It seems in his lifetime, the actor-director-producer, Kamal Haasan is all set to unlock milestone upon milestone that some of us can only dream of. On November 7, the veteran marked 60 years in the Tamil film industry. The actor’s home banner, Raaj Kamal Films International, was relaunched at a new office space in Alwarpet to mark the occasion. The actor also unveiled a statue of his mentor, the film director, K Balachander.
The actor’s daughters Shruti Haasan and Akshara Haasan were present at the occasion along with his friends from the industry including Rajinikanth, Nasser, Pooja Kumar, Bigg Boss Tharshan, Ramesh Aravind, directors Mani Ratnam, KS Ravikumar, Santhana Bharathi, lyricist Vairamuthu along with late K Balachander‘s daughter, Pushpa Kandhaswamy. The inauguration and statue unveiling happened in the midst of members of the press as well.
It was an occasion for many industry seniors to look back with fondness at the ways in which director KB inspired their journeys in the film industry and made them what they are today. Actor Nasser recalled that he began his career with K Balachander’s movie in the same compound that they were standing in. Even though the building was new, there were 35 years of history to look back on saying, “Balachander taught me how to carry myself as an artist when at a shooting spot.”
Director KS Ravikumar said that it was Rajinikanth who helped him narrate the script of Avvai Shanmughi to Kamal Haasan at the premises years ago. “Balachander sir was extremely passionate about cinema to have done about 75 films with a meagre salary of ten lakhs. Today his films are worth so much more,” said Ravikumar who added, “Along with all of you, I wish only the best to the two stalwarts introduced by him.”
Actor Ramesh Aravind spoke of how Kamal mentioned Balachander and his thoughts in every conversation they shared. He also added that it was only logical to commemorate the venerated director with the statue at the newly inaugurated RKFI office.
Pushpa Kandhaswamy was elated with the gesture of the Haasan family. “I know that Kamal Sir and my father shared a deep and meaningful bond. The letters he wrote to appa are still with us. In his last days, my father wanted Kamal to appreciate every move of his. He looked at Kamal like his own son,” said a visibly emotional Pushpa.
Kamal’s daughters Akshara and Shruti thanked everyone who was at the venue, and Akshara said that she was an AD for one of RKFI’s productions.
Director Mani Ratnam credited K Balachander for his love for cinema. “Kamal is Balachander sir’s disciple who worked with him, I am a disciple who never got the opportunity to work with him, said the renowned director, who added, “Kamal sir and Balachander sir opened pathways for my generation. I not only learnt cinema from KB but also learnt how to treat my team and colleagues with humanity from him.”
Actor Rajinikanth said that of all the films produced by RKFI, his favourite was Aboorva Sagotharagal. “I watched the film at 11 o’clock in the night and I needed to see Kamal immediately! So, I was at his door at 2 AM and told him that with his performance in the movie he had become immortal. He is younger than me, otherwise, I would have touched his feet,” said the actor. He said he has watched Hey Ram more than 30 to 40 times and that it also belongs on his list of favourite films along with Godfather and Thiruvilayaadal.
“Balachander knew what the Tamil audience loved, so, he asked me to learn Tamil. He said it would give me the audience’s love and elevate my stature,” said the Superstar who added, “Balachander loved Kamal Haasan. He used to admire every aspect of Kamal.” The actor also said that Kamal Haasan was very fond of director Ananthu, a second Balachander, who taught Kamal about world cinema and gave him novels to peruse.
Actor Kamal Haasan said that Rajini and himself lead a simple life and are good friends. When they were young and their respective careers were just starting off, they made a pact while they were shooting in AVM Studios to treat each other with love and respect no matter how life treated them. “If anyone had heard our conversation, they would’ve attacked us,” Kamal said.
The two stars were very critical of each other back in the days, Kamal said, adding, “I told Rajini the title ‘Ganapathy’ reminds me of Vinayaga Chathurthi. I found out later that the movie was called Thalapathy and that I had misheard it. But that was a minor thing, there was a point when Rajini said he’ll quit acting because of the fan arguments that had flared up before. I told him not to even think of it. Our fans just want to be a part of our careers, and they are being playful, we should just let them be. Since then, I hold a share in all his victories,” he laughed.
Kamal mentions that directors K Balachander and Ananthu can never be erased out of his life. “I would always be careful and cautious with every decision I take, knowing that KB sir is overlooking my actions. This commencement of RKFI is something I would like to cherish and celebrate more than my birthday. I’m just a tenant here like many others. Not the owner,” he signs off.