Actor Kamal Haasan recalls his first relationship with MT Vasudevan Nair, who celebrates his 90th birthday.th birthday He was just eighteen years old when he played the lead role in ‘Kanyakumari’ scripted by MT Vasudevan Nair.
“I was a teenager eagerly waiting for an opportunity to act in films. Although he had seen many foreign films, he had no idea about Malayalam films. It was a time when Malayalam cinema was yet to be loved. Sethumadhavan sir was the only Malayalam director I knew after acting as a child actor in his film Kannum Karalum, he said.
He says he was thrilled when Sethumadhavan approached him to play the lead in his film. ‘Kanyakumari’. “When I saw the script, I noticed that I didn’t have many dialogues. I am someone who trained as an actor by studying long dialogues of legendary actors like Shivaji Ganesan. But people didn’t talk much in Malayalam cinema. After seven days Sethu sir said I will go. Worried and tensed, I asked him if I was still the hero. He assured me that I was the hero and said we would meet in Madras soon. Three more days were shot in Madras. Even then I did not know that MT Vasudevan sir was such a great writer.
During the shooting of ‘Kanyakumari’, Kamal Haasan got an offer to act in ‘Arut’. One day MG went to watch ‘Nirmalyam’ with Soman and Surasu at a theater called Opera on MG Road in Bengaluru. “After the show Soman and Surasu wanted to drink. But I insisted on watching the next show. Surasu was happy because he had a small role in the movie ‘Nirmalyam’. I saw ‘Nirmalyam’ twice more in the same theatre,” recalls Kamal Haasan.
‘Nirmalyam’ opened many avenues for Kamal Haasan, who was only familiar with legendary directors like Satyajith Ray and Girish Karnad. It was while watching ‘Nirmalyam’ that I began to understand the value of MT Vasudevan Nair. Whenever I say I’m a big fan of MTV, people think I’m talking about music television. “However, for me, ‘MTV’ has always been MT Vasudevan Nair,” he said.
He says that he has not yet read any of MT Vasudevan’s novels and stories but has heard them all. “It’s because I can’t read or write the language,” he said.
After completing the shoot of ‘Kanyakumari’, Sethu sir told me that I will get recognition for my character. I got my first Filmfare Award for ‘Kanyakumari’. I quickly got busy with a handful of movies in Malayalam and Tamil. When IV Shashi’s ‘Trishna’ was released, I told him that I wanted to act in MT Vasudevan Nair’s script. Then we went to meet the author at the Palm Grove Hotel in Madras. When I entered he was relaxing with his beedi on. I gave him an advance and he promised to cooperate with me. That was the first time I spoke directly to MTV sir!
However, that film didn’t happen and I’m still disappointed about that,” he said.
Recently, Kamal Haasan was approached by the makers of an anthology film based on his stories, as they wanted him to narrate its premise. “I asked them if I could talk to MTV sir. I believe he didn’t recognize me when he said I was calling. However, he got excited when I introduced myself as Shankar from ‘Kanyakumari’,” said MT Vasudevan Nair, who never cared about superstar status or all the hype. “Only the characters he created are recognizable. We talked on the phone for a few minutes. A true master! I’ll call him that.
‘Kanyakumari’ was also seen in the same opera theater where ‘Nirmalyam’ was seen. I often imagine what would happen if the dialogues from the movie ‘Nirmalyam’ were spoken now. Today, such a film would surely be banned. It would have turned out to be a real ‘Kerala story’. ‘Nirmalyam’ is still in my list of favorite movies. Like legendary movies like ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and ‘Nannur Adi’, this movie also inspired me. MTV sir proved that the writer is a real superstar.