Kamal Hassan with his acclaimed acting style has received around four National Film Awards in India. He won his National awards for the films Moondram Pirai, Nayagan and Indian. Kamal Hassan also won the national award for Best Child Actor for his performance in his first film Kalathur Kannamma. He has also received the best actor award at the Asian Film festivals held in 1983 and 1985 for Saagara Sangamam and Swathi Muthyam respectively. Seven of his movies have been selected as India's official entry to the Oscars. He has won the Filmfare awards 18 times. Kamal Hassan was conferred with the prestigious Padmashri in 1990. Kamal Hassan was offered an honorary doctorate by Sathyabama University, Chennai in 2005. In 2007, he was honored as "Living Legend" in the film business by FICCI, India.
All the above-mentioned awards are evident of his unique and exceptional acting style. His artistic talent was honored with the Nandi Award 20 times in his lifetime. Kamal Hassan never discriminated between the length of roles or the type of roles he did. According to him, acting is an art that requires utmost concentration and dedication. He always desired to be versatile and succeeded with his own efforts.
He eventually became as successful as every director wanted to 'write' scripts specifically with Kamal Hassan in mind. The directors thought more, analyzed on a broad spectrum of the character to be played by Kamal Hassan. Then they elevated their standards of the character to Kamal Hassan's level. This movement in Tamil cinema also seeped into the consciousness of the Tamil audience who received one after another surprises seeing Kamal Hassan in unexpected roles. His roles not only had varied shades but he implied the advantage of special effects through heavy make up and distortion of face. This art not only captivated the viewers but also made his role even more incredible. Very soon, Kamal was expected by his audience to do something 'different' in film after film. This really enriched Tamil cinema.
According to Kamal Hassan acting is not at all inborn; rather it is a craft that one has to constantly work on. The actor has to read and research the character and his ambience. Practice eventually sharpens this skill. Kamal Hassan often used real life situations and real people to understand his role and bring about credibility to the audience. In Iru Nilavugal, he played double roles-of a doctor and a layman. There were hardly any differences in the basic look and feel of these two characters. The director of the film once said in an interview that Kamal Hassan suggested giving one of the characters a few distinctive mannerisms. This would help differentiate between the two roles. Kamal Hassan noticed that the director had a slight hunch and thus made the doctor a hunchback in the film. He once said that the three most important ingredients that make an actor are nadai (walk), udai (costume) and bhavanai (expression). It is seen that Kamal's genius lies in the fact that he takes efforts to make sure that the above three are different in every film he acts in.
Kamal Hassan is highly different even when he is playing similar roles. For instance, he played the role of a retarded person in 16 Vayathinile, Swathi Muthayam and Guna. But he played this single role 'differently' in each of the films. Each of the roles played by Kamal Hassan had different mannerisms and a different body language. 16 Vayathinile was more rustic and crude, while his character in Swathi Muthayam seemed to suffer from Down's syndrome. The character in 16 Vayathinile was not really retarded but was seemed like a country bumpkin who was soft in the head. In Guna, Kamal Hassan played the role of a dark, obsessive character, somewhat autistic. Another characteristic of his acting style is that he spoke long sentences and repeated himself constantly.
Kamal Hassan was slowly making a name for himself in the industry as a master actor. He also acted in a lot of mainstream commercial films that went forth to become blockbusters. Balachander's Telugu film Maro Charitra, which was re-made in Hindi as Ek Duuje Ke Liye was one of the biggest hits of his commercial film career. Bharatiraja's Sigappu Rojakkal was also a commercial success in which Kamal represented the role of a serial killer. He always created that balance between doing good, meaningful cinema even as he was seen in commercial potboilers.
Sakalakala Vallavan was the film that widened the expectation of the audience of Kamal Hassan. Since then, he was called the hero of the 'masses', irrespective of the classes of the audience. In fact, AVM Chettiar wanted to re-make the Hindi film Bhai Bhai with Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth. But by this time both Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth had become big stars and took a joint decision not to work together anymore. Hence, two separate films were then planned for the two different heroes. Finally, one of them happened to be Sakalakala Vallavan.
The writer Panchu Arunachalam and the director SPM started to write a script tailor-made for Kamal Hassan. The final goal was to make sure that the mass audience that had until then, not accepted Kamal would accept the film. Thus, every ingredient that goes into making a regular commercial film was included like huge sets, pulsating music, great dance sequences, well-orchestrated fight sequences, love, romance, comedy, pathos and so on. The movie broke all kinds of box office records in the process and the director deliberately titled the film as Sakalakala Vallavan, meaning 'Master of All Arts'. The film projected on how Kamal was being looked at in the film industry.
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