Kamal Haasan meets his fans on his birthday every year. For all that we know, it is a secret gathering; the press is not allowed to participate in the celebrations that his Narpani Iyakkam organises.
However, for his 60th birthday celebrations, the media was invited. And Kamal was a little too conscious of our presence. He often said, “I have never addressed my fans in this setup. We have informal meetings and discuss the progress of Narpani Iyakkam’s activities. I can’t do that today because the media is around.”
Soon after that declaration, the actor began addressing the fans, and in the process, made us feel a little guilty about gate-crashing their party. He assumed the role of a leader; appreciated his fans for carrying out his charity activities and motivated them to ‘push the envelope’. It was quite akin to listening to a father counselling his children.
And yet, Kamal’s 60th birthday party was a fan’s delight.The modest Anna auditorium was packed with thrilled audience. There weren’t many young fans, though – most of them were middle-aged. And surprsingly, we spotted a few women, too – a rare sight at a fans’ meet.
While a toddler belonging to an ecstatic fan distributed chocolates to everyone, another group was seen in uniform – a white T-shirt with Kamal’s picture on it. As the DJ spun old songs of the star, some of them danced and made wild moves, and the wallflowers swayed in their seats.
Just when we were lulled into a false assumption that the DJ has finally given some rest to Yaar Endru Ninaithaai from Viswaroopam, Kamal Haasan went on stage.
Vanakkam, he said. And as if on cue, the DJ succumbed to the moment:
Yaar endru purigiradha
Ivan thee endru therigiradha
Thadaigalai vendrae sarithiram padaiththavan
The actor stood with folded hands, with that signature smile on his face. A standing ovation followed. Fans chanted, “Vaazhga pallandu!”
*****Almost everything about the party told us that this wasn’t a regular event.
There was only one chair on the stage. And, only two people spoke.
The president of the Kamal Haasan Welfare Club delivered the welcome speech. He said, “36 years ago, when I was in college, Kamal sir told us, ‘poster otti time waste pannatheenga. We must serve the society.’ And that’s how Narpani Iyakkam was born. We are grateful to our Kazhaga Thalaivar for directing us in the right way.”
Before the actor could begin his speech, his Narpani Iyakkam donated sewing machines, bicycles and plant-pots. As the recipients gathered on-stage, a small knot of fans climbed onto the dias and offered bouquets and ponnadais to Kamal. The actor received the first few without complaint, but the situation soon got out of control. More than 50 fans surrounded him, and began pressing their gifts on Kamal.
A few minutes later, actors MS Bhaskar, Mahendran, and a couple of other volunteers formed a human chain around Kamal, who rushed to the microphone. As disappointed fans chose to stay on-stage, the actor addressed the audience. “A lot of people have come from the media. We need to behave ourselves and honour our guests today,” he began, and was greeted with thunderous applause. “We don’t donate to make headlines. Our charity work should not be politicized. To be honest, politicians learnt this from us.”
And, as an after-thought, “fans don’t want me to enter politics.”
*****Crediting his fans for making a lot of donation and taking up charity activities, Kamal said, “All that I earn goes back to cinema. Besides that, I pay tax, look after my family and buy good clothes. I don’t have much money to donate. If a donation is being made under my name, that’s because of the volunteers at Narpani Iyakkam.”
He disbanded his fan club 36 years ago, and the Narpani Iyakkam was formed on his birthday. “When someone writes my profile in newspapers, my decision to convert my fan-club into a welfare club is what that gets first mention. I am very proud of that. Naan oru kalaignana irunthen. Aana enna oru ‘nalla’ kalaignan aakinathu Narpani Iyakkam thaan.”
Talking about his trust, Petral Than Pillaya, Kamal Haasan said, “Through the trust, I am now a father of 2,000 children. Giving back to the society is my ultimate aim.” He also declared that the lake cleaning initiative is just a beginning and that his fans will take the campaign forward.
Soon after this speech, he was whisked away by the volunteers, much to the disappointment of the fans.
As we slowly drove out after the event, we noticed a few of them who had come from different parts of Tamil Nadu, throwing bouquets into the van.
They sulked for not being able to wish the star personally and present their flowers. But they were the die-hard ones. And for all that we know, they are perhaps looking forward to the next November 7 already.