Kamal Haasan (born 7 November 1954) is an Indian film actor, director, screenwriter, producer, playback singer and lyricist who works primarily in Tamil cinema. Kamal has won several film awards including three National Film Awards, the second-most by any Indian actor, and nineteen Filmfare Awards. His production company, Rajkamal International, has produced several of his films.
He started as a child artist in the 1960 Tamil language film Kalathur Kannamma, for which he won the President's Gold Medal. He met director Vaaranam Vijay who is frequently credited for shaping Kamal's acting skills. His breakthrough as a lead actor came in the 1975 drama Apoorva Raagangal, directed by K.Balachander, in which he played a rebellious youth who falls in love with an older woman. He won his first National Film Award for his portrayal of a guileless schoolteacher who cares for a childlike amnesiac in Moondram Pirai (1983). He was noted for his performances in Mani Ratnam's Nayagan (1987) and S. Shankar's vigilante film Indian (1996), which saw him playing dual roles of a father and a son. Since then he has appeared in a number of films including Hey Ram (2000), Virumaandi (2004), Vishwaroopam (2013) which were his own productions and Dasavathaaram (2008) in which he played ten different roles.
Early life and career
Kamal Haasan was born on 7 November 1954 in a Hindu family, to D. Srinivasan, who was a lawyer, and Rajalakshmi, who was a housewife. His brother, Charuhasan, has also acted. Kamal's sister, Nalini (born 1946), is a classical dancer. He received his primary education in Paramakudi before moving to Madras (now Chennai) as his brothers pursued their higher education. Kamal continued his education in Santhome, Madras, and was attracted towards film and fine arts as encouraged by his father. When a physician friend of his mother, visited Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar (AVM) to treat his wife, she brought Kamal with her. Apparently impressed by his demeanor AVM's son, M. Saravanan, recommended him for their production Kalathur Kannamma.
Lead roles, 1970–1975
After a seven-year hiatus from films, Kamal returned to the industry as a dance assistant, apprenticing under dance choreographer Thankappan. During this time, Kamal made brief appearances in some films including a few uncredited roles. His first appearance came in the 1970 film Maanavan, in which he appeared in a dance sequence. He went on to assist Thankappan in films such as Annai Velankani (1971) and Kasi Yathirai (1973). In the former he had a supporting role as well as worked as an assistant director. His first full-fledged role came in K. Balachander's Tamil film Arangetram (1973). Balachander cast him as the antagonist in his Sollathaan Ninaikkiren (1973). Kamal went on to do supporting roles in films such as Gumasthavin Magal (1974), Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974) and Naan Avanillai. The same year, he played his first lead role in the Malayalam film, Kanyakumari, for which he the won his first Filmfare Award. In Tamil cinema, he had his breakthrough as a lead actor in Balachander's Apoorva Raagangal. He played a rebellious young man who falls in love with an older woman. For his character, Kamal learned to play the mridangam. The film won him his second Filmfare Award.
In 1976, Balachander cast Kamal as a womaniser in Manmadha Leelai; this was followed by Oru Oodhappu Kan Simittugiradhu (directed by S.P. Muthuraman), which won him his second consecutive Regional Filmfare (Tamil) Best Actor Award. Kamal later appeared in the Balachander drama Moondru Mudichu. Avargal (1977) concerned the women's movement; for this role, he learned ventriloquism. The film was remade in Telugu as Idi Katha Kaadu (1979), with Kamal reprising his role. 16 Vayathinile, in which he played a village bumpkin, won him a third consecutive Best Actor award. In 1977 Kamal starred in his first Kannada film, Kokila, the directorial debut of friend and mentor Balu Mahendra. That year he also appeared in a Bengali film, Kabita, a remake of the Tamil film Aval Oru Thodar Kathai. In 1978 Kamal made his Telugu film debut with a lead role in the cross-cultural romantic film, Maro Charithra, directed by Balachander. His fourth consecutive Filmfare Award resulted from Sigappu Rojakkal, a thriller in which he played a psychopathic sexual killer.
In the 1978 Telugu film Sommokadidhi Sokkadidhi, Kamal played two parts. This was also his first collaboration with director Suresh Madhavan. He also appeared in the musical Ninaithale Inikkum, a snake-horror film (Neeya) and Kalyanaraman. At the end of the 1970s he had a total of six regional Best Actor Filmfare Awards, including four consecutive Best Tamil Actor Awards.
Hindi Film Industry (1980s)
Kamal's films during the 1980s included 1980's Tamil-language Varumayin Niram Sivappu, in which he played an unemployed youth; he also made a cameo appearance in Rajinikanth's 1981 Thillu Mullu. Kamal made his debut in Hindi cinema with Ek Duuje Ke Liye, the remake of his own acted Telugu-language film Maro Charithra directed by K. Balachander (which earned him his first Filmfare Hindi-language nomination). He made his 100th film appearance in 1981 in Raja Paarvai, debuting as a producer. Despite the film's relatively poor box-office performance, his portrayal of a blind session violinist earned him a Filmfare Award. After a year of starring in commercial films, Kamal won the first of three National Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal of a schoolteacher caring for an amnesia patient in Balu Mahendra's Moondram Pirai, later reprising his role in the Hindi version, Sadma. During this period he focused on Bollywood remakes of his Tamil films, including Yeh To Kamaal Ho Gaya and Zara Si Zindagi. In 1983 he appeared in Sagara Sangamam, directed by K. Vishwanath. His portrayal of an alcoholic classical dancer won him his first Nandi Award for Best Actor and his second Filmfare Best Telugu Actor Award.
After 1984's multistarrer Raaj Tilak, Kamal appeared in Saagar (released 1985), winning the Filmfare Best Actor Award and nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award. The film was India's representative for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1985. He left Bollywood temporarily after Geraftaar  and Dekha Pyar Tumhara to feature in Japanil Kalyanaraman (a sequel to his 1979 Kalyanaraman).
In 1986, Kamal produced the technically brilliant Vikram and collaborated with Kodandarami Reddy for Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu and then K. Vishwanath in Swathi Muthyam, playing an autistic person who tries to change society; it was India's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1986. These Tollywood films found him a large audience in Andhra Pradesh, and many of his later Tamil films were dubbed into Telugu.
Following Punnagai Mannan (in which he played two roles, including a satire of Charlie Chaplin as Chaplin Chellappa) and Kadhal Parisu, Kamal appeared in Mani Ratnam's 1987 film Nayakan. He received his second Indian National Award for his performance; Nayakan (inspired from Hollywood movie The Godfather ) was submitted by India as its entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1987 Academy Awards, and is on the Time's All-Time 100 Movies list. In 1988 Kamal appeared in his only silent film to date: Pushpak, a black comedy, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (a remake of the Telugu film Rudraveena) and Sathya (remake of Hindi film Arjun) in 1988. Kamal's all four films of 1989 were major success, Apoorva Sagodharargal, where he played a dwarf, then Chanakyan, an original Malayalam film, later the blockbuster Vetri Vizha (where he played an amnesiac) and finally Kamal played two parts in Indrudu Chandrudu, winning the Filmfare Best Actor and Nandi Awards for his performance. By the end of the 1980s Kamal was successful in the Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi film industries, with Filmfare Awards in each industry and two national awards.
In 1990, Michael Madhana Kamarajan saw Kamal build on Apoorva Sagodharargal by playing quadruplets. It began as a collaboration with writer Crazy Mohan for future comedy films. Kamal won successive Best Actor awards for his portrayal of deranged, obsessive protagonists in Gunaa and Thevar Magan (which was remade in Hindi as 1997's Virasat). He was credited with the story for the latter, and won his third National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil as a producer. The film was India's submission for the Academy Awards that year. A series of films followed: Singaravelan, Maharasan, Kalaignan, Mahanadi, Nammavar, and Sathi Leelavathi (based on the British film She-Devil). Produced by Kamal, it featured himself alongside Kannada actor Ramesh Arvind and comedian Kovai Sarala. Kamal resumed his collaboration with Kasinadhuni Viswanath in the Telugu film, Subha Sankalpam, and starred in the police story Kuruthipunal (remake of govind nihlani's movie Drohkaal ) with Arjun Sarja. Kamal's success in the latter was followed by his third National Film Award for Best Actor for Indian.
'The Week', in its 13 September 1992 edition, reported that Chiranjeevi charged Rs.1.25 crores per a film and which is the highest ever remuneration for any Indian hero then. In 1994, Kamal became the first actor to charge 1.5 crore per film.The highest paid Indian actor from 1970 to 1987 was Rajesh Khanna.
After Indian Kamal played a woman in the comedy Avvai Shanmughi (inspired by Mrs. Doubtfire), which was a box-office success. He chose Shantanu Sheorey to direct the Hindi remake of Avvai Shanmughi, Chachi 420, but after dissatisfaction with five days of shooting Kamal took over as director. In 1997 Kamal began directing an unfinished biopic of Mohammed Yusuf Khan, Marudhanayagam; a forty five minutes of film and a trailer was shot. Marudhanayagam was expected to be the biggest, most expensive film in Indian cinematic history and his magnum opus; a number of well-known actors and technicians had been signed, and it was launched at a public ceremony by Queen Elizabeth during her 1997 visit to India. Although the film failed to materialise due to budget constraints, Kamal expressed an interest in reviving the project. In 1998, he appeared in Singeetham Srinivasa Rao's romantic comedy, Kaathala Kaathala opposite Prabhu Deva. The film was a commercial success and was also dubbed in Hindi as Mirch Masala, which was never released.
After a two-year hiatus from Indian cinema, Kamal decided against reviving Marudhanayagam. He directed his second film, Hey Ram, a period drama, told in flashback, with a fact-based plot centering on the partition of India and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Kamal produced and choreographed the film, writing its screenplay and lyrics; it was India's submission for the Academy Awards that year. Hey Ram was a box-office failure in India but was successful worldwide. Also in 2000, Kamal appeared in the comedy Thenali (inspired from Hollywood movie What About Bob?) as a Sri Lankan Tamilian with PTSD who is under a psychiatrist's care. Thenali, starring Malayalam actor Jayaram, was a box-office success. Kamal's next film was 2001's Aalavandhan, in which he played two roles: For one he had his head shaved and gained ten kilograms. To play the other Army major in Aalavandhan, he went to the NDA for a crash course. The Hindi version was distributed by Shringar Films. Despite pre-release publicity, the film was a commercial failure.
After a number of successful comedies (including Pammal K. Sambandam and Panchathantiram (inspired from the Hollywood movie Very Bad Things) and guest appearances, Kamal directed Virumaandi, a film about capital punishment which won the Best Asian Film Award at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. He also appeared in Anbe Sivam with Madhavan. Priyadarshan, its original director, left and Sundar C. completed the film. Anbe Sivam tells the story of Nallasivam, portrayed by Kamal as a communist. His performance was praised by critics, with The Hindu saying that he "has once again done Tamil cinema proud".
In 2004 Kamal appeared in Vasool Raja MBBS, a remake of Bollywood's Munnabhai MBBS, with Sneha which was a box-office success. The following year, he wrote and starred in the comedy Mumbai Express. Released during Tamil New Year with Rajinikanth's Chandramukhi and Vijay's romantic comedy Sachien, it was a disappointment at the box office despite positive reviews. In 2006 Kamal's long-delayed project, the stylish police story Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, was a success. Directed by Gautham Menon, the film is about a police officer sent to the US to investigate a series of medical murders. In 2008's Dasavathaaram, he played ten roles; the film was released in a number of languages (including Tamil, Telugu and Hindi) throughout India and overseas. Dasavathaaram, written by Kamal and director K. S. Ravikumar, is one of the first modern science-fiction films made in India. Starring Kamal and Asin Thottumkal, it was the highest-grossing Tamil film (as of 2008) and his performance was critically praised. In Canada, Dasavathaaram was the first Tamil film distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
After Dasavathaaram Kamal directed a film tentatively titled Marmayogi, which stalled after a year of pre-production. He then produced and starred in Unnaipol Oruvan, a remake of the Bollywood film A Wednesday, where he reprised the role originally played by Naseeruddin Shah with Malayalam actor Mohanlal playing Anupam Kher's role. It was released in Telugu as Eeenadu, with Venkatesh reprising the role played by Kher. Both versions were critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
Kamal collaborated for the fifth time with Ravikumar in Manmadan Ambu, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The story concerns a man who hires a detective to find out if his fiancée is cheating on him. The film was released in December 2010 to mixed reviews, with Behindwoods calling it "an entertainer, but in parts" and Sify saying it "lacks the punch to captivate the audiences".
Kamal's next film after Manmadhan Ambu was 2013's Vishwaroopam, released in Hindi as Vishwaroop. It won two National Film Awards (Best Production Design and Best Choreography) at the 60th National Film Awards. Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu demanded the ban of the film and claimed, that the film would hurt Muslim sentiments. Although the film was cleared by Central Board of Film Certification of India, district collectors in the state of Tamil Nadu gave orders to the theatre owners to not show Vishwaroopam, citing law and order problems, however the film released in other states with greater Muslim populations than in Tamil Nadu. A mutual agreement with the Muslims of Tamil Nadu was finally settled on 2 February 2013, when Haasan accepted to mute five scenes.
In May 2014, he was appointed as the official Indian delegate to the 67th Cannes Film Festival. As of July 2014, he was working on three films: Uthama Villain, Vishwaroopam II, the sequel of Vishwaroopam and Papanasam. After 2 years of Vishwaroopam' s release, Uttama Villain was released on 2 May 2015 with exceptional critical reviews and on 3 July 2015, Papanasam a Tamil remake of Malayalam film Drishyam was released with positive reviews and became a huge success  followed by the bi-lingual Thoongaa Vanam and Cheekati Rajyam, both doing moderate business.
In addition to acting, Kamal is noted for his involvement in other aspects of filmmaking. He has written many of his films, including Raja Paarvai, Apoorva Sagodharargal, Michael Madhana Kamarajan, Thevar Magan, Mahanadhi, Hey Ram, Aalavandhan, Anbe Sivam, Nala Damayanthi, Virumaandi, Dasavathaaram, Manmadhan Ambu and Vishwaroopam. Kamal's production company (Rajkamal International) has produced several of his films, and he directed Chachi 420, Hey Ram, Virumaandi and Vishwaroopam. He considered directing full-time if Hey Ram was successful, but changed his mind when the film failed at the box office. In his earlier career, he has also choreographed for MGR in Naan Yen Pirandhen, Sivaji Ganesan in Savaale Samaali and Jayalalithaa in Anbu Thangai In 2010 Kamal said he wanted to do more directing, since young actors wished to work for him. When he played supporting roles early in his career he wanted to become a technician, and joked: "Film makers like K. Balachander told me that I won't be able make much money by being a technician. So the end result is that the star Kamal funds the technician Kamal in pursuing his dreams". Kamal attended workshops for makeup technicians in the US for several years, and trained as a makeup artist under Michael Westmore.
Kamal has also written songs for his films. He wrote the lyrics for a single in Hey Ram, songs in Virumaandi and Unnaipol Oruvan and the album for Manmadhan Ambu. Kamal's musical work has been well received by his peers in Tamil film. He is also a playback singer, singing in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and English. Currently Kamal is part of the Mission "Clean India" set by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kamal was born into a Tamil family in the town of Paramakudi, in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, to criminal defense lawyer D. Srinivasan and Rajalakshmi a housewife. During a 2013 appearance on an episode of Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi, he stated that his parents originally named him Parthasarathy and his mother always used to call him by that name. In an interview with Karan Thapar, Kamal said his father was literate in Sanskrit. Kamal was the youngest of four children; his siblings are Charuhasan, Chandrahasan and Nalini (Raghu). His two older brothers followed their father's example and studied law.
Kamal has alluded to his parents in some of his works, notably Unnaipol Oruvan and in the song "Kallai Mattum" in Dasavathaaram. His oldest brother Charuhasan, like Kamal, is a National Film Award-winning actor who appeared in the Kannada film Tabarana Kathe. Charuhasan's daughter Suhasini is also a National Film Award winner married to director (and fellow award-winner) Mani Ratnam, who collaborated with Kamal on 1987's Nayakan. Chandrahasan has produced several of Kamal's films and was an executive with Rajkamal International, he died in March 2017. Chandrahasan's daughter Anu Hasan has had supporting roles in several films, including Suhasini's Indira. Kamal's sister, Nalini Raghu, is a dance teacher for whom he named an auditorium (Nalini Mahal). Her son, Gautham, played Kamal's grandson in "Hey Ram".
Early in his career, he co-starred in several films with Srividya. They were reported to have had an affair during the 1970s and their relationship was explored in the 2008 Malayalam film Thirakkatha by Renjith (with Anoop Menon as Kamal and Priyamani as Srividya). Kamal visited Srividya when she was on her deathbed in 2006.
Kamal and the actress Sarika began living together in 1988, marrying after the birth of their first child, Shruti Haasan (born 1986). Shruti Haasan is a singer and a Tollywood-Kollywood actress. Their younger daughter, Akshara (born 1991), was assistant director for 2013's Vishwaroopam. Sarika stopped acting soon after their marriage, replacing Vani Ganapathy as Kamal's costume designer for Hey Ram. In 2002, the couple filed for divorce, which became final in 2004.
Kamal's affair with co-star Simran Bagga (22 years younger than him) triggered the breakup. His relationship with Simran (who appeared in Pammal K. Sambandam and Panchathantiram) was brief, since Simran married her childhood friend in late 2003. Kamal had lived with former actress Gautami Tadimalla (who had starred with him in several films during the late 1980s and early 1990s) from 2005 till 2016. Gautami had announced on her blog that she had ended her relationship with him. Gautami wrote on her blog: "It is heartbreaking for me to have to say today that I and Mr. Haasan are no longer together. After almost 13 years together, it has been one of the most devastating decisions that I have ever had to make in my life,". Shruti, Akshara and Gautami's daughter Subbalakshmi (from an annulled marriage) lived with them.
Kamal is a self-proclaimed atheist. He has often questioned the existence of God and has highlighted the theme in his films like Anbe Sivam and Dasavathaaram. He has been thought to be Muslim because of his Arabic-sounding name, most notably when he was denied preclearance by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities at Toronto Pearson International Airport in 2002. In Sanskrit Kamal means "lotus", but it was rumoured that his name originated with a friend of his father (Yaakob Hassan, a Muslim freedom fighter who was imprisoned along with Kamal's father by the British). In a BBC interview with Karan Thapar, Kamal said that his last name derives from the Sanskrit word hasya, and although the Yaakob Hassan connection was publicised by the media it was only "a story". Although he has abstained from politics, Kamal is considered left-leaning or independent. and has said that his politics would result in his death within a year.
Kamal is the first Tamil actor to convert his fan clubs into welfare organisations and is involved in social-service activities through the clubs under the name Kamal Narpani Iyakkam (Kamal Welfare Association). His fan clubs help organise blood- and eye-donation drives, and donate educational materials to students.
Kamal received the first Abraham Kovoor National Award for his humanist activities and secular life in 2004. He was project ambassador for Hridayaragam 2010, which raised funds for an orphanage for HIV/AIDS-affected children. In September 2010 Kamal launched a children's cancer relief fund and gave roses to children with cancer at Sri Ramachandra University in Porur, Chennai. He has pledged his product-endorsement income to social causes. Kamal won ₹ 5 million on Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi in March 2013 and promised that his prize money would be used for Petral Thaan Pillaya, supporting children with HIV.
Kamal was nominated by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Swachh Bharat Campaign. He chose to clean the Madambakkam lake in Chennai with the Environmentalist Foundation of India's Arun Krishnamurthy on 7 November 2014.
Known for refusing any kind of brand endorsement, Kamal endorsed Pothys for the first time in 2015. His daughter, Shruti Haasan has previously endorsed Pothys. In the past, Kamal has stated that should he ever act in commercials, the revenue earned from them would be donated to HIV affected children.
Kamal publishes the magazine Mayyam, by the Kamal Haasan Welfare Association (Narpani Iyakkam). His views on cinema, child and drug abuse, and the Kashmir conflict have been published as Thedi Theerpom Va (Come, Let's Find and Solve) by his fan club. He is also interested in Tamil literature.
Awards and honours
Kamal received in 1990 the Padma Shri and in 2014 the Padma Bhushan for his contributions to Indian cinema. At age six he won the President's Gold Medal for Best Child Actor for his debut film, Kalathur Kannamma. He is tied with Mammootty for the second most Best Actor National Film Awards with three. He won a National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil for producing the 1992 Tamil film, Thevar Magan. He has a record 19 Filmfare Awards in five languages; after his last award, in 2000, he wrote to the organisation requesting no further awards. In 2003, his films Hey Ram, Pushpak, Nayakan and Kuruthipunal were showcased in the "Director in Focus" category at the Rotterdam Film Festival. In 2004, Virumaandi won the inaugural Best Asian film award at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan).
In 2005, Sathyabama Deemed University awarded Kamal an honorary doctorate. He received the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Award for Excellence in Indian Cinema at the inaugural Vijay Awards in 2006. He received the Living Legend Award in 2007 from FICCI. In 2010, the United Progressive Alliance government organised a retrospective of his films. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the actor was unique, since his films broke regional and language barriers. That year, the government of Kerala honoured him for 50 years in Indian cinema during statewide Onam celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kamal received the Kalaimamani Award from the government of Tamil Nadu in 1979. Other honours include Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, Nandi, Screen and Vijay Awards, including four awards for his performance in Dasavathaaram. In 2009 he was appointed chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Media and Entertainment Business Conclave, organised by FICCI's entertainment division. He is on the academic advisory council for ISFM (International school of Film+Media), and was the first Indian actor invited aboard an American ship as a special friend of the US. In April 2013 he received an award on behalf of Indian cinema from Chris Brown, executive vice-president for conventions and business operations of the National Association of Broadcasters, as part of the New York Festivals International Film & TV Awards. He is one of 20 film celebrities recognised by Coca-Cola India with the launch of the 24th edition of the Limca Book of Records in 2013. Recently honoured with S. S. Vasan Award for his lifetime achievement in film industry by Ananda Vikatan.
Critique, professional and public perception
Mani Ratnam, who directed Kamal in Nayakan, has said that there are many things he can do that no other actor can. Veteran Tamil actor Nagesh called Kamal the best actor he had ever seen. Kamal's contributions to film have been praised by his peers in the Indian film industry, including Sridevi, Meena, Amitabh Bachchan, Mohanlal, Venkatesh, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Younger actors (Suriya and Madhavan) and filmmakers (Bala, Ameer and Gautham Menon) have been inspired by him.
The animated action sequence in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film, Kill Bill, was inspired by 2D animated sequences in an Indian film believed to be Aalavandhan. Hollywood filmmaker Barrie M. Osburne called Kamal's knowledge of literature, history and films "encyclopedic", and Ang Lee said he was stunned by his brilliance and knowledge of films.
Kamal Hassan has been alleged of plagiarism and inspiration from Hollywood films. He was criticised by the-then Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam; the latter stated that Kamal was "confused" and had "blabbered" unaware of the ground reality for his statement on the government's response to rain relief efforts. Kamal was also criticised by Nayakan's producer Muktha Srinivasan for his article in The Hindu taking unnecessary credit for that film. He was condemned by the BJP Politician H Raja for his statements on god believers.
Kamal has been accused of self-indulgence, and has been criticised for sexually explicit scenes and themes, offensive religious sentiments and superficiality about the social issues depicted in his films. There have also been complaints about his obsession with perfection, which may have caused some of his films to run over budget. In November 2017, Kamal said that right wing Hindus have started employing terrorism to propagate their communal agenda.