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The 10 BEST Films of Kamal Haasan

Last updated on: November 07, 2013 12:58 IST

Image: Kamal Haasan in Kalathur Kannamma
S Saraswathi in Chennai

As the legendary actor turns 59 today November 7, we look at some of his finest films.

Kamal Haasan received his first National Award in his debut film, Kalathur Kannamma, when he was just six years old. 

Since then he has won three more National Awards and received the Padma Shri in 1990 for his exceptional contributions to Indian cinema. 

On his 59th birthday, we look at some of the memorable films of this talented actor.

Kalathur Kannamma

Kamal Haasan made his debut as a child artiste in 1960 in the film, Kalathur Kannamma, produced by A V Meiyappan.

Though the film had seasoned artistes Gemini Ganesan and Savitri, it was Kamal Haasan’s endearing performance that really stood out. 

Kalathur Kannamma is a sad, romantic story of a young couple who are separated by unfortunate circumstances while their innocent son is forced to grow up in an orphanage.

A melodious song, Ammaavum Neeye, Appaavum Neeye picturised on young Kamal and the inmates of the orphanage became one of the highlights of the film. 

He was just six years old then and his performance won him the President's Gold Medal, in 1961.

Moondram Pirai

Image: Sridevi and Kamal Haasan in Moondram Pirai

The 1982 blockbuster Moondram Pirai, directed by Balu Mahendra, earned Kamal his second National Film Award for Best Actor. Sridevi with whom he shared a great onscreen chemistry is paired opposite him. 

In Moondram Pirai, Kamal plays a school teacher who rescues and takes care of an amnesic Sridevi, who forgets all about him when she recovers her memory. 

The last scene at the railway station when he tries to gain her attention by playing all her favorite pranks, while she thinks that he is mentally challenged and is begging for food, is truly heartbreaking. It is one of his most memorable scenes that can still bring tears to your eyes.



Image: Kamal Haasan in Nayagan

The timeless classic Nayagan, written and directed by Mani Ratnam, brought both Tamil cinema and Kamal Haasan international recognition. 

The film portrayed the struggles of South Indians living in Bombay and was based on the real life of Bombay underworld don, Varadarajan Mudaliar. 

Kamal’s subtle but powerful performance as Velu Naicker captivated audiences and won him yet another National Film Award.

The film is listed in the The Moving Arts Film Journal as one of the 20 greatest Indian films of all time.


Image: Kamal Haasan in Indian

In director Shankar’s Indian, which released in 1996, Kamal plays a dual role, as father and son. The backdrop is the rampant corruption and bribery in our country.

The film won three National Awards, including one for Kamal for his brilliant portrayal of a wrinkled silver-haired veteran freedom fighter in his 70s who decides to enforce his own brand of justice.  

Pushpaka Vimana

Image: Movie poster of Pushpaka Vimana

Kamal Haasan has always been extremely passionate about experimenting. 

He can effortlessly plays two, three, four and or even ten characters in a film without breaking a sweat.  These are some of his unusual portrayals.

The silent black comedy Pushpaka Vimana, written and directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, revolves around a poor and unemployed youth, who falsely assumes the identity of a millionaire to experience the affluent lifestyle.

This film proved that Kamal did not need long fancy dialogues to prove his acting prowess. 

With just his facial expressions, eyes and body language, Kamal Haasan effortlessly managed to convey more meaning and understanding than words could have.

Pushpaka Vimana was considered a silent masterpiece and went on to win the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.


Raja Paarvai

Image: Kamal Haasan in Raja Paarvai

Kamal Haasan’s maiden production venture, Raja Paarvai, starring himself and Madhavi, was also his 100th film. 

The film did not do very well at the box office and Kamal Haasan had to reportedly work for seven to eight years to make up the losses.

Kamal plays a blind violinist in the film who impresses Madhavi, a rich writer, with his ability to live independently despite his impairment.

It may not have done well when it was released, but Raja Paarvai is now considered a cult classic that was much ahead of its time.

Apoorva Sagodharargal

Image: Kamal Haasan playing a double role in Apoorva Sagodharargal

Apoorva Sagodharargal, also produced by Kamal Haasan, released in 1989 and was a huge blockbuster that ran for almost 600 days. The film had Kamal playing a triple role, that of a father and his twin sons. 

The highlight of the film was Kamal playing the character of Appu, a dwarf, who cleverly avenges the death of his father. 

Lots of ingenious techniques and tricks were used to engineer the character. With no computer graphic imaging, one can only imagine the hardships the actor must have put himself through.

Michael Madhana Kama Rajan

Image: A scene from Michael Madhana Kama Rajan

Michael Madhana Kama Rajan is definitely one the funniest films ever made.

Kamal plays four different characters in the film and to distinguish them he has skilfully used different body language, expressions and dialects.

So, while Michael has a husky voice, Madan has an English accent, Kameshwaran speaks Palakkad Tamil and Raju speaks Chennai Tamil. 

Michael Madhana Kama Rajan was a massive success and is further proof of Kamal’s extraordinary skill as an actor.


Image: Kamal Haasan in Aalavandhan

Aalavandhan is an adaptation of the novel Dayam that was written by Kamal Haasan in 1984. 

The film was an action thriller with Kamal once again playing a dual role. One of the characters is a bald, dangerous psychopath who has spent most of his life in a mental asylum. The other, his twin, is a respectable commando in the army.

Two hugely contrasting characters, one filled with hatred and totally evil and the other upright and virtuous, but as usual, Kamal gives an incredible performance, essaying both characters with equal conviction and precision.


Image: Kamal Haasan and Asin in Dasavathaaram

Dasavathaaram, directed by K S Ravikumar was a science fiction movie written by Kamal, in which he played ten different roles. 

Some of the avatars, especially the foreign ones, like George Bush, did not go down well with the audience.

Though Kamal has done his best to bring out the essence of each of the characters, there are many who believe that unlike his earlier films, Kamal has relied more on make-up rather than talent to distinguish between the characters.

There is enough evidence to prove that Kamal Haasan is a multi-faceted personality, an amazing combination of actor, writer, director, producer, singer, lyricist, and choreographer.