Reporting by Janani K; Photos by Sriram Narasimhan. Photos from the press meet are below the report.
Actor Kamal Haasan turned 61 on November 7. Given his fame and status, there were birthday celebrations not just in Chennai, but across the world. Wherever Tamil cinema has a presence. With three films in the pipeline at present, Kamal Haasan is still going strong.
23 years ago, Kamal Haasan starred in the cult film, Thevar Magan, with Shivaji Ganesan. The film won him a National Award for Best Actor. When Kamal dons the Thevar Magan outfit today, he still carries it off with ease.
Kamal Haasan’s birthday began with a visit to writer Rajanarayanan’s house, with a Rs.1 lakh gift to the writer. Every year on his birthday, Kamal Haasan’s ‘All India Narpani Mandram’ undertakes several welfare activities. This year as well, Kamal Haasan’s fans organised a function. Television sets and computers were given away to the underprivileged. Donations were made to a school in Paramakudi.
A Bharatanatiyam dance performance was staged, with a child dressed up as Bharathiyar, accompanied by four girls. There was little cinema talk. Instead, Kamal Haasan spoke about the meat ban, religion and rationalism, and the #AwardWapsi campaign.
After thanking the fans, press, and police officers present, Kamal Haasan said, “Materialistic gifts like gold chains and idols aren’t useful. I got them melted so I could use the money. It is not a mark of disrespect to the people who gave them to me. Here, I was presented this book, Thiruvarutpa. It’s useful. My knowledge of Tamil will grow. If you ask me whether I would become a devotee, I would definitely say no.”
“Every five years, people ask me whether I would become a politician, despite knowing where I stand. Ask me questions about my acting. But, don’t ask whether I’ll join politics. It angers me and it feels as if people are questioning my loyalty.
“When I talk about politics, people raise questions about my father’s affinity towards Congress, and whether that has anything to do with what I’m saying. My father belongs to Congress and he is a Gandhi devotee. But, I am not that. I think of Gandhi as my friend.”
“I have accepted the fact that death is a part of everyone’s life. That is why my birthday and my father’s death anniversary are being celebrated on the same day. I consider death to be a duty. I will not postpone it. I am in the process of educating people before that time comes. This is my life.”
Religion and Rationalism
“My rationalism is that I will not rub off the viboothi on my forehead when a fan presents it with love. This rationalism is not something that came from politics. A good rationalist will think of the right way to understand things. I agree with Richard Dawkins here.
“Like every human being, every god has an expiry date. Do not push religion into others’ minds.”
“A rationalist will not demolish a temple, because he will not hurt others’ feelings. I do not fancy the word ‘atheist’ and I am not an atheist. Our ancestors say, if you do not do certain things, then you are done for life (Naasthi in Tamil). That is the reason, I do not go by the tag atheist.”
The Meat Ban
If you don’t like meat, don’t eat it. Refer the medical records to see the disadvantages in consuming meat. I was a meat consumer as well, but now I have decided not consume a bigger animal than me. There are so many people deprived of food. People should take note of those people, instead of drafting out a menu of what to eat and what not to.”
The #Award Wapsi Campaign
“The awards they gave me are not from the Government. They were given by 12 scholars.”
“A section of people asked if I get a share while conducting events like these and I replied, ‘Idhu Vallal kootam’. People here wholeheartedly donate and stand tall. And those people can stay away from the Mandram. This is not the place for them.”
Kamal Haasan said he was proud to lead youngsters towards a better tomorrow. He added that he’s always debating with his well-wishers on whether he’s on the right path. He signed off saying, “Enaku agniparitchai vekka mudiyadhu, Seethai oda vechikonga.”