After directing and acting in the serious Virumaandi, which went on to become a big hit in Tamil Nadu, Kamal Haasan is now starring in a comedy.
A remake of Rajkumar Hirani's Hindi hit, Munnabhai MBBS, the Tamil version will be called Vasool Raja.
The film will be directed by Saran and co-star Prabhu, Prakash Raj and Sneha.
Haasan spoke exclusively to rediff.com Special Contributing Correspondent Shobha Warrier on the sets of Vasool Raja, during his lunch break.
This is the first part of an extensive interview:
You have been acting since childhood. After working for so many years, do you get bored with your profession?
No. You don't get bored if you are in the film industry. No profession is as versatile as this one. If you ask me how many days I work in a week, I would reply I don't work. It has been nearly 20 years since I worked. Acting ceases to be work because I enjoy it. But it feels like working when I do bad work, especially when I know it is bad.
Is that what keeps you going?
Absolutely. Because for me, it is like new scenery, new place, new food every day.
Do you become a new person every time something new happens?
No. That kind of neurotic transformation does not happen. All of us do some play-acting in real life too. The moment we mime to inform an unwanted caller that you are not around, you are acting.
You do such play-acting while working.
Yes, it is work for me. It is like Jane Goodall, the gorilla lady. People go once a year on a safari to the jungles. But she likes animals so much she lives with them. It has become her lifetime vocation.
Unlike other actors, you play different characters in all your films. Do you consciously pick such characters?
Yes, that is because I am first a fan of Kamal Haasan.
A fan of yourself?
Absolutely. Without which it is not possible to perform well.
Are you a narcissist?
No. You must appreciate what you are doing. Tell me, when do you become a respectable person in society? When you start respecting yourself. That is when you take care of yourself, that is when you comb your hair, groom yourself and cleanse your body. You do all this because you respect yourself. You won't wear a dress because you may not look good in that. My being a fan of Kamal Haasan is also like that.
You have to appreciate the finer points of your work; criticise too, if needed. I am also my own worst and most honest critic. I can say things which nobody will ever dare say. Even the best of friends will stop at a point, whereas I can go beyond.
What do you like and dislike about yourself?
What I like is what I exhibit. What I don't like, I edit so that you don't see it. It is like clothing. It is like how men wear tight T-shirts to show off their muscles. If they have a paunch, they wear loose shirts.
You always change your physical appearance. Is it because you get bored with your face?
Yeah, that's the main reason. Not only that, as far as I am concerned, the different get-ups are like costumes for me. Would you like to be seen in the same dress tomorrow? Day after, maybe, but tomorrow, you may not even like to wear a dress of the same colour.
It means so many things -- others may think you are wearing the same dress. So if you are going to the same place, you will not wear the same dress or even a dress of a similar colour. So you will wear it another day. It is the same case with actors too.
Changing a dress is external. Isn't changing your appearance more internal?
Even the face is external. Inside, you are the same man.
When do you feel you should change your appearance?
The character prompts me to do so. I do not change my appearance to satisfy some personal ego trip.
People around you are always ready to serve you. How do you keep in touch with reality?
It's very difficult. Yes, you do lose touch with reality. It is like the neural numbness that diabetic patients get. My mother was diabetic, so I know what it is like. The extremities becomes numb for diabetic patients.
Once you attain stardom, you lose that finer touch with society. When you are a man on the street, you get to know every vibration. But once you attain this status, more than you, people become self-conscious by your presence.
But I can't go back to my old environs. So I try not to effect a change in the environment because of my star presence.
How then do you get those finer vibrations from society?
I have to steal them.
I watch quietly. I imitate. That is how I steal moments. For me, television is a great boon. I don't watch any of these cinema programmes they offer. There is nothing for me to learn from them. I watch National Geographic, Reality television, the History Channel and the daily news. These are very important contacts with life.
But that contact is not real. You can't touch it.
I still watch it. It is like travelling in a bus and watching an accident or street fight. You get a glimpse of life.
At any time, did you feel like wearing a mask and going out?
I have done that! I am one of the very few actors who have done that. But now, I don't think it is worthwhile. Times of terrorism, you know. I used to change my get-up when I was in Mumbai and see my films. I had changed my get-up and visited a company which was producing a film with me. They were auditioning for another character. I even auditioned as another man!
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