Anuja Iyer



An hour with Haasan


Some days are hectic, some days are relaxed, some are routine and some are special. This was one of those normal days to catch up with a friend of mine over a Mallu special meal at Ente Keralam until a call came while I was half way through lunch. The voice on the other side came from the COO of Raj TV Mrs. Mala Manian asking if I'd be free in the next hour to interview Mr. Kamal. My friend sitting opposite to me noticed that I'd dropped the rice from my hand back into the plantain leaf and was intently looking at me wondering if everything was ok. Except what I heard was nowhere close to ok but the best thing that could've happened on an otherwise uneventful day when her answer was affirmative to my clarifying question... "As in interview Mr. Kamal Haasan"? She said "Yes. Mr. Haasan himself. One hour from now. Viswaroopam special". When such opportunities come, there are no two answers except a fully willing and resounding 'yes'. I cut short my elaborate meal, asked for the cheque and hastened back home to change my outfit, freshen up and prepare myself mentally for interviewing the artist who continues to inspire millions of artists and fans across the world.

My shooting days of 'Unnaipol Oruvan' and my interactions with the iconic actor came gushing back as I was driving to his office at Eldams Road. I also made use of the driving time to quickly call my good friend and popular anchor Bhavna Balakrishnan and asked her the few things that need to be borne in mind while doing an interview because there was one rider to this whole thing. I had never interviewed any personality in my life before for any media house or publication. And my very first one happened to be none other than Kamal Sir. Much as I've met, interacted and worked in his 50th year film, the combination of excitement and nervousness to interview an astoundingly gifted artist in such short notice was overpowering my otherwise confident self. But that's the challenge that lay ahead of me and I wouldn't have traded anything else in the world for this hour.

I reached the big black entrance gate, my car key was handed over to the security guard, I waited inside along with the crew and discussed the flow of questions that had to be asked and the wait seemed like we were expecting a celestial being to descend down the stairs from first floor. Fifteen minutes later when I saw a hint of the perky yellow shirt and sand-colored trousers with his face being revealed gradually as he came down the stairs, it seemed like the sun making a grand entry and his mere presence lighting up the whole place. My eyes were fixed on this larger-than-life persona and when he acknowledged my presence with that warm look in his eyes, a slight welcoming nod and a smile that comes when you see a familiar person, I knew I could pull this off. We quickly settled down, cameras rolled and before I knew it, my round of questions had already begun. The first thing about any interview is to make the interviewee comfortable enough in the first few minutes itself so that the rest of the questions can extract as much details as possible. I started off on a light note quoting a dialogue from one of his films 'Panchathanthiram' where he tells his on-screen father-in-law as played by Mr. Nagesh... "Kelvi kaykkarathu romba easy, aanaa bathil solrathu romba kashtam." He loosened up immediately with a wide smile when I told him that I've the easier job to do today. But there was a complete role reversal of sorts here because the person who was being interviewed is the widely read and extensively knowledgeable Kamal Sir who made the interviewer comfortable by patiently listening to my queries, without cutting me anywhere and chatting as if this was a one-to-one conversation minus any cameras and crew.

I don't need to elaborate about Kamal, the visionary artist and his glorious achievements in the world of films. The whole world knows it and I wouldn't be telling anything new. But the difference that he brings to the table when he gives one hour of his precious time and viewpoints to an ardent fan is absolutely enriching. It leaves you wanting for more of his time, more of his answers, more of his knowledge, more of him and any amount would still not be enough and everyone wants a piece of his time. The questions don't have to be discussed with him prior to the take obviously because he's been in the business long enough to handle anything at all but when he does answer, his clarity of thoughts, his construction of sentences and his child-like enthusiasm in his eyes when talks about his work automatically transports you to his world of films. Sometimes you can get so lost in what he says and become oblivious of the fact that you're in the middle of interviewing him that you'll even forget what you have to ask next. His command over whichever language he chooses to speak is so impeccable that it can put any formally educated scholar to shame. When he speaks Tamizh, there is no mincing of English words in between and vice versa.

By the fag end of the interview, there was a short power cut before the back-up generators could take over for the lights in that room. I was well aware that he had a lot more channels waiting in line back-to-back for his interview and the very same night, he was leaving the country to promote Viswaroopam's release in the US. I sensed his urgency and requested for 10 more minutes and he politely obliged. Einstein's theory of relativity kicked in when the waiting time of a few minutes to meet him again after a long time seemed like a few hours and that one hour with Kamal Sir seemed like one minute. Let alone one hour or one day, even one lifetime is not enough to imbibe, absorb and take in as much of his knowledge, triumphs, experiments and discuss his repertoire of work. But it was time to thank him, take leave after a brief photo session and wish him luck with his extravagant production. He belongs after all to the entire world of arts that it would be most befitting to describe this star with a middle name... Kamal 'Kalai' Haasan'.

The interview link for those who've missed catching it.

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