Actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan, who turned 62 on Monday, needs no special introduction, but some of his best performances have gone unnoticed in numerous underrated films.
We lists a few such films from the career of the multi-faceted hero:
“Aval Appadithan”: Arguably one of the masterpieces of Tamil cinema, this film may have been a box office disaster, but it was made much ahead of its time. Kamal plays a documentary filmmaker, through whose eyes the film presents the moving story of Sripriya, a men-hating independent woman with a bitter past. The razor-sharp dialogues with surrealistic filmmaking style offer an experience no Tamil film, before or after, has managed to deliver.
“Anbe Sivam”: The actor takes an agnostic stance about atheism and communism in “Anbe Sivam”, which translates to “Love is God”. The film revolves around two characters — a communist and a capitalist — who learn important lessons of life via a road trip. The film remains underrated to date because many misunderstood its sarcastic undertones associated with atheism.
“Raja Paarvai”: I doubt if any actor would take the risk of playing a blind character in his 100th film, but Kamal Haasan is an exception. In this poignant tale of romance between a blind violinist and a young Christian girl, director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao extracted the best out of Kamal, who had also co-written the film.
“Virumaandi”: Borrowing the narrative style of Japanese film “Rashomon”, Kamal addressed the abolition of death sentence from the Indian judicial system in “Virumaandi”. As a happy-go-lucky village rogue, he delivered one of the finest performances in his career with this film, which is remembered for giving Tamil cinema one of the finest actors, Pasupathy.
“Hey Ram”: In this semi-fictional recounting of India’s partition and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Kamal, as the film’s writer-director and actor, highlights religious extremism. The film was a box office disaster and paved the way to a lot of controversies, but the audience hardly realised that its purpose was to highlight the journey of a character named Saket Ram, who rejected the notion of securing rights through violence and allowed religious hatred to be taken over by love.
“Guna”: It is very unlikely that “Guna” would ever figure in a list of best films featuring Kamal because it still remains unappreciated and had turned out to be yet another box office failure. But I doubt if anyone else could have played an innocent schizophrenic to perfection.
A complex love story, the film could only be embraced if one understood an important line from a song, which translates to “this love, to be understood by humans, is not human love; it’s beyond that. This is divine love”.
“Varumayin Niram Sivappu”: A satire on the unemployment situation in India in the 1980s, Kamal collaborated with his mentor K. Balachander to play an unemployed youth in the film. “Varumayin Niram Sivappu”, which fittingly translates to “Colour of Poverty is Red”, is a unique film that not just entertains but questions the veracity of modern-day youth in a socialist India.
“Mahanadi”: Easily one of the most tragic films in Kamal’s career, “Mahanadi” pits a villager against those from a town who rob him off his prosperity. As a tormented father in search of his missing children, this is easily one of the actor’s best performances in the 1990s.
“Swati Mutyam”: As an adult with the mind of a child, the actor proved once again why he is considered one of the country’s finest actors. It was touted to be the Indian version of Tom Hanks-starrer “Forrest Gump”, but in reality, “Swati Mutyam” was a brilliant effort to confront existing socio-cultural traditions through the eyes of an autistic man. It is considered underrated because many failed to understand what it set out to achieve.