Interview: Kamal Haasan ‘I cannot shrink patriotism to a village or a country’

“I am a modern world citizen and that is why I respect and understand Gandhiji. He was a truly international citizen and that’s what I want to be,” says Kamal Haasan, director and actor

Getty Images
Getty Images


Kamal Haasan is gearing up for his political innings but the actor wants to finish all his film commitments before he plunges into the 2019 elections. The superstar talks to Bharati K Dubey about his films, his daughter’s collaboration with Rajinikanth and more.

Q. Your films often deal with the subject of patriotism. What does it mean to you?

For me, patriotism is about the world. I cannot shrink it to a village or a country. I am a modern world citizen and that is why I respect and understand Gandhiji. He was a truly international citizen and that’s what I want to be. My patriotism is not just about the country, it’s about the universe.

Q. What comes easily to you - Kamal Haasan, the actor, or Kamal Haasan, the director?

A. What comes passionately to me is direction. I wanted to be director, not an actor. My guru, K Balachander told me I have a talent for acting and I should use it. People say he discovered me, but I say he invented me. I never wanted to be an actor, but he said that “You will make more money. You are going to be a star.” I was 18. I believed him and I am glad I listened to him. And here I am giving interviews now.

Q. How was your rapport with your co-stars?

A. I wish it had been like what Balachander shared with us, he was like a father to us. But I am more like an encouraging company manager. I wish I could learn the final art of directing actors. Actors are very sensitive people, they are like children or horses. They have a short memory span for insults or, even, appreciation. You have to constantly do both in a mature way. I wish I could learn that, but there is no time for that now.

Q. The rural Tamil population like you as an actor but not as a politician. Comments please.

A. They know my history very well but they are yet to know my role as a politician. So, why should they like it? It’s my duty to make them like me as a politician.

Q. Will we see you working with your daughters, Shruti and Akshara?

A. We are working on Shabhash Kundu. The Tamil version will be called Sabaash Naidu.

Q. Are you happy with the way Shruti’s career has shaped up?

A. The kind of growth that Balachander had ushered for us, I wish it had happened to her. I wish he were alive and younger. I can’t be a substitute because I am busier with other things. I wish she finds more mentors and directors and does more films. When I did Ek Duje Ke Liye at 27, I had an experience of 100 films behind me. It was my 101th film. That wealth of experience gave me confidence.

Q. Do you feel it is important to have a mentor in life?

A. You must find a mentor who can often be a father or a mother. But they are not technicians. You must find one and a kind one at that.

Q. What is your USP and success mantra?

A. My success mantra is simple. I just refused to stand down as a film buff and an audience. I have never thought of myself as above the audience, but I consider myself to be a connoisseur of cinema. And I never ever let go of that. That is why they allow me to sit with them.

Q. Now that you have taken a plunge into politics, your new love, what happens to films, your first love?

A. Politics is not my new love, it was always there. I just did not disclose it. It started working on my mind the day I realised how to use my franchisee as a voter. So, it is a 41-year-old love, but it has been a slowly developing one. I was wondering how to participate. Being a fan of Gandhi, which happened slowly over time when I was in my 30s, I suddenly realised the course the country should take.

Q. You have been vocal about your views and often gotten into trouble for that.

A. I learnt it from a guru who was willing to die for us.

Q. What kind of change do you want to bring about?

A. I am not saying anything new when I say you become the change you demand. What have I done to bring about that change? Am I being honest as a voter? Am I being honest as a citizen? When you talk about corruption of the politicians, ask yourself if you have paid your taxes? Start an argument there and then make an offer they cannot refuse - not the Godfather kind where you threaten them with the gun. Threaten them with your integrity and honesty. Tyrants are always scared people, they react violently because they are scared of losing of what little they have.

Q. Do we see you and Rajinikanth joining hands in politics?

A. I don’t know. The ideologies have to match. Our goal is manav seva. But how do we do it?

Q. But are you in conversation with him?

A. Not often.

Q. Many actresses quit the film associations in the South when the issue of their exploitation came up. Comments please.

A. There should have been consultations and consensus building which didn’t happen. We can rekindle the conversation and bring them back. It is a union. What they did was right, but arbitrary decisions are not good for a conglomeration or a union.

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