HAASAN'S SIGNIFICANT TEN
It wasnt a great film. But the characterisation was challenging. I
gave myself a new look, sport ed buck teeth and made myself ugly. Those days
we didnt have the kind of make-up facilities we have today. We used
tracing paper, spirit and gum to work out the look.
It was Bharatirajas debut film as director. In a major change of image,
I played a village bumpkin. Until then I was identified with the disco-dancer
kind of hero. The accent I deployed in the film was strange for any hero
Again I tried a differnt accent. I played a ventriloquist in the film, for
which I had to learn the art. The film was directed by K. Balachander.
Ventriloquism became my pass-time after this film.
It was quite a modern film for its time - in technique and execution. It
had almost the same cast as Padinaru Vaithinile (Sridevi and I played the
lead), and the film stood out for some outstanding performances. The Hindi
version of the film (starring Rajesh Khanna and Poonam Dhillon) lacked the
violence of the original, and was too cosmetic.
I liked the story as Balu (Mahendra) narrated it, but the climax I thought
was too straight and low-key. The man is left behind in a sad state of mind.
So we worked on the climax, gave it a lot of padding, made it very dramatic.
We had the car hitting the hero and he comes tumbling down in the rain, looking
funny with a black eye and swollen lip ... he keeps on stumbling, hits against
a couple of pillars... and we kept on improvising.
Its success was a morale-booster. The film, an award-winner, ran for 25 weeks.
A rare feat.
It was a brilliantly crafted film. It had one of the best screenplays
I have come across. Perhaps K. Vishwanaths best film. A tragic love
story, it show-cased my talent for classical dancing.
I was part actor and part engineer in it. I created the character myself
and designed how the film would be shot. Today with blue mat, I could have
worked wonders. For example I did nothing about the hand magician even though
I needed to. It was a physically exhausting exercise.
I have never discussed how we shot the dwarf. It would be like a woman explaining
whats inside her bra.
Another great effort from K. Vishwanath. It was an actor versus director
duel. We had to match each other punch for punch. We improvised our way through
this film. It was a very cleverly made film and you dont see the conscious
crafting. Not a single scene was done out of passion, but out of sheer
The hallmark of the film was a perfect combination of authenticity and
ethnicity, which made it universal. The general perception is that ethnicity
limits. But it doesnt. On the contrary, it makes it universal. And
thats what made Nayakan work. The Hindi version (Dayavan) lacked audience
backing. The theatre of action should have been UK - the Southall area -
and the protogonist would have commanded the backing of the audience.
I played a very simple, but real character, far removed in from what
I am. He looked as if he lacked Kamal Haasans confidence. It seemed
to go against the film, though, at the box-office.
It was like looking at the other side of a chromosome. The crucial thing
was the choice of the actor and the age of the character. The age of the
woman was crucial to eliminate vulgarity and to keep out elements of
homosexuality. I had thought of the film before Mrs. Doubtfire, though the
idea crystallised after I saw Mrs. Doubtfire.
Everybody thinks that Avvai Shanmughi was based on Mrs Doubtfire. But its
genesis goes back several years. Avvai Shanmugham was my gurus name.
He had done a perfect enactment of a poetess on stage. So, the late S S Vasan
wanted to cast him as a woman in Avayyar. But somehow things didnt
work out and he cast K B Sunderammal. I got the idea from there. I wanted
to play a woman, but not a young woman because it could lead to lewdness.