music like her elder sis, so if she requires any help to study abroad, I am always there to extend that help. They are both very talented girls and they make me proud,” says he.
And as we pass through a multinational retail outlet in the city, Haasan vents his anger against such establishments. “I wonder why the government wastes precious money on such ventures. Instead, they should spend on making cleaner toilets for the public, provide better housing, education to the people.” Which brings up the obvious query, is Kamal Haasan ever going to be in active politics? “No, I am into active politics like any other citizen. Probably a little more angry. I don’ t qualify to be a neta because I’m honestly into politics. I don’t stand on a podium and make false promises. I’m not qualified to be there in the green well of the Parliament. I’ll have to lose most of my ideology to be in there. I might as well work for my country in my capacity as an actor and as a citizen. I’d rather be a pedestrian and do more for my country. And most of the heroes, the great guys and the mahatmas that we find today, are pedestrians and not in the Parliament.”