Full Text of Kamal Haasan's speech at the interactive session of Hey Ram's special screening
The actor answered questions about his Hey Ram, in a special screening held today in Chennai as a part of his birthday celebrations
As a part of Kamal Haasan's 65th birthday celebrations and the commemoration of 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, the actor's Hey Ram (2000), which he directed and starred in, was screened at Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai today, followed by an interactive session.
The film, which follows a disillusioned man who tries to kill Mohandas Gandhi, was centered around the partition of India and its consequences. Hey Ram, which received widespread critical acclaim upon release, won three National awards, and is considered one of Kamal’s best works.
Speaking at the session, Kamal Haasan remarked that he discovered Gandhi on his own. "I'm nobody's bhakt. I wanted to see the face behind the hallow of the Mahatma, and I did find it. I wanted to go back to that period and understand him. When I saw photos of Nehru and Gandhi talking, I wished I was there," he said.
Talking about the differences in character between his protagonist in Hey Ram (Saket) and Gandhi, Kamal stressed that he wanted Saket to be the latter's polar opposite. "Gandhi celebrated celibacy. I wrote Saket as his antithesis. Gandhiji could sleep in bright lights. Saket wanted total darkness. This contrast exists throughout the film," he said.
The film is noted for its use of erotic imagery. Responding to a question about this, Kamal claimed that there is a component of eroticism in devotion too. "Take Kalidas' poetry for instance. It stands somewhere between lust and devotion. Gunaa is bit like that too. It's part of humanity itself," he said.
Addressing the contribution of Ilaiyaraaja to Hey Ram, Kamal said that he tried his best to keep the maestro out of the film. "I wanted to find another composer, since I thought it would give variety. Mani Ratnam discovered Rahman, and I wanted to do something like that. The composer I found and I argued over his salary. So I went back to Raja sir. He was largehearted enough not to ask me why I didn't come to him in the first place."
Asked if he ever got annoyed when people didn't appreciate the nuances of the film, Kamal likened filmmaking to running a marathon. "This marathon is a lonely business. It's not a competition, it's about completion."
To a query about Marudhanayagam, Kamal said that its shelving affected him a lot and forced him to be headstrong about making Hey Ram the way he wanted. "I felt angry when Marudhanayagam didn't happen. I knew I wouldn't be stopped in making another international standard film," he added.
When asked whether he would make a film like Hey Ram today, Kamal said that he will, if someone challenges him. "Also. there are many filmmakers today who are also capable of it. I have faith in the filmmaking community."
Talking about the political climate in the country, Kamal said that he was moved by the death of Amjad Khan (the character played by Shah Rukh Khan in Hey Ram) even then. "This is everyday news today. Nobody has the right to end a life, in the name of any ideology," he said.
Kamal Haasan also claimed that though he had no plans to get into active politics at the time of making Hey Ram, the film suggests otherwise. "I guess when you watch the film, you could see that I wanted to (get into politics). Politics isn't a game where you're clever. It's about doing something inimitable by lesser people. It's about being honest."
Responding to a question about Godse's ideology, Kamal stated that it was an act of cowardice. "Godse and others would have said at one point, 'Come, let's kill Gandhi.' If you expose the reason, you'll see how cowardly it is!"
Talking about the recent political attacks on Gandhi, Kamal said that people often think they could kill Gandhi with a gun. "How wrong are they! But they keep trying anyway," he added.
Kamal concluded the discussion by claiming that he's proud that he took these risks as a filmmaker.
The session was also attended by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Gandhiji, the film's cinematographer, Tirru, and Kamal's close friends, Santhana Bharathi and RS Shivaji.