Cinema

The Kamal Haasan we don’t know

Kamal Haasan’s staff members give an insight into the icon’s life. (PTI Photo)

I walk into Kamal Haasan’s office on Eldams Road in Alwarpet, around 3 pm. It could be Makkal Needhi Maiam’s headquarters for today’s generation, but for movie connoisseurs, it’s the quaint building that fulfilled many a dream. Gates open; I see the party workers brainstorm ideas for their chief’s birthday. One of them mentions the Hey Ram screening and I smile in glee. Even before I was given an invite, I promised I would catch the film. We know the many facets of Kamal Haasan—actor, choreographer, writer, director, singer, producer, lyricist and politician. But do you know his favourite meal? Do you know his routine?

As Ulaganayagan turned a year older, indianexpress.com chats with a bunch of his staff. They tell what they like the most about “thalaivar Kamal Haasan”.

Fathima (Cook): I have never seen Kamal sir yell at others. He is gentle, kind and treats everyone equally. He likes the potato fry and chicken curry I make. What I like about him, in particular, is, when he thinks someone is at fault, he confronts them directly. Kamal sir is a jovial person and also an excellent teacher. Once he taught me how to make fresh juices and omelettes. (Laughs) Whenever he’s around, he makes sure everyone is well-fed. He’s very compassionate and I like the way he treats birds and animals. We had three dogs named—Abirami, Sundari and Omar before, who meant the whole world to Kamal sir. It is his idea to keep water bowls in the office so that birds quench their thirst.

kamal haasan
Kamal Haasan’s staff members believe he always knows what’s going on.

Suresh (Assistant): Kamal sir is punctual and highly intuitive. Say, I am unwell, he guesses it even before I confess. Kamal sir wakes up at 7.30 am when he’s not shooting for films. Then, he spends an hour at the gym. He likes to have a simple breakfast, and prefers Kerala Matta rice for lunch, along with sambar and non-vegetarian delicacies. He doesn’t like vegetables much. Dosas and coconut chutney are his favourites, among other things and he dines every day between 8.30 and 9 pm. Sometimes, he has a scoop of coffee-flavoured ice cream. He’s a fan of mangoes, too. Kamal sir also believes in unplanned power naps (Laughs). He’s a jovial person and appreciates honesty and loyalty.

Sugashini Kandasamy (State Secretary, Media): I have never come across a self-made and well-mannered politician like Kamal sir. He not only addresses people by their full names but also uses “Mr”, and “Ms”. Even his messages are drafted with so much respect. I like how Kamal sir is spontaneous. I have never seen him prepare anything, in case of press conferences and meets. He gives 100 per cent commitment to whatever he does and can speak on any given topic for hours. Kamal sir isn’t with us all the time, but he’s aware of everything we do. Avar dhaan ‘Bigg Boss’ aachey! (Laughs)

Sathyamoorthy (State Secretary, Headquarters): He’s a no-nonsense man, and I like that aspect of Kamal Haasan, first and foremost. Even before I joined Makkal Needhi Maiam, his films and ideologies have influenced me; but I never thought I’d end up working for the person I admire the most. He is neither insecure nor feels threatened by someone else’s accomplishments. He’s far-sighted, and I mean it literally. He’s one of the leaders, who shares the same table with party members for lunch.

Murali Abbas (Spokesperson, Makkal Needhi Maiam): He displays an unflinching commitment to work—be it cinema or politics. Kamal sir is the first actor to disband fan groups and convert them into welfare associations aka narpani mandrams. Through Nammavar’s speeches, anyone can understand that he does not discriminate on the lines of religion and caste, nor favour the rich or the poor. He’s a living example of how a politician should be.

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Mahalakshmi (Public Relations, State): Everyone has been raving about the politician Kamal Haasan, but I like the actor Kamal Haasan more. Sure, some people aren’t his fans, but they do respect him for the person he is. Kamal Haasan’s talent, calibre, expertise and the proficiency of his craft is undebatable. He can make every character he portrays believable, relatable and unforgettable. Though actor Kamal Haasan is unparalleled, I have always fan-girled over the dancer and the comedian Kamal Haasan. We never see Kamal Haasan on screen; we only see Velu Nayakar, Sathya, Udhayamoorthy, Sappani, Guna, Senapathy, Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri and Nallasivam, among others. He is the epitome of excellence and a university of the craft of cinema.