Kamal Haasan with the woman he once wanted to marry!

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By CITY STARS ORBITED AROUND KAMAL HAASAN AT THE TAJ BENGAL POOLSIDE ON MONDAY MORNING. I LIKE THE INFORMALITY AND THE WARMTH, THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE SAID OF THE GET-TOGETHER. ONLY T2 WAS THERE
  • Published 13.11.13
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He walked to the poolside of Taj Bengal around 11.30am on Monday, greeting everyone with a smile. Introductions, handshakes and namaskars followed as the man of the hour, Kamal Haasan, mingled with a select set of Calcuttans at an informal meet-and-greet at Taj Bengal hosted by Sundeep Bhutoria.

“They would like you to say a couple of words. They are dying to hear your lovely voice,” said Usha Uthup. Taking the mic from Usha, Kamal said, “I don’t know about the lovely part, it’s a voice… I have been a film buff… all my learning has been in cinema, through cinema, so you cannot miss out Cal that way. Many of my heroes have been from Cal, and heroines too (grins)…. Very rarely have I been to such a warm meeting. I really enjoyed this, and it has never happened to me before. I like the informality and the warmth in the faces I see. Thank you very much for doing this.”

The superstar made time for a chat with t2.

You were talking about Bengali and Tamil co-productions...

It’s just an idea…if it happens, then it is great. I am talking about double versions. You add numbers by virtue of audience. When we make Tamil and Bengali films we are talking about 16 crore people who are your target. I’m talking like this to every state. I am talking to Karnataka. We might be doing a double version soon to prove the point. We are not just giving lip service.

Would you like to act in a Bengali film?

That’s what…by virtue of making a double version I’ll be bringing in business to both the states.

Coming to Calcutta, does it bring back a lot of memories?

Oh yes. For me, more than Bombay, Calcutta was the capital of cinema. I come from another capital called Chennai. Chennai is truly a national filmmaking centre. The rest of the industries may not lay claim to that, probably Bengal to some extent. Because, if you look at it, all Tamil producers have produced various language films, including Hindi. Sivaji Productions have produced Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films. I have produced Malayalam films, Telugu, Kannada, and I am yet to produce a Bengali film. So we are truly national filmmakers. So I want that kind of a label for every regional cinema, they should think of going national.

You had acted in Kobita...

Do you know Kobita was a Tamil film? It got remade in Bengali. Kobita was a Tamil film inspired by Meghe Dhaka Tara.

Do you remember anything about the shoot?

Oh yes. I quietly stood and watched Ritwik Ghatak saab shoot from a distance. For me, it was all unreal.

What does Calcutta mean to you?

I keep visiting Cal whenever I have a project close to my heart, like Hey Ram or Mahanadi… I am fascinated by Calcutta, though I am closer to Kerala than Calcutta. I find similarities politically, sports and music taste-wise, culturally we have the same bent, including the number of coconut trees (laughs).

Do you like any particular Bengali cuisine?

I’ll never forget my experience when I came to location hunt for my film Mahanadi at Sonagachhi. We went there around 12 ’clock since it’s not business time. When we went there I smelt hilsa. And I said, “That smells like fish?” And she said, “Yes. Aap hamare ghar mein khayenge?” I said, “Why not? If you have anything leftover for me.” And they served. Suddenly, after I ate, they did something. “They touched my feet and put kumkum on my forehead. I said, “Why are you doing this? I should be thanking you.” She said, “Lakshmi hamesha raat mein aate hain. You are the only person who came in the morning.” I was moved to tears. I’ll remember that, and that sort of influenced some of the scenes in Mahanadi.

What can we expect from Vishwaroop 2?

The unexpected (laughs)! It's a step up from Vishwaroop. I feel that we have done even better than the first one. It’s going to be again in Auro 3D sound, and this one is a Hindi film. It is very daring in underwater photography and aerial photography. It’s challenging and satisfying.

Is the film set in India?

Yes, most of the story is set in India, and also Afghanistan and a bit of America.

Is it coming out next year?

It should have come out this year, but got delayed because of post production. We have to finish two-and-a-half months of post-production.

Is it one of your most ambitious films?

It is. It is bigger than Dashavtar and Vishwaroop. It demanded it. The content is international, it’s espionage, it’s about war in Afghanistan…

Talking of espionage did spy stories fascinate you as a child?

I had family members who were part of the Research and Analysis Wing, so when I was a boy we would hear stories. My uncle was in the Central Intelligence Bureau, and it was probably the early part of the founding of the Research and Analysis Wing. So whenever we had James Bond questions I would ask my uncle and he would ridicule the idea of what we think is espionage. He gave me inputs and a realistic terra firma walk through the domain.

After being in cinema for more than 50 years, what sort of challenges lie ahead?

So many. Because of commercial constraints, we could realise only some of our dreams. Many dreams are yet to be realised.

Prosenjit seeks Kamal Haasan’s blessings as Arindam Sil looks on. “Kamal Haasan’s Saagara Sangamam is one of my fave films. I have seen almost all his films. As an actor, he has inspired me. We first think of him when we talk of how to break down a character,” said Prosenjit. Pictures: Rashbehari Das
Kamal Haasan talks films with Prosenjit, Abir and Suman Mukhopadhyay. “I have been telling him to direct a Bengali film. We’ll all work in it,” smiled Prosenjit
Kamal Haasan with Usha Uthup. “I have known Kamal since 1968, and I have been on a motorbike with him! We used to go to the beach and just sit and he would buy me badaam! We are wonderful friends,” said Usha
Kamal Haasan greets Harsh Neotia. “We have grown up watching him in some incredible roles and then later on in some of the movies that he made. I am a great admirer.... One can see a tremendous amount of passion in the work he does. He is a down-to-earth, humble man,” said Harsh
Rituparna Sengupta with Kamal Haasan. “I am a huge fan of his. I told him that I find Appu Raja to be his best film. It’s one of the most important films in Indian cinema,” said she
Kamal Haasan with Gargi Roy Chowdhury
Kamal Haasan with Abir Chatterjee. “It was great to hear such inspiring stories from him. It was a learning experience,” said Abir
Aparna Sen, Geeta Gopalakrishnan and Bickram Ghosh
Arunima Ghosh, Anandi Ghose, Suman Ghosh and Prosenjit share a laugh. “I told him that I’m doing Kadambari with Konkona, and he was very impressed. I was very happy to know that he is also thinking of a Tagore story for a film,” said Suman
Tanusree Shankar