Five films of ‘Ulaga Nayagan’ that deserved better reception

Chennai: A day to cherish for Kamal Haasan fans. And come tomorrow he turns 65. In his career spanning six decades, he has come out with several hundred films in various languages, winning a bag full of awards nationally and internationally. An actor, dancer, director, screenwriter, producer, playback singer and lyricist, he has many firsts to his credit from Kalathoor Kannama to Vishwaroopam 2.

On the eve of his birthday, News Today takes a look at five films of Kamal Haasan that have become cult classics.  Though they did not set the box office on fire when it got released, it still holds a relevance in Tamil cinema.

Guna (1991)
A psychological-romance film that was helmed by Santhana Bharathi and written by Sab John, the movie was critically acclaimed as Kamal played a psychiatric patient (Kamal Haasan). He kidnaps a rich woman (Roshini) in order to make her fall in love with him. He believes she is the avatar of Goddess Abhirami and it is his destiny to marry her. Pitted against Rajinikanth’s Thalapathy, Guna managed a decent run in theatres. But it acquired cult status in Tamil cinema and inspired similar films about mentally obsessed lovers. Kamal Haasan’s performance was the movie’s highlight. The actor in him took the centrestage. He did not overdo the role.

Hey Ram (2000)
A master piece in Tamil cinema, Hey Ram was a movie that was far ahead of its time then. Written, produced and directed by Kamal Haasan, Hey Ram was grand yet emotionally engaging. An interpretation of historical events, the writer in Kamal Haasan complimented the actor in him. The movie revolved around Saketh Ram and his journey from religious hatred to love with Gandhian philosophy as backdrop. The theme holds very relevant even today when the society is divided by caste and communal hatred. Kamal Haaasan played an archaeologist and the movie would commence on 6 December 1999 (the seventh anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya). The film at places daringly takes a dig at Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Mahatma himself. The right wing ideologies too were discussed broadly in the film.

Aalavandhan (2001)
A psychological thriller directed by Suresh Krissna, the movie featured Kamal Haasan in dual roles. Interestingly the movie was inspired by a novel called Dhayam, written by Kamal Haasan. His performance as a beasty clean shaven brother was the highlight. He gained ten kilograms for the role. The action sequences were far ahead of the times then. Hollywood stunt choreographer Grant Page came up with some breathtaking action scenes for the film. Interestingly, director Quentin Tarantino acknowledged that the animated violence shown in Aalavandhan inspired the anime scenes in his Kill Bill films. Contemporary response to this film was very positive. It was shown in the 2016 Fantastic Fest in America, where it was acclaimed by the audiences.

Anbae Sivam (2003)
Directed by Sundar C, the movie featured Kamal Haasan and R Madhavan in the lead roles and narrated the story of an unexpected journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai undertaken by the two men of contrasting personalities. The film focuses on the themes of communism, altruism, and atheism, and also focused on Kamal’s views as a humanist. Upon release, the film was unsuccessful at the box-office, but has since acquired cult status amongst film-goers.

Mumbai Express (2005)
Known for introducing state-of-the-art technologies to Tamil cinema, managed Kollywood’s first digital film (shot in the Red epic camera). It opened a new path for potential filmmakers and our foray into the digital film making. They used 3ccd camera. Directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, the movie was written and produced by Kamal Haasan. Kamal Haasan shared the screen with Manisha Koirala, Nassar, Pasupathy, Sharat Saxena and Santhana Bharathi amongst others. Released alongside Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi, Mumbai Express may have not topped the box office charts then, but is still the most-talked about movie for introducing a new technology.

M BHARAT KUMAR