In 2000, the first-day evening show of Hey Ram in Devi Paradise had only ten people. In 2019, the same film, ran to a packed audience in Sathyam Cinemas, as a part of Ulaganayagan’s 65th birthday celebrations, in addition to the commemoration of 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.
The memorable evening brought all fans of Kamal Haasan under one roof, hooting and cheering for their matinee idol. Following the screening, we witnessed an interactive session with Kamal Haasan, Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and noted author-writer K Hariharan.
Kamal Haasan revealed he didn’t want to become a politician then. “They say Hey Ram was made ahead of its time, but I feel it should have come out earlier. Nevertheless, we released the film in 2000. But, politics isn’t a game that you play. It is rather doing something for people by being honest,” he said.
Acknowledging that he comes from a family of Gandhi followers, Kamal Haasan asserted he’s nobody’s bhakt. “I had a controversial opinion on Gandhiji while growing up. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find the weak man in him. And, Hey Ram is my apology to him. I have my reasons to love Gandhi now.”
The actor-politician noted what made him direct Hey Ram. “Marudhanayagam couldn’t happen, and that got me quite furious. I channelised all my anger into the making of Hey Ram. They could stop only Marudhanayagam, but not Hey Ram. I am proud that I took risks as a filmmaker that paid off,” he noted.
Kamal Haasan said he wanted Saket Ram to be in a stark contrast of Mahatma’s personality. “Gandhi could sleep with lights on, but Saket liked the darkness. Also, Gandhi celebrated celibacy and I wanted Saket to be the opposite,” he added.
When asked if another Hey Ram can be made today, Kamal Haasan said, “an honest filmmaker can make any film any day; irrespective of whether, it’s now or 20 years later. This isn’t a competition. It’s about the journey.”
Surprisingly, Tushar Gandhi went on to say how he had requested Kamal Haasan to not make Hey Ram. “I was concerned about the larger social implications. But I am glad that he didn’t listen to me!”
Speaking about the celebrated background score and songs of Hey Ram, Kamal Haasan confessed that he didn’t want Ilaiyaraaja on board first. “I had worked with Raja on 100 films, so I thought of collaborating with a different music director. But the composer I opted for, in the beginning, had disagreements with me and I had to go to Raja. But thankfully, the maestro never asked why I didn’t come to him initially.”
Elaborating more, Kamal Haasan added, even the “Nee Paartha Paarvai” had a different tune when it was shot. “Raja was keen that I didn’t re-shoot the film, and set songs to the tune with existing footages I had. For instance, “Isaiyil Thodangudhamma”, was not even there when I had written it,” he concluded.
A digitally-enhanced format of Hey Ram is streaming on Amazon Prime.