Thamizh Talkies: A revolutionary interview
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
We are into what seems like a new normal. Lockdown is the new familiar. While Zoom meetings have replaced conference room discussions, entertainment too is now entirely online. Especially in cities, where the chances of indulging in an outdoor sport is reduced, the internet has become our sole go-to space for entertainment and engagement. It’s not enough if you merely make me laugh or cry; it’s important you make me think, you make me participate in your process.
This LIVE exercise took a gargantuan turn on May 2 when Vijay Sethupathi donned the role of an interviewer and posed those 'I-always-wanted-to-ask-these' questions to Kamal Haasan on a wide range of topics, including cinema, life, politics, and people’s welfare. This 90-minute conversation is likely to go down in internet history as the most engaging content in the Tamil diaspora. Vijay Sethupathi represented you and me when he asked questions on Haasan’s personal reservoir of restraint and emotional equipoise when faced with setbacks. Kamal Haasan indulged that, and every other question with much candour, honesty and insight.
I particularly loved the replies to two questions — what Kamal Haasan thought of people who say they don’t understand his Tamil usage, and how he reacts when judged for all his actions, both personal and professional. I don’t want to spoil your chuckle when you hear Haasan’s reply to the above, so I will let you search for the chat online and see a rather dashing and full-on 'dude mode' Kamal in action. The replies and the entire conversation will be worth the time you spend online.
The internet has indeed brought our superstars beyond the drawing-room walls of our house. There is a certain touch and feel to how we now perceive our icons. There is a certain sense of 'I know this person' now. Sharing our thoughts makes us get closer to another human being. Earlier, those thoughts took the form of a movie. Today, it also takes the form of Live Chats or 10-minute performances or rendering a poem or narrating a story or even baking a cake. Will the term cinema come to mean these short and medium formats of content in the coming days? Maybe. With new apps hitting the market which specialise in content that is under 30 minutes, the internet may even change the course of television programming by bringing in our much-loved icons into the palm of our hands. Another new promo (if one can call it that) is what I saw of Trisha speaking on a video call with Gautham Menon, in what looked like an instruction from a director to an actor. I’m sure it is a 'lockdown movie' or maybe a part of it which will hit our social media pages real soon. Never has the mobile phone been used for such multitasking! Song recordings, scene shootings and short film editing... it all now happens in the palm of your hand.
And it is also meant for watching in that small a screen space, yes, but thanks to technology, you can project what you shoot on your phone onto a big screen as well. Whatever be the screen size, what still matters is what you are saying in it. As writers and directors, there can be no more creatively challenging a time than this, which asks us to think out of the box and hence, I’m confident we will get to see some path-breaking content in the coming days as well.
When a cinema colossus like Kamal Haasan tells Vijay Sethupathi, “Hope I didn’t bore you with this long chat...” it sets the path for the next-gen creators to have that concern to not bore the audience with their content as well. It was perhaps the best moment for me as I was watching the entire conversation between two of my favorite film personalities play out. The fact that one of them was focussed on not asking anything boring or mundane and the other one was delivering answers that not just entertained but also engaged the mind, made this conversation a meaningful one.
The key takeaway from the Kamal Haasan-Vijay Sethupathi chat was this — That no matter who you are, you have got to be mindful of the space you have in your audience’s lives. As Kamal Haasan said, “Don’t take it for granted. While the audience knows to love you so much, they also know to reject you if you don’t deliver well. So don’t take that love for granted.”