To quote KB/Nagesh, “Long long ago, so long ago, nobody knows how long ago” I used to be a very minuscule albeit highly adorable part of the Tamil TV and cinema fraternity. During one such shoot, I met the actor who played the protagonist in that movie. I didn’t know the magnitude of my situation. I was a thorough professional though, hence I finished my shoot, had my food, collected my salary and went back home… A few months later, I walked into the theatre to see myself on the big screen, this should have been the first brush with my narcissistic side. It was my first ever appearance on the silver screen. I was excited and was literally jumping with joy because the guy in front was tall and I didn’t want to miss my cherubic performance unfold on screen. Though I was one of the most important turning points in the movie, I had a blink and a miss role. I remember I hardly blinked and that’s not only for pointing at the screen and shouting out loud . . . “Amma… appa… avinash ma. . . anga screen la….” It actually had a lot more to do with the fact that a silver haired actor held my attention more than what all the teachers in school and my parents at home could ever imagine. After 3 hours and a glass of pepsi in hand, I walked out of the theatre holding my head high. I had fallen in love with the Movies. I had fallen in love with the actor called KAMAL HAASAN.
My love for Kamal Haasan – the actor, is not a secret. Along with those amazing characters he has played over the years, he also played an important part in defining my taste in movies, books, comedy, style and many moral values. So yes, I am biased towards a Kamal Hassan movie. I tend to find glimmers of hope and flashes of brilliance in even the most ‘critically’ panned and ‘contrived’ attempts he supposedly made.
I walked in to watch Uttama Villain today, I was prepared to whatever that might happen on screen, because Kamal Haasan smartly used the supremely talented Ghibran to give us more than a glimpse into the world of Uttama Villain. . . There have been movies where the songs became huge hits and had to be re-shot to cash on its popularity and there have been movies, where the songs are so underwhelming, that it seems unwarranted and there are movies like Uttama Villain, where the music and the story weave seamlessly, one uplifting the other and vice versa with no show of one-upmanship.
One of the perks of being pretty jobless is the fact that I tend to watch almost every movie on the first day of its release. This time it couldn’t happen for factors that were outside a movie-goer’s control, hence I had to tread carefully on social media to prevent reading spoilers and reviews from others. . . By now, am pretty sure there are enough comments on the cinematography, special effects, art, lighting, costumes and food on the sets. So I won’t bore you with the details about the same. Any big budget movie should have all these in the highest quality.
So here’s what I personally make of this particular film from Kamal Haasan. . . This is a meta-movie. . . or otherwise to be known as Movieception from here on. . . It is self indulgent and is probably the most honest portrayal of what it must be like in the heads of the STARS. The beauty of the core concept is that it can refer to any person from any field across state and even country lines. Since it is a movie that deals with film making, it can be alluded to Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan, the Khans and the likes. But Kamal Haasan isn’t someone who’d do subtle referencing for other actors. He has his hands full and is pretty narcissistic in his approach to filmmaking. It can be best described by his answer to a journalist when asked about not using established actors in his magnum opus ‘Vishwaroopam’ which would have translated into better opening and more revenue. . . “at the risk of sounding immodest, I am a big star and commercially viable.”
As to the story, Manoranjan is an ageing, commercially bound superstar of ‘masala’ movies who frolics with women half his age in exquisite locales, who has to make a few life changing decisions because of incidents that happen in his life. Uttaman is a character from a different era that exists predominantly to give a social commentary about the wish of people to remain in the limelight… forever… A delectable tale about the trappings of a star and the wish to remain immortal, albeit in the memory of generations to come. The humour in this film is derived from irony, wordplay and dealing with regular day to day issues. It may not rank along the likes of MMKR or Panchathanthiram or Vasool Raja . . . I found the brand of humour along the lines of Mumbai Express and Manmadhan Ambu. . . It might not have worked for some, but I laughed and smiled a lot throughout the movie whenever I found my vision clear after the scenes that squeezed hard at my tear glands.
As to the performances, every actor has a minimum of one scene to portray their acting chops. Oh, and they deliver. Personally, a couple of scenes by Pooja Kumar made me cringe, but her performance in ‘Kadhalam kadavul munn’ made it up. The acting just has to be awesome when the star-cast boasts of established and incognito names, such as Jayaram, Nasser, MS Bhaskar, K.Vishwanath, Urvashi, Parvathy, Andrea (surprisingly effective) and that guy who plays Kamal Haasan’s son. Each and everyone of them has at least one scene, where they would have easily walked away with the entire applause. Most of them almost do… but that particular actor called Kamal Haasan overshadows everyone and everything. Only K.Balachander trumps Kamal Haasan’s on screen performance. It might be a deliberate underplay or the natural reaction of a disciple who is in awe, love and in deference to his Guru. A completely encompassing performance.
It has been quite sometime since I have seen a Kamal Haasan performance that doesn’t distract me with prosthetics or has been riddled with controversies. This powerhouse performance made me reach for my non existent handkerchief, smile to myself and laugh without inhibition.
I personally didn’t find anything that would have left audiences confounded and give this movie, that usual tag of ‘People won’t understand it’
But again, any movieception worth its salt, would and should leave the audiences thinking, debating and look at every scene from their respective POV. Let alone movieceptions, any movie must do this to their audiences. They shouldn’t be spoonfed everything. The audience has grown and their intellect shouldn’t be taken for granted. This was taught to me by Kamal Haasan.
With this movie dealing so much about immortality and the unexpected deals life hands you, I got reminded about a topic that I was discussing with one of my friends. In my lifetime, I have never seen any of my matinee idols or role models slip away into oblivion or into a different realm altogether. But what if, I am faced with such a predicament. I don’t know how exactly I would react. No one can ever know. Once the movie got over, I got a glimpse of what I might feel or how I would react. I walked out slowly, adjusting my glasses, lingered a bit longer in the comfort of a movie hall, stopped at the door and looked back at the screen and could visualise one of the initial images of Uttama Villain and it’s end frame. Kamal Haasan waving to his fans and blowing air kisses and the end frame where the audience claps and whistles for their matinee idol. I had a lump in my throat and smiled to myself.
I fell in love with movies again… and once again thanks to that Silver haired actor who defined everything about movies to me, at the age of 7 and has been redefining it ever since.
Padma Bhushan Kamal Haasan. Thank You.