As far as I can remember, in a countless number of interviews and speeches, I have always heard Kamal Haasan talking about himself as a child of Tamil Cinema, narrating how, he, the little three and a half years boy from Paramakudi first came to Madras studios, how he was immediately carried by Gemini Ganesan and Savitri, how he used to recitate their own dialogues to MGR and Sivaji Ganesan : « I was a little monkey sit on the shoulders of these stars that everybody was craving to see », he said. Somehow, the child actor who began his career in Kalathur Kannamma (1959) still lives in Kamal Haasan like a spectrum, a necessary reminiscence of his origins, a mythological root of his “Ulaganayagan” persona.
These omnipresent references to this golden childhood and tributes to his masters in his autobiographical narrative can be analyzed in different ways. Some would say that it’s the humility of a great artist who don’t want to forget where he comes from. Others would say that it’s just the storytelling of a star who wants to show that his story is closely linked to that of Tamil cinema. I personally feel that it could also be a way of serenely dealing with his stardom. Indeed, representing himself as a heir of illustrous predecessors rather than an experimented patriarch, as a learner rather than a teacher, allows him, somehow, to keep this childlike joy of playing and telling stories on a big screen and to protect his freedom as an artist. This joyful desire for cinema has remained an absolute, incorruptible Dna of Kamal Haasan for 60 years now.
So, thanks little Kamal, for staying alive in the big Haasan. Happy birthday.