The movie is 232nd outing for Kamal Haasan while Kanagaraj is four films old but has earned his spurs. It remains to be seen if the young director will hold his own against the actor known to meddle in every department on the set.
It’s a dull year if you are a film buff. All the tent-pole movies are getting pushed into what will hopefully be a better period. So every time a new movie is announced, one can understand why it is greeted with wild cheers.
In this scenario, it has been announced that Lokesh Kanagaraj would direct Kamal Haasan for a film to be released during what might be the Covid19-free summer of 2021. The said film would be, incredibly, Haasan’s 232nd outing. The film is yet to go on the floors but social media is already in a hyper drive. Both Haasan and the film’s composer Anirudh have put up hugely popular posts on Twitter. Fans have released their own trailers.
So, will Kanagaraj and Haasan get along? Will we see yet another side of the actor in Haasan? Will the movie have political overtones?
Here are some incongruous facts. Haasan is 65. Kanagaraj is 34. Kanagaraj is exactly four movies old, including the little-seen anthology film, Aviyal. No one has seen his latest film Master.
Haasan has been writing, directing, and producing movies since the 1980s. The first film he co-wrote with his brothers was 1980’s Guru. Haasan will be producing the new film as well.
Haasan doesn’t give up on his star power very easily. He toys with it but the star never fades into the complete actor that he is. He meddles in every department on the set, including, famously, make-up.
In the past, directors have had to play second fiddle to Haasan. Will Kanagaraj, director of Maanagaram and the successful Kaithi, cave into Haasan’s demands on set and during brainstorming? Or will he be the auteur he is supposed to be? Will it be better to get and implement Haasan’s inputs?
Here’s the larger question: Should the director or producer steer the ship?
Haasan is famous for holding lengthy and exhausting discussion sessions on how the film should shape up. He also surrounds himself with, to put mildy, yes-men. So whose film will be Kamal232? Kanagaraj or Kamal’s?
There was a phase—I am hard put to put a finger on exactly when— that Haasan’s excursion at the movies were also ego-fuelled trips. But as he grew older, the ego vanished, only to bring the actor in Haasan into sharp contrast.
There is no doubt that Haasan is a versatile genius and polymath. Will Kanagaraj be able to prove his mettle? The films made by Raaj Kamal Films International, Haasan’s production house, have been the most brilliant when there has been blowback from the director. One such example is the estranged collaboration between Bharathan and Haasan behind the scenes of the excellent Devar Magan.
Kanagaraj is facing an uphill task, no doubt. He has to keep his producer satisfied while carving his own style that was made most famous with the Karthi-starrer Kaithi. He won’t be too happy to mix and match his new wave influences to attract Haasan’s more traditional fandom.
But there is good news too! It’s hard to ignore the excitement in the air when RKFI chooses to cast its most famous A-list actor (Haasan) with a director who has just earned his spurs (Kanagaraj).
What makes Kamal232 special is the fact that Kanagaraj is from the younger crop of directors to have worked with the actor in the last few years. This gives ample opportunity for Kanagaraj to paint a new image of Haasan.
So why did Haasan choose Kanagaraj for his next picture? Maanagaram was no doubt a stunning feature debut. The second course was even tastier— Kaithi was no mean achievement. But it is Master—and the hype and expectations around it-- that must have sealed the deal. Master brings together two hot heroes of Tamil cinema—Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi.
Expectations are sky-high for Kamal232. Let’s hope they are met.(Nandhu Sundaram is a journalist based in Chennai.)