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cinema cinema:tamil Essay

A New Beginning

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Kamal Haasan (KH) announced that he would retire from films from barring Vishwaroopam 2 and Indian 2, not surprising at all. The fact to be noted is that both are extensions of his previous works and sadly not something new.

‘Something new’ would be the murmur of those who walked out of a Kamal film, even for the truest of fans, the films would be things that couldn’t be described at a moment’s notice.

Notice that KH has been very cautious about his late career, not wanting to be another curd rice eating lion (his phrase for the later phase of Nadigar Thilagam) but somewhere along the line he too had realized that it was time.

Time is of the essence, something that resonates in Kamal’s cinematic swan song “Uttama Villain” in which an ageing superstar has to balance between his final act to right his wrongs and his final act (in a movie) with his mentor.  For me the last Kamal consummate performance.

Performance that has no end is of little interest, one song from the film claims. Yes we have finally reached the point in the universe that there would be no more waiting for a Kamal film. Waiting and patience, the two characteristics that binds even unlike Kamal fans of which there are many.

Many careers come to an end, but few leave a lasting impact; while in fields which are driven by statistics (hi sports), achievements  which will always be broken. Performance artists on the other hand achieve near immortality thanks to their craft and can comfortably disregard numbers.

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Numbers too are surprisingly in Kamal’s favour; in a career spanning almost sixty years he has played from camp to class and what lies between.  Take 1982 for instance which gave the Tamil movie going public both Sakalakalavallavan and Moondram Pirai. This is not a singular occurrence Sagara Sangamam came with Sattam, Nayagan came with AVM’s Paer Sollum Pillai, Virumandi and Vasoolist etc etc etc and it is hard to imagine any other actor who can withstand this stretch consistently and still look natural.

Naturally, his multifaceted nature attracted different kind of fans. His long career has ensured that there was a constant churn in admiration, old fans becoming disillusioned allowing new ones to take their  place. An example would be a generation that still believes that KH was the coolest in the 80s, while another set claim he peaked in the 90s, some say he should just direct and not act, others don’t want him behind a megaphone, some want him to even work with youth directors (LOL). Personally, it is KH’s ability to be all this and more that makes me revisit his films.

Films (of his) are all that we will have of him in the future (not discounting the interviews), and it is surely exciting to revisit them not just as a fan, but as an explorer of the medium. Especially now, when there very little to expect. You have given me a lot to work with and all the best for your future endeavors, Kamal.

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cinema cinema:tamil Essay

DEATH BECOMES HIM

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Time is of the essence.

How does one begin to write on a film such as this? Is it even a film? The closest equivalent of this is when the person sitting aside you, waiting for time to pass, tells you his/her life. There comes a problem into classifying life into genres, there is a bit of it all, comedy, action, romance, sometimes all at once.

The best of art probably mirrors life and life is not without interruptions; for movies having poignant moments, are not expected to make you laugh at the same time, that we all do in retrospect.

But time is of limited scope here, not only as the running time of film as seen on the censor certificate, but in our lives as well; so in a similar telling moment when a wife understands that her husband probably still loves someone else and that she had been an obstruction in his life, we are supposed or expected to wet our eyes; which does happen with an actress like Uvashi in place, but simultaneously your eyes wrinkle and you break into a chuckle at the very moment. A real moment captured for eternity, well that is limited as well.

This is a very difficult film to write about Mr. Kamal, I am unable to fathom the difficulties that went into writing this film. So I will not spend precious words and time writing about how brilliant this film which you have given us is, I do not want to write about this film in the whole scheme of Indian films and how ambitious it is. That is for others.

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It was only yesterday we were speaking how Avengers should be a talking point because how easily it spreads itself across genres and here is one of our own, who has made a film which leaps out of the screen and splashes onto our lives like muddle splatter leaving a mark, one difficult to erase even with detergents. Uttama Villain is not just a film, it is a sort of a love letter Kamal has written to himself, and yes there are love letter part of the plot as well.

Kamal Haasan often parodied for doing almost everything in a film, does almost everything in UV (Uttama Villain) and rightly so, often seen as intrusive and controlling but not so often seen as one man’s love for all things cinema, but that debate is for another time, which I need not remind you is in very limited quantities.

The bottom line is Uttama Villain contains more Kamal-isms than probably the entirety of his career and my God (hope u are there somewhere) these are extreme fun to watch. The physical and the verbal compete with each other to provide entertainment in one segment, while the weight of emotion neatly folds you like a paper readied for origami in the other, but both these segments say the same things.

Time is of the essence.

Uttama Villain is Kamal’s seemingly last love letter to everyone with a mail box of an open mind, it is also a love letter to himself, and mostly a letter of deference to his mentor KB.

To see moving images in the eyes of the great but now dead man is one of the most moving images I have seen, maybe that is why this is called the motion picture industry. But who would choose life, if death itself is so beautiful. (Again the theme of the movie)

Personally, I feel that there can be no more fulfillment in life than that deafening thing that happens to you after you see a film, and that does things in your head than you can never explain, but then you really want to and then when words come rushing out, your mouth refuses to open. Uttama Villain is something like that. Maybe, we are all more emotional than we would like to admit.

Time is of the essence.

Most of us on this planet end up living nondescript lives, however great we may think the things we achieve are, it really would mean nothing in the long run, but as Gandalf says “ All we have to decide is what we have to with the time that is given to us”

Even If I don’t achieve anything, atleast I am happy I decided to be a Kamal fan.

A great undoing for an artist is to be unrecognized in his time and even greater undoing is to be misunderstood in his time, whether Uttama Villain makes money or goes otherwise is the least of my concern as it would not matter in the years to come. Maybe it takes time for people to understand the weight of it all, but time is of the essence.