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From Chandralekha, Parasakthi to Nayakan: A list of Tamil movies Kamal Haasan enjoys watching

A list of Kamal Haasan's favourite Tamil movies.

From Chandralekha, Parasakthi to Nayakan: A list of Tamil movies Kamal Haasan enjoys watching
Kamal Haasan
  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 09.52 AM, Nov 08, 2022


Kamal Haasan was asked by Hindustan Times in 2017 to pick his favourite movies. What better time than the actor's 68th birthday to remind readers of this? According to Kamal Haasan, he was only able to select among the films he had already seen.

“This is not a list of films you have to watch before you die. I'm not trying to impose my preferences on other people. I respond to movies differently than other people might. It is similar to falling in love! Why do you fall in love with someone? Who knows? The same holds for movies,” he was quoted, as saying.

Chandralekha (1948)

Directed by SS Vasan of Gemini Studios, Chandralekha, which took five long years (1943–1948) to complete, ended up becoming the decade's largest box office hit. The simultaneous distribution of this movie in 44 South Indian theatres set a new standard for that region's history of film screenings. Vasan sold all of his jewellery and mortgaged all he owned to finish the movie, whose cinematographers were Kamal Ghosh and K. Ramnoth. The lyrics were written by Papanasam Sivan and Kothamangalam Subbu. The music directors, S Rajeswara Rao and MD Parthasarathy strongly drew inspiration from both Indian and Western classical music for their compositions.

Parasakthi (1952)

The release of Parasakthi, featuring Sivaji Ganesan in the lead, coincided with a turning point in Tamil history. Muthuvel Karunanidhi had worked as an uncredited dialogue writer in Marutha Naattu Ilavarasi (1950), but it was Parasakthi that brought him acclaim.

The movie, directed by Krishnan-Panju, featured several iconic lines and scenes, such as the famous temple one, where Sivaji Ganesan confronts a priest, who tried to assault his sister and, of course, the elaborate courtroom scene with a marathon monologue by Sivaji Ganesan, which was instrumental in defining and conveying Dravidian sentiments for the Tamil people around the world.

For a propaganda movie, Parasakthi set bar-raising expectations that have never been surpassed.

Andha Naal (1954)

A mystery-thriller, produced by AV Meiyappan and directed by S Balachander, Andha Naal is the first Tamil movie to be filmed without music, dance, or stunt sequences. After seeing Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) at a film festival, Balachander was inspired by it and wrote a play with a similar plot. All India Radio rejected the script, but Meiyappan eventually decided to make it into a movie.

Sivaji Ganesan, Pandari Bai, and Javar Seetharaman played significant roles in this one.

Ennathan Mudivu (1965)

A convict intends to seek revenge on the man who falsely accused him of two crimes. Ennathan Mudivu, written and directed by KS Gopalakrishnan, is based on Maharishi's novel, Panimalai. The movie features TS Balaiah and AVM Rajan. It was well-received by critics but flopped commercially.

Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974)

The Aval Oru Thodarkathai narrative has been adapted and remade in all of the south Indian languages as well as Hindi and Bengali. The Bengali version, Kabita, which KB was not directly involved with, perfectly matches the plot—including dialogues. The movie is regarded as one of Balachander's best works. The film was both a critical and commercial success.

Apoorva Raagangal (1975)

Written and directed by K Balachander, the film features Kamal Haasan, Sundarrajan, Srividya and Jayasudha, Nagesh and Rajinikanth. The central character in Apoorva Raagangal is Prasanna (Haasan), who develops feelings for the much older Bhairavi (Srividya), while Ranjani (Jayasudha), Bhairavi's daughter, is drawn to Prasanna's father Mahendran (Sundarrajan). The idea of relationships between couples with a significant age difference, which confounded Indian social mores, was explored in this one.

Manmadha Leelai (1976)

The movie, directed by K Balachander; starring Kamal Haasan, had trouble obtaining a censor certificate. Despite the controversy it caused when it was first released, Manmadha Leelai, went on to become a cult classic and is now regarded as a trailblazer. The movie follows the adventures of womaniser Madhu and his relationships with numerous women, including married ones.

16 Vayathinile (1977)

Directed by Bharathiraja and starring Sridevi, Kamal Haasan, and Rajinikanth, 16 Vayathinile, was one of the important films of Tamil cinema of the 1970s. The National Film Development Corporation of India was going to fund the movie. When they pulled out, SA Rajkannu took over and produced it under his label, Sri Amman Creations. It was subsequently given a new title. 16 Vayathinile was the first to be filmed primarily outside; before it, most Tamil movies were made in Madras studios. Ilaiyaraaja composed the film's soundtrack album and background music, and PS Nivas handled the cinematography.

Avargal (1977)

Sujatha, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, and Ravikumar appear in K Balachander's romance drama, which he also wrote and directed. This triangular love story centres on a woman who is torn between her first love and her ex-sadistic spouse, who is purportedly changed and wants to get back together. Sujatha received the Filmfare Award for Best Actress (Tamil), and the movie made it into the Indian Panorama despite the movie's commercial failure.

Sigappu Rojakkal (1978)

Bharathirajaa co-wrote and directed the psychological thriller, featuring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi. It centres on Dileep, a psychopath, who kills women after having sex with them because of childhood trauma. It was intentionally intended to vary from Bharathiraja's previous projects, which were set in villages. Bhagyaraj wrote the script and Kamal plays an anti-hero. Sigappu Rojakkal was a Deepavali release and ran in theatres for 175 days.

Moondram Pirai (1982)

The story centres around a teacher, who saves a sex worker, with retrograde amnesia and shelters her in his Ketti home. The movie demonstrates how, with the teacher's assistance, the woman regains her memories. Ilaiyaraaja scored the soundtrack for the movie, and Kannadasan, Vairamuthu, and Gangai Amaran wrote the lyrics. It also included the final song that Kannadasan wrote and had it recorded before he passed away in 1981.

Nayakan (1987)

Enough has been said about this Mani Ratnam masterpiece throughout the years. The National Award-winning movie has evolved into a standard for prospective directors who want to experiment with the gangster movie genre. Kamal Haasan is widely recognised as giving one of his best performances to date in Nayakan, a film that is loosely based on the life of Varadarajan Mudaliar and partially inspired by Coppolla's The Godfather.

Pushpaka Vimana (1987)

The silent film, which was written and directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, stars Kamal Haasan in the lead role alongside Samir Khakhar, Tinu Anand, KS Ramesh, Amala, Farida Jalal, and Pratap Pothan. It centres on an unemployed graduate who finds a drunk affluent man asleep and adopts his way of life after holding him captive. He is unaware of the perils he has placed himself in, though, since a hired murderer assumes he is the intended victim. Within two weeks of having the concept for Pushpaka Vimana, Rao had the screenplay in place.

Mahanadhi (1994)

“My household help, all of them, conspired to kidnap my daughter for ransom”, Kamal Haasan told the Hindustan Times while explaining the genesis of Mahanadi. “They even did a dry run. By accident, I discovered their plan. I was angry, unnerved and ready to kill for my baby's safety.”

The script of Mahanadi, he said, “wrote itself... may be assisted by my fear, apprehension and paranoia.”

Directed by Santhana Bharathi, Mahanadhi, was one of the first digitally edited movies produced outside of the US. It was the first movie in India to employ Avid editing software.

Hey Ram (2000)

In the movie, Gandhi will be assassinated by archaeologist Saket Ram, a victim of the Bengal riots. Gandhi, in his opinion, is to blame for all the violence and mass killings. However, after a few meetings with the Mahatma, the protagonist reconsiders and begs for forgiveness. Gandhi is ultimately assassinated by Godse, and Saket Ram spends the rest of his life following the Ahimsa path.

After everything was said and done, Hey Ram, was still a huge failure. The film's three-and-a-half-hour running time might be the main factor. The non-linear narration, which was a relatively new approach at the time it was made, is another significant factor in the failure. However, Hey Ram will act as a benchmark for movies to come, and in the long term, it may as well end up being a gold mine of primary sources for both world and film historians.

Anbe Sivam (2003)

In this Sundar C directorial, Kamal Haasan adopts an agnostic position about atheism and communism. Two characters in the movie, a communist and a capitalist, go on a road trip and pick up valuable life lessons. Because many people mistook the movie's humorous overtones for atheism, it hasn't received much praise.

Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989)

Appu and Raja are twins who were separated at birth, and grow up in different localities. Appu's quest for revenge begins upon learning that his father was killed by four criminals. Directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, Apoorva Sagodharargal, has a story by Panchu Arunachalam and a screenplay by Kamal Haasan.

Thevar Magan (1992)

The urbane son of a village chieftain struggles between his aspirations and those of his family. Using the screenwriting software Movie Magic, the script was developed in just seven days. The Kannada film Kaadu (1973) and The Godfather (1972), according to Haasan, served as inspiration for Thevar Magan, which was well-received by critics and ran for 175 days at the box office.

Virumaandi (2004)

The main focus of the movie is an interview with two prisoners: Kothala Thevar (Pasupathy), who is serving a life sentence, and Virumaandi (Haasan), who has been given a death sentence. The Rashomon effect serves as the foundation for the movie's plot. Additionally playing significant roles in the cast are Abhirami, Napoleon, Rohini and Nassar.

Dasavatharam (2008)

Directed by KS Ravikumar, this one has Kamal Haasan in ten different roles. The main character of the movie is a research scientist, who creates a bioweapon and ensures that it is not acquired by a terrorist nation. The premise involves connecting the lives of numerous people from the 12th century to the 21st century. Following the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami, many additional people got involved in the process, and their individual stories began to converge.

Vishwaroopam (2013)

Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, and Jaideep Ahlawat play supporting roles in the Kamal Haasan-directed and produced movie. Nirupama, a determined woman studying in the US, wed Viswanathan, a classical dancer. She employs a detective after growing sceptical of his behaviour, and the investigator learns the truth about him and his past. The movie, which was simultaneously shot in both Tamil and Hindi, had a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy soundtrack. Vairamuthu and Haasan wrote the lyrics for the Tamil version, and Javed Akhtar translated them for the Hindi version.