September 23, 2002 
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Kamal Haasan
Facing the camera with The Legend
Madhavan and Kamal Haasan on the sets of Anbesivam

Subhash K Jha

The greenery stretches as far as the eye can see. Pollachi, a small town in Tamil Nadu, has suddenly come alive. The unit of C Sunder's Anbesivam has arrived in the small town.

For the people of Pollachi, it is a very special occasion. They are witness to a great moment in modern Tamil cinema. The legendary Kamal Haasan faces the camera for the first time with the current star Madhavan.

Says Madhavan, "I can't believe this is finally happening. I have waited so long to shoot with Kamal Sir. When I signed Anbesivam, I thought of nothing except the fact that I would get to face the camera with The Legend. Then for some reason or the other the shooting kept getting postponed. The director was changed. For a while I was apprehensive about my dates. Now it has all been worked out. It is such an enlightening experience to work with Kamal Sir. We spent all of yesterday (Monday) chatting and bonding. The more I get to know him the more I bond with him."

Laughs Kamal Haasan, "You know, after Madhavan and I shot together for the first time, we both viewed the results on the video monitor. And I told him I have found the perfect costar. There is a certain chemistry between us which I think is unparalleled. I also find Madhavan to be one of the most receptive actors I have worked with. I am not surprised he has reached so far in his career."

The first sequence that the two actors shot together is filmed on a bleak railway station in Pollachi where copassengers Kamal Haasan and Madhavan find themselves stranded. Enter a cocky, smart-alecky station master who can only converse in Telugu. Madhavan tries to explain in Tamil that he needs to catch the first train out. The scene obviously belongs to the actor who plays the station master. He looks familiar.

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Kamal Haasan enlightens me. "He played a part in Appu Raja. He is one of my assistants."

The actor who plays the station master seems to be enjoying his moment of glory, as two major stars from Tamil Nadu let him take centrestage in a movie which addresses itself to a burgeoning bond between unlikely companions as they travel down the road of life. Kamal Haasan who has written the screenplay for Anbesivam, plays a man who is scarred emotionally and physically.

Madhavan He shoots in Pollachi wth a prominent scar running down his cheek. "It is not a scary scar. It is sympathy-getting scar," jokes one of India's most versatile actors. Madhavan seems completely taken up with his costar. "Isn't Kamal Sir amazing? Anbesivam is an important film for us. This is Kamal Sir's first non-comedy film in two years."

"Yes," interrupts Kamal Haasan, "but there are some very funny episodes in Anbesivam. The character I play can actually chuckle over his own disfigurement."

"Very true," concurs Madhavan obediently, "but on the whole, Anbesivam falls into the human-drama genre. I think it is unlike any film that Kamal Sir has done. As for me, it an entirely unique experience. After the huge success of Run, I need a film like Anbesivan to consolidate my position as an actor and a star. Seeing the efficiency level on the sets, I feel it will be my next release, though I do have a guest appearance in a film in-between."

The two costars seem perfectly clued in to each other both on and off camera. It could perhaps have something to do with their spouselessness. Kamal Haasan recently separated from his wife Sarika. Madhavan's wife has not accompanied him to Pollachi. "She probably thinks I can be trusted with Kamal Sir," Madhavan chuckles.

Laughter breaks out on the railway platform. And the station master laughs the loudest.


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