Anu Hassan
Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Camera : P. Ganesh Babu & Hemananth | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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ANU HASAN INTERVIEW
Anu Hasan needs no introduction. Forayed into filmdom through Indira and wafted into our hearts as the pleasant host through Koffee With Anu, (a successful and favorite chat show for many in Vijay TV), she is a multifaceted personality. Meet Anu Hasan, our guest for the week in a freewheeling chat where she discusses television shows, films, Kamal Hasan and a myriad subjects with senior editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar.

Why you did not pursue serious acting despite tasting success in Indira?


I have frequently been asked this question. My answer is simple. Indira was a clean film and I enjoyed doing it. After its success, producers have approached me with various offers and I put forth these conditions- I will not do heavy duty romantic scenes; I will not wear skimpy costumes; I will not do heavy dance movements. Hearing my conditions, all of them have gone back with a reply – “We will think and get back”. I think they are still thinking!

Now, in films, you are seen doing secondary roles. How do you choose your films?

Let me be honest! I don’t give serious thought to these things now. When heroines themselves don’t get any hardcore important roles, it is a rarity for me to get such offers. So I just see if there is scope for performance at least in a single scene. That’s how Aadhavan happened. Even if it’s a single scene, it should be challenging. Then I look for something different. Last year, I accepted films because I was dying in them. I died in three films due to acid attack, car accident and bomb explosion. You can do in films that what you cannot do in real life. It is my way of looking at it in a lighter vein. On a serious note I look for the director, the team and my comfort levels with them. On the whole, life must be fun and enjoyable. I have reached a stage where I don’t have to do anything. Not that I was forced to do anything at any point of time. Generally, if I like something I will do otherwise I will not. In short, I have a flippant attitude towards work!

Although you debuted in films, your TV personality has over shadowed your film personality. How do you feel about this?

It is true and I am glad that I got the opportunity to do Koffee with Anu (KWA) because its reach is phenomenal. When you analyze, television has a wider and better reach than films. And many film stars who have entered this domain find themselves being addressed by their serial name rather than their real ones. Thankfully for me, in KWA, I am only Anu and audiences have accepted me as I am. It would have been unfortunate, if they had not accepted me because I don’t know to be anything but me. People like KWA and I have been recognized. I am lucky and thank goodness!

What do you attribute KWA’s success to?

I have answered this question many times and every time when I answer this, its importance seems to be growing bigger and bigger. The talk show KWA is not about Anu but about her guests who are the stars of the show. I have neither desired nor would desire (in future) to overshadow my guests or would ever suggest that I am better than them. The simple reason, they have accomplished far more than I have done in all my life time. So first thing is I respect what they have achieved but I continue to treat them like normal individuals. I look at their likes, dislikes, their priorities etc and talk about that. They may be a great vidwan or an upcoming artist; I respect them as human beings. Generally people like to talk and I believe in letting them talk. KWA is not scripted though I have a rough script in my mind. But the moment I realize that my guests are about to thaw and share something, I let that take an upper hand. As far as KWA goes, they are all candid shots and there is no take and retake. It is just a conversation in front of a camera which is very real. When the guests realize we are letting them talk what they have in mind, a casual air drifts in and perhaps that’s the reason for the natural mood to the show and its success.

Any unforgettable incident in KWA?

KWA itself is unforgettable. It is very amusing to recall how I got the opportunity to host the show. When Suchi was doing the show, I was first called to feature in the on TV segment for director Priya (Kanda Naal Mudal) who happens to be a very good friend of mine. When they heard me talk, they wondered if I could come as a guest along with Suhasini Akka. I was ok with the idea if akka was free. After three days when I got the call from Vijay TV, I was surprised to hear them host the

Glamour and looking hot is not

my forte
show. That’s how I graduated from on TV segment to guest to host in KWA. I told them that glamour and looking hot is not my forte and they also told me to be just myself and do what I wanted. The opportunity to host the show itself was an unforgettable one. I have done the show for three years and in this period I have met a wide variety of people like Mayilsamy Annadurai (Chandrayaan), Muthiah Muralidharan, Viswanathan Anand, Ila Ganesan and lot of such people. Just tell me, where would anybody get such an opportunity to meet people not only from the film field but also from other fields? A chance for a relaxed chat for two hours! What was very unpredictable for KWA was I used to get a common feedback every time that it was not at all like an interview. And it is not an interview because I am not asking you questions and I am only trying to understand you. My ignorance is my advantage as I don’t know things but I am desirous to know something. In this process, some of them have made me laugh while some anecdotes have made me cry. James Vasanthan’s fight with his mom just before her death and Aachi Manorama’s poverty ridden childhood are a few instances which have brought tears to me. In a similar vein, Jayaram sir made me laugh with the comic incidents during his drama days. I enjoy every moment in KWA show which has lot of unpredictable moments and plenty of forgettable moments.

How do you encounter starry tantrums?

What are starry tantrums? They may walk out refusing to shoot due to extraneous issues and I am not a contributing factor. Hence I can’t do much. The second type is when guests come with a pre conceived notion that I am going to put them in a dicey situation and question. Hence they would be a little tight, withdrawn and defensive. When I sense this, I will re-assure in non-verbal communication that I am not going to put them in tight spot and that my priority is only to showcase my guests as beautifully as possible. I would keep giving signals to them that I am keen to portray them in the best possible light. This invariably works. Besides this, there are people who feel that they are best suited to be in my place in which case I cannot much help. They may be correct but nothing can be done as I am here to do my job whether they like it or not. I will try to reassure them and I have succeeded in most instances. Despite all this, if things don’t work out, I am not bothered. There were occasions when things have gone out of control but I pride myself to be a professional and I have never let those things affect me when I am in front of the camera. There were around 4-5 such incidents just before the shoot which have affected me but you can never make that out on my face on screen. That’s the challenge that I keep giving to myself. This is how I handle tantrums but I have been lucky that most of these things have never been directed at me. I may have acted as a cover up for some one else’s mistakes.



KWA is like a tailoring job

What kind of homework you do for KWA?

Lots of people do homework for KWA. We have a group and the direction team will talk to the guests and research on the personality. I also surf the net to know about them. As I have friends in the industry, I call them to find some information. I call up Kamal sir, Mani sir or Suhasini and ask them for some interesting incidents if they have worked with them. Actually KWA is like a
tailoring job. I have three boxes (virtual), one has the research info, the other has my rough script and the third one has the content that the guests speak. I take a few from each box, entwine, coalesce and present it smoothly. In short, it is a cut, copy, paste tailoring job that I do in KWA.

Have you been forced to ask questions that you would not otherwise do?

There has never been a situation like this. Usually, I am the one who asks questions in KWA and it is completely under my control. Rapid wire round questions are decided by direction team and if I don’t find them offensive, I will go ahead. If I do find them odious, I refuse to ask them because rapid wire round questions can tease you a bit, can make you think a while and it can be tough but it should never hurt an individual. That’s what I believe in.

How did ‘En Samayal Araiyil’ happen?

I love food and cooking. I also love world cuisine. I travel quite frequently and I when I go out of country, I don’t seek thayir saadam or sambar saadam. Whatever is available there, I eat and I have absolutely no restrictions on food. I eat anything that floats, crawls, flies, walks... And so I have come across very interesting world recipes. On a very casual chat, I was


I love food

telling Vijay TV that I am interested in cooking and food that I want to do a cookery show for some other TV to ensure there is no conflict of interest. But they insisted I do the show for them and that’s how the show was born. Of course, now we have wound that up. The strategy was to blend the popularity of the host of KWA with a new show and it worked. I have only been getting positive feedback in the forum for this show. I also loved it and unfortunately we have wound it up.



I cannot resist biriyani

What is your favorite cuisine?

I love continental cuisine. I feel it lends itself very well to presentations. For instance when you take a chicken dish, we marinate and grill it and keep sautéed vegetable with a little herb on this side, mashed potato on other side with sauce and with a twig of parsley on top. It looks so beautiful when arranged thus. I like to play around with the decorations in food items. This feature is a bit difficult in sambar saadam though it
may excel in taste. Also I am not a very big fan of rice unless it is biriyani. I cannot resist biriyani. I like anything that is non rice base, multigrain bread, just chicken, fish, prawn, sea food, soups etc.

What is your take on reality shows?

Reality shows! How real are they? First of all, I would like to state that the whole world is a stage and when people come on reality shows, they even become better actors. They know that they are performing for the camera. Pain becomes exaggerated, fear becomes exaggerated and happiness becomes exaggerated. I feel there is very little reality in reality shows. And even in west, people are getting tired of reality shows. But reality shows are extremely popular and everybody can be in it. In case I participate in such shows, my family and friends would be naturally happy to see me on TV. Otherwise, there is a big question mark on how creative or real, reality shows are.

Anu alavum bayamillai?

I started off anu alavaum bayamillai and did season 1. I was so anxious for the participants even if they weren’t because I am trained in stunts. I know the little small tricks and nuances to protect someone during such activities and I was constantly giving cautionary directions to participants. As a result Anu alavum bayamillai was very stressful for me. I am a person


Anu alavum bayamillai was very

stressful for me

who gets completely involved in and I don’t like and don’t know to do any thing on a superficial level. However, I also felt that a sense of pretense started creeping into the participants slowly. I refuse to accept anything pretentious and falseness and the moment I realize they are acting, I would immediately stop. I used to question and make them realize that they are not being honest. That’s the reason many viewers felt that there was honesty in the show. Unfortunately the timings of the shoot were crazy. When the shoot was supposed to start at 2 PM, I was there punctually but the participants would come late, we would start the shoot at 6 PM, there would be some problems and we would go on till next morning 10. It was very difficult for me to shoot for such long hours. And more so, I was so worried for the participants who were not trained to do such stunts. That’s why I just did one season of AAB.



Rekha IPS was a dream role

Rekha IPS experience?

Whatever people may say, I love the police force and I have many police friends. Rekha IPS was a dream role and I was thrilled to wear the police costume. I have many amusing incidents to share with. We were shooting at ECR outside a toddy shop. The scene required me to chase the criminal who is sitting in the shop and I have to duck under a pole and then run behind him. Everything was set up and I was alighting
in a smart police uniform from a bolero which says Police and I see these three guys running for their life the moment they caught sight of me. It was so hilarious and the entire production unit was delighted.

Another day while we were shooting in a bungalow in ECR, there was a two hour gap and I sought permission to go to a nearby café and read a book in the free time. As I was walking to the café, three guys who were playing cards had sprinted for their life when they spotted me. Actually I had not noticed this and my assistant directors had a hearty laugh at this sight.

On a different note I was almost at the receiving end one day when I had just walked out with the police uniform. The rule is that one should remove the stars from the police uniform before you go out (while acting) and I had of course followed it. A police man stopped and questioned me and I was almost shivering like the thugs who ran upon seeing me.

So it was fun and exciting shooting for Rekha IPS. I had many stunt sequences, car and bike chases.

Our stuntmen are generally strong but they cannot run while I am very good at sprinting. There was another scene in Rekha IPS where stuntmen should chase me. I was running and they were busy panting behind me asking me to slow down. Director cut the scene and chided them saying that they were the one who were supposed to run and catch me. I had a whale of a time doing the serial and I was my fittest best. My work out routines were tough then. Now I am in a relaxed mode expanding sideways and when the need comes, I shall contract.

You are a multifaceted personality but what do you like the most?

I like fitness. They say that you get addicted to fitness. I love working out. People ask me if I exercise to maintain a slim figure. Let us admit I cannot be slim and I am large built. I work out to eat what I want. I am fond of trekking and open air. I find Kalari as an art form rather than a martial art form. In fact people have questioned me if I learned Kalari to thrash people. It is not so. I enjoy learning diverse things and new experiences. I love to try out and see what I can do and what I cannot. That’s about it and I am not violent unless of course I am provoked.


I work out to eat what I want


You belong to the legendary Kamal’s family and questions associated with it are bound to crop up. Do you get angry with them?

Not only for me, but for every actor such questions are bound to come up. People have asked me if I would talk to my chittappa and then I ask them back if they would talk to their chittappa and the answer would be obvious. People are curious to find legends like Kamal, Mani Rathnam and stars like Suhasini in a familial set up. It is fine. Another frequent question is – would I be successful if I were born in a family other than Hasan’s? I would say –yes. I am in media because I am born in Hasan family. I put in so much of effort because I am Anu. If not in media, I would have put much effort in Kalari or some other field. My personality is such that I put in my best. I don’t get irritated or irked by such questions because in people’s perspective they are all icons. For them it is a matter of awe that I am close to such an icon.

How do you feel about acting as mom to your own chittappa (uncle)?

It is a bit funny. In our family we all have acted in all possible roles. My dad has acted as Kamal’s son, my cousin brother has acted as Kamal’s grandson and I have acted as his mom. Actually, the director (of aalavandan) opined that Kamal and I have resemblance (which I am not sure) and he wanted me to play his mom’s role. The funny side was I have to address him as vaada. I took it in my stride. There was a scene in which the animal Kamal-Abhay would fall from third floor and blood would ooze from his mouth and I needed to say my dialogues. The moment I saw blood and the animal like sound from Kamal, I was paralyzed because I only saw the animal and not my uncle. But I was brought to my senses by Kamal who grunted – “speak your dialogues”. I have known him for so long but despite that the actor in him overtook the real personality and had the power to scare me. It was such a wonderful experience attempting to act alongside a legend like him.

You are a second generation actor from Kamal’s family. Do you feel there is a cultural divide between you and the previous gen and the next gen (Shruti Hasan)?

In our family me, Suhasini and Shruthi are all cousins but we all have different mindset even though the generation differences are not too much. Hasini is very forward but still conventional; I am forward but slightly unconventional whereas Shruthi is completely forward and unconventional. Youngsters these days are like that. Their approach to work is very professional and at the same time they are very tough and clear. They know to talk about money matters to production team and about scenes with the director. As regards me, sometimes I will do a movie for free and sometimes I will demand lots of money because I am crazy. But Hasini is a complete professional as she is in the industry for a long time and she has incredible knowledge about films. As far as musical knowledge is concerned Shruthi is very good. These are the differences I see and personality wise, we are all different.



Shruthi is very smart

Do you advise Shruthi or Akshara?

Our family is a non-involved family. We don’t advise each other. My dad, periappa and chittappa don’t advise me. Hasini will not advise unless solicited. If I seek advice from my dad, he would definitely be forthcoming but not unsolicited. Similarly, if Shruthi asks me, I would help her but I feel Shruthi is very smart and I am very impressed by the way she handles her career. Hence I don’t think she needs my advice as she is doing very well on her own.

Why have you not seriously pursued your singing career despite being talented?

I believe in “seivana thirunda sei”. (Whatever you do, do it properly). One needs to be trained well to take up professional singing. The music directors who come to KWA say that I sing well and I also assure them that I would send my music CD but I just leave it at that. Perhaps, one of these days I will get over my inertia and will send my sample to someone. But even for that I need to get trained. I am not that good right now.

Who is your critic?

I am my best and worst critic. I believe in not taking too seriously what outsiders say of me. For example, we generally get two divergent opinions about the same photograph or same show. For instance, for a recent commercial of mine, I got diametrically opposite reviews about my costumes, make up and look. One side raved while the other side simply thrashed it. So I just ignore that and I need to satisfy myself. Compliments don’t buoy me up. Of course I like them but I move on to the next job. If there are some corrections that can be done, I would do that. Otherwise, I just go on. I don’t pay much attention to external critics and I look at it from within myself.


I am my best and worst critic


Awards that you have won?

I have not got that many awards. I got the best supporting actor award for Run and Mylapore Fine Arts Academy award for television. And of course Kalaimaamani award which is the bewildering thing for me. I should have been blessed to even set foot on the stage which has been walked by such doyens. I feel that the award is basically given to me to inspire and help me scale greater heights like them.



Jeeva knows how to handle

people

Dhaam dhoom experience with Jeeva…

You asked me how I choose my projects and I said I look for the director. In this context, I would like to say something about Jeeva. I agreed to do that project only for Jeeva sir. He was such a sweet man. He told me that it is only a small role and I just agreed. That’s about it. I would like to site a small instance about his working style. We were shooting in the village and there is this old lady from the village who was picked
by the crew. She has no knowledge about cinema and all that she should say was – yenpaa. And every time her timing was wrong and film was rolling. If it would have been for any other director, he would have lost his cool and asked for an immediate replacement. But Jeeva being Jeeva came close to the old lady, put her at ease and reassured her that it is ok for her to say her lines whenever she pleases. The next take was ok. Jeeva knows how to handle people. He is a wonderful person to work with. Since he was also a cinematographer, he was able to bring out the feelings visually very well. It is a loss and I feel sad that he is no more with us.
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