As actor Kamal Haasan turns 66 on Saturday, it is time for us to go through his works and accomplishments. An all-rounder, who started out as a child artist, Haasan has constantly proved his mettle in the field of arts. While acting is one field through which he has captured the hearts of his fans, Haasan has left a mark in every aspect of filmmaking, playing different roles, both onscreen and offscreen. Haasan has even gone beyond cinema and plunged into politics, starting his party Makkal Needhi Maiam in 2018. While there are many more feathers on the actor’s cap, here is a tribute to the multi-hyphenate perfectionist.
Silverscreen India compiles the actor’s dasavatharams (10 roles) that he played in the film industry.
Starting out as a child artist, Haasan’s name predominantly stands for his exemplary acting roles from over 230 movies he has starred in. He made his debut when he was six years old alongside Gemini Ganesh and Savithri in Kalathur Kannama in 1960. After veteran director, K Balachander took him under his wing, Haasan’s acting grew polished. It took variously uncredited and supporting roles before he was cast as the lead in the Malayalam film Kanyakumari (1974) for which he won his first Filmfare Award for the best actor. Known for going the extra mile to deliver his performances, he spent several months learning to play mridangam for his character in Apoorva Raagangal and learned ventriloquism for the film Avargal. It is also to be noted that the director of Avargal, K Balachander had advised Rajinikanth, who was making his acting debut in the film, to watch Haasan’s acting to improve his skill.
From a psychopathic serial killer in Sigappu Rojakkal, a blind violinist in Raaja Paarvai, a dwarf in Apoorva Sagodharargal, to a woman in Avvai Shanmugi, Haasan has nearly donned all the roles and experimented largely with his acting. Kamal also essayed 10 roles in one film, Dasavatharam.
Hailing from a family who was into arts, Haasan learned dancing at a young age. At 12, after attending a Kuchipudi performance, his eagerness to learn the art brought him before MS Natarajan. In less than two years, Natarajan exclaimed that there was nothing more to teach Haasan as he had become exceptional in the art form and was ready for his arangetram.
After learning Bharatanatyam, Haasan went on to learn Kuchipudi and Kathak. After performing over 30 shows in Maharashtra, he met with an accident in the early 1970s and was told that he cannot dance anymore. While he did not lose hope, small gigs led him to learn further, including Kathakali and Foxtrot. One of his noted performances as a dancer was his role as Balu, an alcoholic dancer in the 1983 Telugu film Sagara Sangamam. His performance in Naadha Vinodhamu was also well received.
As a playback singer, Haasan has sung over 80 songs. He began taking classes from M Balamuralikrishna in the early 1980s. However, even before his classes, he sang his first song for the film Andharangam after the director heard him singing a keerthanai on the sets. As a singer, Haasan is known for hitting higher notes with ease which led him to render his voice to Ninaivo Oru Paravai from Sigappu Rojakkal. His song Pottu Vaitha Kadhal Thittam from Singaaravelan, is also known for its high pitched notes.
Haasan has written for over 30 films. Credited as Haasan Brothers, Haasan along with his brothers wrote the screenplay for Guru, Meendum Kokila, and Raaja Paarvai. In an interview with film critic Baradwaj Rangan, he said that his screenwriting skills improved due to his association with fellow-screenwriter Ananthu. His film Hey Ram begins with a note thanking Ananthu, “Dear Ananthu Saab, Thank you for directing me towards this direction. – Kamal Haasan”
Haasan’s partnership with screenwriter and comedian Crazy Mohan has resulted in many comic hits to the Tamil film industry, including Apoorva Sagodharargal, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Kaathala Kaathala, and Panchathantiram.
Having already established himself as a noted dancer, in due time, Haasan began to choreograph for films. Following his accident, he joined as an assistant choreographer to K Thangappan, who choreographed Chandralekha. Later, Haasan partnered with choreographer Raghuram for Avargal. He has also choreographed the song Unakenna Mele Ninraai from Simla Special.
Haasan sat on the director’s chair for the first time in 1997 for Chachi 420, the Hindi remake of Tamil film Avvai Shanmugi, directed by KS Ravikumar. In 2000, he directed the bilingual historical drama Hey Ram, which was one of his seven films that were submitted by India to the Oscars. His other directorial projects include Virumaandi and Vishwaroopam 1 and Vishwaroopam 2.
Haasan took up the role of a makeup artist for a day for his co-actor Trisha in the film Thoongavanam. In an episode of National Geographic’s show Mega Icons, he had revealed that he learned the art of makeup from Academy Award-winning make-up artist Michael Westmore for 30-40 days. He has also worked as Westmore’s assistant on the sets of the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact.
Many have asked if I know @ikamalhaasan well here ya go 🙂 my dad used to create his makeups when I was a little girl. We keep in touch but the last I saw Kamal was a few years back. The 2nd photo is me and my dad in beautiful clothing given to us as a gift from Kamal ❤️ pic.twitter.com/BxN40imqCx
— McKenzie Westmore (@mckenziewestmor) May 19, 2020
After experimenting with many behind-the-camera roles that cinema had to offer, Haasan turned into a producer when the Haasan brothers began producing films in the 1980s. The brothers’ first production was Raja Paarvai in 1981. He has produced Vikram, Hey Ram, Mumbai Xpress and Uttama Villain.
Haasan has penned lyrics for several songs in Tamil. His first song as a lyricist, Nee Partha Parvaikku Nandri from Hey Ram, was sung by Asha Bhosle and Hariharan. He has also penned the lyrics of Unna Vida from Virumaandi, and sung along with Shreya Ghoshal.
Taking a leap from the silver screen to the small screen, Haasan turned into a host for Bigg Boss, a reality show on Vijay TV. Since 2017, he has hosted three seasons and is currently hosting the fourth season too. During this time, he also launched his political party Makkal Needhi Maiam in 2018. Bigg Boss is one of the most watched shows in Tamil Nadu.