When one hears the word “versatile” an image of Kamalhassan immediately surfaces in our heads. In the Indian Cinema industry, Kamalhassan has become a force to reckon with. He has carved a niche for himself and remains the undisputed character actor and role model that any actor in the field would wish to emulate. He can never be typecast or slotted by his acting or mannerisms because of the various characters that he has enacted over the years.
Tracing his career graph from “Kalathur Kanamma” at the age of four which fetched him the Presidents Gold Medal for best child artiste one can only see his meteoric rise as an actor. The diversity of characters that he has portrayed with so much ease is itself a pointer to his acting caliber. His growth as an actor was under the tutelage of director, K Balachander which began with “Apoorva Raagangal” and his progress has been phenomenal when we look at the statistics and his fan following.
The range of characters that ‘Kamal’, as he is affectionately called, has enacted over the years spreads to embrace languages other than his mother tongue and here too he has managed to establish himself with convincing authority. Some of his hits in other languages include “Vishuvijayam”, “Rasaleela” “Yeeta” and 'Kanyakumari' in Malayalam, “Swathi Muthiyam” which was a super hit and “Saagara Sangamam” in Telugu. Can one ever forget the songs or scenes from his all time great performance in “Ek Duje Ke Liye” in Hindi? Even to date, the songs from that movie are hummed by people of all ages.
Some of his other memorable character roles were, as “Chappani” in “Pathinaru Vayathinile”, “Raja Parvai”, Devar Magan, “Guna”, “Indian”, “Mundram Pirai”, “Kuruthi Punal” and “Avvai Shanmugi” to name just a few. Of course he has acted in a few movies to cash in on the commercial aspect. But Kamal pays more attention to the fact that, movies are not just for entertainment, but play an important role in dealing with either a social theme or in bringing into focus certain sections of society which have never been in the limelight before.
Kamalhassan has his own production company called Raj Kamal International which he used to promote some, all time classics like “Raja Parvai”, which has created an impact in the minds of cinema goers because of the heart-rending performance by Kamal as a blind man in love. Other characters that he has enacted that are probably etched in our minds are his roles in “Mundram Pirai” especially the climax scene which would reduce even a diehard cynic to tears, his role in ‘Guna’-the opening scene, his dual role in ‘Indian’-especially as the father, then 'Thevar Maghan' in which the thespian Sivaji Ganeshan was brought out from retirement, 'Nayakan' in which he has played the role of an underworld don and “Avvai Shanmugi” which was pure unadulterated comedy with Kamal in the lead role as “Shanmugi Paati". The various characters that he has etched, makes one wonder whether he will ever stop trying novel ideas.
Taking his versatility into account, it is no wonder that awards definitely follow suit. He has won the national award for best actor for 'Mundram Pirai' (1963), 'Nayakan' (1988) and 'Indian' (1996).At one point in his career, it was even rumoured that one of his movies was worth a special mention at the Oscar Awards which is the ultimate for any cinema personality. Kamal has been untouched by such accolades. He is still striving in his chosen field to do better each day. His first directional venture is “Marudanayagam” a historical film based on a real life freedom fighter and was launched by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself when she was in Chennai. One other project that he has on hand is the Hindi version of his popular “Magalir Mattum” a Tamil cinema which dealt with a currently prevalent issue in society.
Having acted in 165 films in a span of over 38 years and at 47, Kamalhassan has already received the Padmabhushan and Kalaimamani Awards. His fan followings have been converted into social welfare organizations and today this movement has been responsible for donating 10,000 pairs of eyes which speaks well of Kamal as a man. He is married to Sarika who was earlier in the Bollywood circuit and they have two children. He keeps his private life under wraps. His latest project or pet subject is to direct a film with Shahrukh, Rani Mukherjee and himself in the lead in a bilingual mode.
We have all heard of the proverb that ‘Action speak louder than words’ and it can be applied to Kamal’s acting career. He lets his movies and character sketches talk for him and the message that comes across is loud and clear – he is one actor whom we can look up to!