On his 59th b`day, looking at Kamal Haasan`s most underrated films

IANS| Updated: Nov 07, 2013, 11:11 AM IST

Chennai: Actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan, who turned 59 Thursday, needs no special introduction, but some of his best performances have gone unnoticed in numerous under-rated films.

We list a few such films from the career of this universal hero.

`Aval Appadithan`: Arguably one of the masterpieces of Tamil cinema, this film may have been a box office disaster, but it was made much ahead of its time. Kamal plays a documentary filmmaker, through whose eyes the film presents the moving story of Sripriya, a men-hating independent woman with a bitter past. The razor-sharp dialogues with surrealistic filmmaking style offer an experience no Tamil film, before or after, has managed to deliver.

`Anbe Sivam`: The actor takes an agnostic stance about atheism and communism in `Anbe Sivam`, which translates to "Love is God". The film revolves around two characters - a communist and a capitalist, who learn important lessons of life via a road trip. The film remains underrated to date because many misunderstood its sarcastic undertones associated with atheism.

`Raja Paarvai`: I doubt if any actor would take the risk of playing a blind character in his 100th film, but Kamal Haasan is an exception. In this poignant tale of romance between a blind violinist and a young Christian girl, director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao extracted the best out of Kamal, who had also co-written the film.

`Virumaandi`: Borrowing the narrative style of Japanese film `Rashomon`, Kamal addressed the abolition of death sentence from the Indian judicial system in `Virumaandi`. As a happy-go-lucky village rogue, he delivered one of the finest performances in his career with this film, which is remembered for giving Tamil cinema one of the finest actors, Pasupathy.

`Hey Ram`: In this semi-fictional recounting of India`s partition and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Kamal as the film`s writer-director and actor highlights religious extremism. The film was a box office disaster and paved way to a lot of controversies, but the audience hardly realised that its purpose was to highlight the journey of a character named Saket Ram, who rejected the notion of securing rights through violence and allowed religious hatred to be taken over by love.

`Guna`: It is very unlikely that `Guna` would ever feature in a list of best films featuring Kamal because it still remains unappreciated and had turned out to be yet another box office failure. But I doubt if anyone else could have played an innocent schizophrenic to perfection. A complex love story, the film could only be embraced if one understood an important line from a song, which translates to "this love, to be understood by humans, is not human love; it`s beyond that. This is divine love".

`Varumayin Niram Sivappu`: A satire on the unemployment situation in India in the 1980s, Kamal collaborated with his mentor K. Balachander to play an unemployed youth in the film. `Varumayin Niram Sivappu`, which fittingly translates to `Colour of Poverty is Red`, is a unique film that not just entertains but questions the veracity of modern-day youth in a socialist India.

`Mahanadi`: Easily one of the most tragic films in Kamal`s career, `Mahanadi` pits a villager against those from a town who rob him off his prosperity. As a tormented father in search of his missing children, this is easily one of the actor`s best performance in the 1990s.

`Swati Mutyam`: As an adult with the mind of a child, the actor proved once again why he is considered one of the country`s finest actors. It was touted to be the Indian version of Tom Hanks-starrer "Forrest Gump", but in reality, `Swati Mutyam` was a brilliant effort to confront existing socio-cultural traditions through the eyes of an autistic man. It is considered underrated because many failed to understand what it set out to achieve.