India’s Kamal Haasan is a true multi-hyphenate. Beginning as a child actor in 1960, he is one of the country’s most consummate actors with films like “Pathinaru Vayathinile” (1977) “Moondram Pirai” (1982) “Nayakan” (1987), “Thevar Magan” (1992) and “Vishwaroopam” (2013) behind him.
He also produces via his Raajkamal Films International (RKFI), writes, directs, and runs the Makkal Needhi Maiam political party.
The upcoming “Vikram,” directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj (“Master”) and costarring Fahadh Fasil (“Malik”) Vijay Sethupathi (“Kadaisi Vivasayi”), will be Haasan’s first release since 2018’s “Vishwaroopam 2.” It is produced by RKFI.
Haasan was at the Cannes Market to launch NFTs based on “Vikram” from Fantico, a digital licensed platform of Singapore’s Vistas Media Capital.
What is “Vikram” about? And is the title an homage to RKFI’s 1986 film Vikram?
This is not a sequel, but, yes, it’s [about] a man who’s very similar. The film starts differently, its about reminiscing the man and his deeds. The title is an homage to the old film because this was my first production in Raajkamal and people embraced it and encouraged me so much and I am still working after 36 years. There is still excitement when I call the film “Vikram” – that reputation comes from the first “Vikram” and I think we will be able make it even better with this one.
Were you familiar with Lokesh Kanagaraj’s previous work?
Yes, the reason we signed him is because of the films that I saw. The attitude of this gentleman is what attracted me and he was keen to work with me, that’s an important prerequisite for me as an actor. He claims to be a fan – fortunately for me even after working together he continuous to be that.
“When I first wanted to do “Vikram” I had suggested a theme that was in my mind, which at that time was rejected by a director who thought it won’t work – probably he was a captive of his time and wouldn’t come out of that cage. But when I told him [Kanagaraj] that he said – ‘Sir why would anyone say that? It’s a fantastic subject.’ So, the story line was given to him by me and he developed that, added bells and whistles to it and it’s a good vehicle now.
How was it like working with acclaimed new generation actors like Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil?
In Fahadh I find the enthusiasm which is reminiscent of what I used to have and still have – we felt like we knew each other already. Vijay Sethupathi is very serious. What I liked about it him is instead of taking success to his head he’s worried and wants to keep improving and tries various things. I like actors who think that some of it is luck. I don’t, but I like the humility of other actors. I always say that there’s nothing called luck for those who deserve it, you have to work for it. But he has understood it in a different way and I like the way he’s pushing himself. I wish him all the luck that he wants.
What are your future plans for RKFI?
I had only started realizing it now. Even 34 – 35 years back I had always wanted to grow using other actors instead of making it a one actor company, so I have done films with other actors and some I am not there at all, successful ones too. I have made films for women where I don’t play a part. We are signing up many actors who are my peers and friends. We have signed Sivakarthikeyan and Sai Pallavi for a film and few directors have been asked and shaken hands with and these are happening. We have spoken with Pa. Ranjith, Vetrimaaran and others and will keep doing that and my dream is to make it almost into a mini-studio that will be producing at least 6-10 films a year.
How do you find the time to juggle your busy political schedule with acting and producing? You had to recently step down from Disney+ Hotstar show “Bigg Boss Ultimate” [the Tamil-language spinoff of the “Big Brother” format]
I think that’s more because of the pandemic and the backlog it left in my work, because it was piling up and its no use running on a treadmill and not moving forward. I was just completing backlogs and not going forward with any new work. I will go back to “Bigg Boss Ultimate” because I do enjoy meeting people.
I have always done this – I have been doing production, acting, writing, directing so we will find the time – there’s nothing called ‘I don’t have the time.’ You will never ever commit something beyond yourself if you don’t love it, if you love it there will only be time for certain things. I do only that what I love to do and I have never run out of time. I can be lazy but I have never run out of time.
Are you planning to direct again?
I think if you direct, that’s three months of prep work for a film that might take four to six months to make and before that if I write the script its going to take between a month or two after arriving on an idea so that’s nearly 8-9 months of my time. I have great talents around me who think and work like me, so whenever I feel like directing, the directors who are my friends will say, ‘you must direct it’ and I will direct and they will help me. Till then I have great directors working for me, I can write for them I can act in that film and I have more time. This is how I juggle between one dream and another.
At what stage is “Indian 2” [the sequel to 1996 blockbuster “Indian”] at?
My work on “Indian” is almost 70% done. I have 30% of my work left. I think, [director] S. Shankar will be able to precisely say how long and how much more. We have covered quite a distance – when you look at it I am surprised at the stuff we have done. It was done over a period of time, so we don’t realize how much the pandemic and accident that happened on the sets – all of that sort of tripped us out of schedule. We have to go and re-fuel our vehicle and come back.
Are there any plans to get into the OTT/streaming space as an actor or as a producer?
I am a great fan and champion of OTT. I was talking about OTT years before it ever happened in India. OTT has been delayed in India at least by 10 years. [If it had] come then, [the present] would have been a more vibrant market than it is. Somebody asked me ‘how do you find going from big screen to small screen’? Screen [size] doesn’t matter – I have a big screen to play in, that’s the people’s mind, the mind screen is the biggest in the world. For me, if there is a moving image in wrist watches I would like to be in that too.
RKFI has a rich legacy of films produced, which a whole new generation of filmgoers has yet to experience? Are there any plans to restore them and make them available to a new audience?
Yes, we are doing that. Soon films like “Raja Paarvai” will come back. That was my first production even before “Vikram,” produced by Haasan Brothers but it also belongs to Raajkamal, it just changed its name – so that was my first production when I was 24 years old. I still find that movie cute and earnest and that it should be seen by people of this generation. And films like “Sathya” are getting ready already. “Hey Ram” and “Virumandi” are there for people to see. “Vishwaroopam” was distracted because of politics but it’s a movie which deserves viewing and it is there on OTT.