I do not see many Tamil films. That being said, I have seen a small percentage of Kamal Haasan’s impressive oeuvre, some of his most successful films. He is a brilliant actor and when he is well cast in a film with a good script, magic happens. One of the most decorated and award winning actors in India, he has won awards for acting in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films. He has been at various times producer, director, scriptwriter, singer and choreographer. Versatility indeed!
I went to see his debut in a leading role in Apoorva Ragangal (1974) with my family; I remember my mother not approving of the theme of the 21 year old Kamal falling in love with a much older but gorgeous Sri Vidya! I loved the music and I listened to it today with a great deal of pleasure, especially ‘Adisaya Ragam’ (Yesudas). Some music can be truly timeless!
In my school holidays, when our family spent the summers in hot Chennai, the melodious ‘Ore Naal Unnai Naan’ (S.P.Balasubramaniam, Vani Jayaram) from Ilamai Oonjal Adugirathu (1978) would play non-stop in the radio. Later on, when his foray into the Hindi film world with Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981) became a super hit, it was ‘Tere Mere Beech Mein’ which was sung in every street corner in Delhi. S.P.Balasubrumaniam sings this brilliantly but with a strong Tamil accent which doesn’t matter only because the character in this film was Tamil. In the same year, it was the Tamil film Raja Parvai which gave us the gem ‘Andi Mazai Pozhigirathu’ (S.P.B) a song I’ll always love.
‘Sundari Neeyum’ in Michael Madana Kamarajan (1980) sung by Kamal and Janaki is memorable, especially because its his own voice. And one mustn’t forget the beautiful ‘Chinnanjiru Vayathil’ in Menndum Kokila (1981). It still feels fresh and beautiful to me. The female voice (Shailaja) sounds very shrill to me but wait until Yesudas comes up. He sounds fantastic! And check out pre-plastic-surgery Sridevi, she looks lovely. Why do they stress about nothing and go under the knife?
Moonram Pirai in 1982 was a wonderful film and ‘Kanne Kalaimane’ (Yesudas) is a song I remember with pleasure. But the song I truly hold dear is ‘Thenpandi Cheemayile’ (Ilaiyaraja) from Nayakan (1987). I bow to Ilayaraja !! What a composer!! A deeply moving film which I have never forgotten, Nayakan (Nayagan) was listed in the Time Magazine All Time 100 movies, along with the Apu Trilogy and Pyaasa, the only other Indian films to have the same honour.
I never took to his later films, I did see a few but they didn’t leave an impression. I think that after Nayakan the quality of his films in general took a downward slide.
Album : Salangai Oli (1983)
Music : Ilaiyaraja
Lyrics : Vairamuthu
My favourite film of Kamal remains Salangai Oli (1983) where he acts as a Bharatanatyam dancer and a critic. It showcases not only his acting talent but his skills in dancing. There are many Indian actresses who have training in Classical Indian dancing but I am not aware of any actor with such skills. I shall indulge myself and present a number of songs from this movie today.
‘Mounamana Neram’ (S.Janaki, SPB) is my favourite song from this film. Jayaprada is so stunningly beautiful!
The song below is purely for Kamal’s dancing skills.
Indian Classical dance admirer must see the clip below from 01:29 onwards – Kamal shows you how its done!
And finally, the final song of the film :
For those who would like to go down memory lane with me and listen to all the wonderful songs that I have spoken about, here is a playlist that I created in youtube. And if you haven’t seen Salangai Oli, do watch. Even with subtitles, you’ll appreciate Kamal’s talents. Enjoy!