Kamal Hassan talks about Uttama Villain, K Balachander, his troubles...

Kamal Hassan-starrer Uttama Villain will open worldwide on April 10, a few days before the Tamil New Year, taking advantage of the long weekend. Also, with the school examinations out of the way, many, many footfalls can be expected in theatres screening the film.

Hassan, who stepped before the camera for the first time as a five-year-old child in the 1959 Kalathur Kannamma (with the leading stars of the time, Gemini Ganesh and Savithri), has acted in about 200 movies till now, but still feels that he owes his success to K. Balachander, who died last December. It was in his Arangetram (1973) that Hassan clinched his first adult role. Since then, Kamal had always looked upon Balachander as a mentor.

Even as the decks are cleared for Kamal Haasan-starrer Papanasam, the remake of Malayalam hit Drishyam, after it won the case against plagiarism, the actor says that it is just one of the many instances where he had to journey through rough waters.
Problem with my movie title 'Sandiyar, same name for another movie, and there is no issue
“For Papanasam, I knew who filed the case, and from where. It was all done unwantedly. If you see in the past, we had been asked to change the name of the movie Mumbai Express stating that it was not in Tamil. How will there be a Tamil name for Mumbai?” he says with a laugh. “There was also a problem with the title Sandiyar (which was later changed to Virumaandi). Recently, another guy has come with the same name for his movie, and there is no issue,” he says.

Issues aside, Kamal, addressing the media at his residence on Eldam’s Road on Tuesday, also recounted his days with the late legend, director K Balachander, who makes a special appearance in Uttama Villain.

Hassan told a media conference here today that it had been his life's dream to act along with Balachander, and this opportunity came almost at the very end of the auteur's life, a man who is revered as a social crusader. Credited with discovering almost 100 talents in the South Indian film industry -- including the likes of Rajinikanth and Hassan -- Balachander's radical and far-ahead-of-his-time thoughts were woven into movies like Aval Oru Thodar Kathai, Apoorva Raahangal, Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu, Thanner Thanner and Ek Duje Ke Liye (remade from the Telugu hit, Maro Charitra).

Hassan said that Balachander had a very significant role in the Ramesh Aravind-helmed Uttama Villain (Noble Villain), whose other actors included Nasser, Jayaram, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah and Parvathy Menon. Several of Hassan's films were now lined up, and some of them were Papanasam (remake of the critically acclaimed and commercial topper, Drishyam, whose Mohanlal character of a cable television operator will be essayed by Kamal), Viswaroopam 2 and hopefully Marudhanayagam (waiting for years to be made).

Pitching for simultaneous DVD-theatrical release and Direct-To-Home scheme, Hassan -- who had desired such plans for his earlier Viswaroopam but could not effect them owing to pressure from the producer-distributor-exhibitor lobbies -- affirmed that these were THE future of cinema.
I am an artiste, I have all the rights to say
Kamal also lashes out at the film certification board, blaming it for curbing the freedom of speech. “If I feel like saying something in the language I want, I have to write and get permission from the Board like in the British times. But I am an artiste, I have all the rights to say what I want and also question them,” he says.

He calls cinema a mix of art and business, and says it is not right for the distributors to seek compensation for a movie’s loss, probably hinting at the recent case of Lingaa’s distributors approaching Rajini for compensation. “If the audience do not find the movie worth their money, wouldn’t they start asking for compensation?” he asks with a laugh.

Still a great method actor, Hassan has the ability to surprise us by offering sheer brilliance. For this writer, Hassan's hesitant steps as a Tamil boy in love with a Punjabi girl in Ek Duje Ke Liye and his delightfully broken Hindi, and as the Tamil don in Mani Ratnam's Nayagan are unforgettable. Works such as Saagar, Moondram Pirai and 16 Vyathinile have also revealed the master actor in Kamal.


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