Having spent close to six decades in cinema, Kamal Haasan has dabbled in almost every area of filmmaking. For his latest Tamil release Uttama Villain, he is the writer, producer and also its lead actor. The film, which ran into trouble before its release earlier this month with some Hindu groups protesting over a scene, has fared well at the box office. The 60-year-old-actor discusses films and family. Excerpts:
Your latest film Uttama Villain’s release was delayed by a day due to protests. Why do many of your films rake up controversies?
This one was more for financial reasons than political. There was a financial dispute between the South Indian Artists Association, the film producers and the financier of the film. Those who protest feel that one film itself can become a soft target. However, we keep doing our thing. We are not looking to be nasty to anyone. We are making films for everyone. I feel that these protests are an organised trade and by doing this you get a free ride in somebody else’s bus. The fuss they made about Uttama Villain, if anyone saw the film, they would realise it is a farce.
During the time of Vishwaroopam (2013) it was the worst, since the protests were politically motivated and there was pressure from all directions.
You worked with your mentor, the late K Balachander in Uttama Villain. How has he influenced your career?
He has been a father figure to me. If you were to go by man-hours, I have spent more time with him than I have with my own father. The first time I worked with him was in his 1972 Tamil film, Kanna Nalama. We have done 36 films together. For me, he was one-of-a-kind and I haven’t found anybody else in the industry like him. He wrote for me whatever I was capable of doing, so it was done with a lot of love and ingenuity. People say he discovered me; I say that he invented me. Basically, I was a technician and wasn’t keen on acting in the first place. He was the one who said I should become an actor.
You have been involved in every aspect of filmmaking in your six decades in cinema, but is there any particular craft that you really like?
The best aspect about cinema is watching it, which seems like an easy thing to do. I still watch about 100 hours of movies every month: Western, European or classical. Anything moving, emotionally or physically gets into my movies.
What is your equation with your daughters, Shruti and Akshara. Do you mentor them?
Strangely, we have kept our life open. They come to me for help and advice if they need it. It’s not like I insist that they must ask me before they do something. It’s a very happy household. I saw Akshara in Shamitabh but have not seen Shruti in ‘Gabbar is Back’ yet. They have a long way to go. I wish that they get someone like K Balachander. There aren’t any mentors like him anymore. I could be their mentor, but it will take two of me to match up to Balachander’s talent.
We haven’t seen you in Hindi films for a while — the last one you were in was Mumbai Express (2005). Are you working on any Hindi film?
Nothing has come up that interests me. We are in talks with Abhishek Bachchan. It is a project with an ensemble star cast. I would like to do Hindi cinema on my own terms. I am at a stage where I want to tell stories that need to be told. I like doing Hindi films because it gets me a larger audience. Actually doing Telugu cinema helped me get into Hindi cinema, because Ek Duje ke Liye (1981) was a remake of a Telugu film.
What are you working on now?
I have completed Papanasam (in Tamil), which will release soon. Vishwaroopam 2 is also complete now. It is not a sequel but a prequel to Vishwaroopam. Right now, it is with another producer, but we are thinking of taking over and releasing it soon, otherwise the story will get redundant.