1. Kamal Hasan was born in Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram district,
Madurai. His father Srinivasan was a successful advocate, who was close to
the then raja of Ramanathapuram. His mother Rajalakshmi was your typical
housewife, a cultured lady who was only too ready to support the young Kamal
in his artistic dreams and desires. Kamal in turn was very attached to his
mother, and indeed to the womenfolk in his family.
2. Kamal debuted as a child star in Kalathur Kannamma when he was five years old. Gemini Ganeshan and Savitri were the lead stars in the movie.
3. As a child star, Kamal acted with the two celluloid icons of the
time, Sivaji Ganeshan in Paarthaal Pasi Therum and with M G Ramachandran in Ananda Jyoti.
4. Even as a child, Kamal was an independent thinker. As he himself says,
'My father tried to sell religion to me, but I refused to buy the religion of my father'.
5. Kamal speaks the Madurai brand of Tamil with total ease, and has a strong affinity for people from that region -- such as Vairamuthu, Bharatiraja and Ilaiyaraja to name just three from the upper echelons of the movie industry.
6. Kamal never really set out to become an actor. His dream was to direct,
and he started off as assistant with dance master Thankappan. He began his stint with Thankappan in Annai Velankanni, in which he also went on to appear, in a miniscule cameo, as Jesus Christ (watch for him in the scenes where Jesus carries the cross to Calvary). It is Kamal that you see in the song Deiva Mainthan Pogindraan, which details the Stations of the
Cross. At the time, Kamal was in his late teens.
7. At an early age, Kamal got involved with the Malayalam industry, and in
time learnt to speak all the dialects of Malayalam with ease. He in fact can speak, read and write all four South Indian languages -- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam besides Hindi, English, and Marathi, the last named thanks to wife Sarika.
8. Kamal is an ardent fan of off-beat cinema, and his favourite movie of all
time is Bicycle Thief by Vittorio DeSica. He rarely misses film festivals, and his favourite Hindi films are Mughal e Azam and Sholay.
9. His favourite music director, in Hindi, is Naushad. 'He is a wonder,
a gem', Kamal says of the composer.
10. Kamal, while still young, formally learnt Bharatanatyam and Carnatic
music. A S Prakasham first introduced him as a singer, with Netaji as his lyricist. His first song was Gnayar Oli Mazhayil.
11. Kamal studied at the MCT Muthiah Chetty School in Purasawakkam. However, he hated going to school, and had no academic ambitions.
12. Kamal is a poet in his own right, penning free verse -- Pudhukavithai. He plans to release a compilation of his poems soon, and Vairamuthu has been asked to select from the Kamal oeuvre. Author Sujata is likely to write the foreword.
13. Kamal's favourite Tamil novels are T Janakiraman's Amma Vandhaal and Marapasu.
14. Kamal is into Siddha literature, and is thoroughly familiar with the
biographies of 18 Siddhas, in particular that of Siva Vaakkiyar.
15. Kamal and Vairamuthu are close friends. Both of them have a fetish for
being 'young', and they constantly exchange jocular notes on their respective ageing process.
16. Kamal knows to compose music, editing and cinematography, but believes he should not interfere with these departments, even when he himself is directing a film.
17. Kamal underwent a crash course in direction, in Hollywood, and attends
workshops whenever he can. He also learnt the art of make-up, while working on the Shankar movie, Indian, which won him a national award.
18. Himself an accomplished dancer, Kamal names Prabhu Deva as his own
special favourite. In fact, when asked to name a dancer before Prabhu Deva's
era, Kamal flat out said that there is none in the annals of Indian cinema
who ranks with Prabhu Deva. "None can equal him," says Kamal, who has in
fact shared the lead role with the loose limbed Prabhu Deva in the film,
Kaadhala Kaadhala, which includes the dance sequence Kaasmela Kaas Vandhu wherein the two dance together.
19. Kamal rates Charlie Chaplin a major influence, and he in fact paid
tribute to the comic genius when he played the role of Chaplin Chellappa; in Punnagia Mannan. Years ago, Chaplin had in fact
participated in a Chaplin lookalike contest and came seventh! Asked how he himself would have fared, had he contested, Kamal without a blink, says
20. When it comes to acting, Kamal rates Sivaji Ganeshan head and shoulders above the rest, and at every opportunity acknowledges the senior star's influence on his acting. Kamal says no Tamil actor is free of Sivaji's influence. So great is his respect and admiration for Sivaji, that once, at a function where Sivaji and his son Prabhu were both
present, Kamal addressed Sivaji as 'Appa', 'father'.
21. Kamal turned producer for the first time with Raja Paarvai, director for the first time with Chachi 420.
22. Kamal has edited a Tamil magazine named Mayyam,, in which he has frankly aired out his sometimes revolutionary views on society and religion.
23. Kamal always names Ananthu as his friend, philosopher and guide, and
derives his theory of cinema from him.
24. Kamal's favourite art genre is folk -- songs, stories, dances.
25. Though a self-proclaimed nationalist, he has a penchant for working
with foreign talent when it comes to movie-making. The latest example is
special effects and computer graphics whiz, Grant Page, for the
under-production Aaalvandhaan (Abhay, in Hindi).
26. Kamal still hopes to revive Marudhanayagam, his magnum opus. The
mega-budget historical romance remains his pet dream, it will be recalled
that he had invited no less than Queen Elizabeth for its launch, before the
project got stuck for lack of funds.
27. Kamal is an avowed atheist, and believes in the philosophy of E V
'Periyar' Ramaswamy. Some day, he hopes to do a film on Periyar, with, of
course, himself in the lead role.
28. Kamal and Mouli acted together in Nizhal Nijamaagirudhu. Many years down the line, the two will get together again with Mouli directing a movie featuring Kamal in the lead role.
29. In these days of shirtless heroes, it is interesting that Kamal was the
first full-fledged hero to take off his shirt -- in the film Arangetram, which was in fact his first 'adult' role after his years as a child star. Some might quibble that Manavan was his first adult role, but Kamal only had a fleeting appearance in that film, and that was while he was still in his teens. In Arangetram, director K Balachander had to establish that Premila was from a Brahmin family, and to do that he had to show Kamal wearing the sacred thread -- and so, no shirt for Kamal.
30. Kamal made his debut as a playback singer with Gnayar Oli Mazhaiyil in Andharangam. In Avvai Shanmughi, he sang the 'female voice' for the song Rukku Rukku.
31. Kamal's lip to lip kisses are the stuff of Tamil film legend. In the
otherwise 'chaste' industry, Kamal has a fetish for such deep kisses. This
dates back to the French actress who plays his wife in Sattam En Kaiyil. This was during the lifetime of M G Ramachandran, and the matinee idol turned politician at the time opposed the kiss, on the grounds that it was
against Tamil culture and demanded that the scene be removed. Unfazed, Kamal
has kisses pretty much every actress he has starred with.
32. Kamal has acted in the four main South Indian languages, plus Hindi,
plus, wait for this, Bengali -- this last, in the Bengali remake of Aval Oru Thodar Kadhai.
33. Kamal has this penchant for learning the various arts he portrays in
films. Thus, for Apoorva Raagangal, he learnt the mridangam. For his role in Aval Oru Thodar Kadhai, he learnt mimicry and for Avargal, he learnt
ventriloquism. As late as Thevar Magan (remade in Hindi by Priyadarshan as Virasat), he learnt the Tamil martial arts form, Silambam.
34. Kamal is a keen observer of all that goes on around him. Years ago, on
the sets of Swathi Muthyam, shot on the Andhra coastline, a body was washed ashore. There was a a commotion, and Kamal went over to see what it was all about. He then used the incident in his Magalir Mattum, the ladies-only film in which the scene is duplicated.
35. Among Kamal's own productions, Satyaraj has played hero in
Kadamai Kannyam Kattupadu, which is remake of the Malayalam film Aavanazhi
and which was directed by Santhana Bharati. Satyaraj's debut was
Sattam En Kaiyil, where Kamal was hero, and that is where their association
36. Kamal's penchant for experimentation was chiefly responsible for
Singeetam Srinivasa Rao making Pushpak, the silent movie made in the talkie era.
37. Kamal revers Mahatma Gandhi, and admires his thoughts. This admiration
found celluloid expression in Hey Ram, where a young man discovers
Gandhi's ideals just at a time when he is plotting to assassinate him.
Technically speaking, meanwhile, this should rank as his directorial
debut -- Chachi 420 saw him step into the director's slot only after
Shantanu Sheorey walked out, and Marudhanayagam, which he is directing, is a
long way away from the marquee. Meanwhile, to revert to the thought
processes of the star, he also admires the tenets of Marxism, and has had
long discussions on the subject with Utpal Dutt, among others.
38. Kamal was deeply upset when he heard about the abduction of Rajakumar, the Kannada matinee idol, by Veerappan. After hours of gloom, he approached
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to discuss the fallout and to warn of his
fears that there could be anti-Tamil riots in Bangalore.
39. Kamal is a non-smoker and teetotaller, but loves non vegetarian food,
chicken being his meat of choice. He generally has a light breakfast and lunch, but really goes the whole hog come dinner time.
40. Kamal still has his old 'gang' of friends from his Alwarpet days --
Santhana Bharati, P Vasu, P C Sriram, Mani Rathnam, R C Shakti. Among the
people he is close to, there is brother Chandrahasan, who has done a role in
Kamal's first home production, Raja Paarvai and even in Hey Ram. Amitabh
Bachchan, Ramesh Sippy who directed him in Saagar, Javed Akhtar, and Dimple
Kapadia. Dimple starred with Kamal in Saagar, and was also in Kamal's own
production, Vikram. Kamal was also very fond of the late Amjad Khan.
41. Kamal was hugely appreciative of Anil Kapoor's performance in Virasaat,
the Hindi remake of Thevar Magan. "He has done justice to my role," he had said.
42. Kamal and Rajnikanth, the reigning superstars of Tamil movies, have done several movies together like Apoorva Raagangal [Rajni's debut], Moondru, Mudichu
Avargal, Ilamai Unjalaadugirathu, Aval Appadithaan, Aadu Puli
Aatam to name a few. They were last seen together in the Hindi movie
Giraftaar. Their last Tamil film together Alavudeenum Arputha Vilakkum.
43. After seeing Nayagan, Rajnikanth wrote to Kamal thus: "I am seeing a
movie like this after so many years. Your performance
is superb. You are the actor of actors". This note, is one of Kamal's most
treasured possessions. Again, when Shivaji saw Nayagan, at a private show, he
stayed silent for several moments after the movie had ended, then went up to
Kamal and hugged him. He did not speak a word, though, while the tears
flowed from his eyes. And finally, he said, only, "This movie should do very
44. Kamal's favourite heroines are Sridevi and Sripriya. With Sridevi,
they have paired in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.
45. Kamal speaks 'Madras Tamil' in Sattam En Kaiyil, which
he learnt from comedian Loose Mohan, and for Sathi Leelavathi,
he speaks Coimbatore Tamil, which he picked up from Kovai
Sarala who plays his wife in the movie. He has this penchant for doing
dialects, actually. In his latest outing, Thenali, he speaks Sri Lankan
Tamil, for which he was tutored by the well known announcer and compere,
46. In the Kamal-Prabhu Deva starrer Kaadhala Kaadhala, Prabhu Deva
plays a stammerer. While shooting for the film, Kamal told Prabhu Deva a
joke. E M S Namboodiripad, Kamal pointed out, was one of the famous Indian
personalities who stammered. So someone once asked EMS whether he was always
a stammerer. "N...n...no, only when I speak," was Namboodiripad's retort,
which Kamal gleefully recounted to his co-star.
47. Kamal's favourite among the latest crop of movies is American Beauty.
And appropos of nothing in particular, he has a fetish for almonds,
pistachios, cashew, which he stocks up on and munches constantly.
48. Kamal won the national award for best actor for Nayagan. While
attending that function, Raj Kapoor collapsed -- and as it happened, fell
into Kamal's arms. He was rushed to hospital, where he died. Kamal ranks
this among his most distressing, unforgettable, experiences.
49. At the 1993 Film Festival in Delhi, Kamal had in fact led a morcha,
protesting against the communal riots in Bombay.
50. Kamal is at present shooting for Aalavandhaan/Abhay in Ooty, and was in Madras just for a day on his birthday, in order to spend it with his wife and kids.