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“I have done as many films as Kamal Haasan, but he is more popular,” Charuhasan says jokingly as we settle down for a chat. “I might have won the National Award for Tabarana Kathe in 1986, but I dont have the patience to watch a film for two-and-a-half hours. In fact, I have not watched one in the past 20 years. After becoming a successful criminal lawyer, somehow, cinema has never been my priority,” smiles Charuhasan, whose Dha Dha 87 got released this month.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Lets begin with your latest release Dha Dha 87, which was promoted as a spiritual sequel to the Kamal Haasan-starrer Sathya (1988). Why was the film not focused more on your character?
To be honest, I havent watched Sathya and I dont know if I am going to either. I wasnt keen to do Dha Dha 87, but director Vijay Sri pressurised me saying it is about an aged gangster, it needed me. Please understand that an 87-year-old man, who is going to the grave, isnt important to the story. I did whatever I could. I was bedridden for a while. I guess it also had a parallel story about two youngsters.
In a career spanning three decades, you have done films in all four southern languages, besides directing Puthiya Sangamam and IPC 512.
When Mahendran offered me Uthiripookkal, I told him I knew nothing about acting. He told that is exactly what he was looking for. (Smiles) I am not a good actor. I know what I am capable of. I was a lawyer, who became an actor by accident, and I am not someone who takes films seriously. But I was fortunate to do some fantastic films including Uthiripookkal, Tabarana Kathe and Kubi Matthu Iyala. I would say I was recognised better in other states as they fetched me good roles. You wont believe, Mrinal Sen had appreciated my work. Once I remember he met Mani (Ratnam) and enquired about me.
Looking back, do you think you could have done more films?
Not at all. I have zero regrets. I ventured into films at the age of fifty, and won the National Award at 57. You see, good acting and popularity dont go together mostly. Sivaji Ganesan, according to me, was the best actor in Tamil Nadu, but MG Ramachandran was more successful. On the other hand, Sivaji Ganesan was internationally-known unlike MGR, whose popularity was dominant in Tamil Nadu. Hollywood knew of Sivaji Ganesan. I am not sure if they knew MGR.
You told me you dont watch films. But what do you think about the cinema made here?
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There were times I used to watch two films a day. During the late 40, there werent many theaters in Tamil Nadu. But foreign films used to run, and I used to catch those shows. Films were a mere hobby, not an obsession.
Now, everybody follows the same template. You ask a filmmaker why he doesnt make interesting stuff; he may blame the audience. You ask the audience why they dont support good films, they may blame the makers. We blame each other and forget to make quality films. Thirty-five years ago, CV Sridhar made Kalyana Parisu, a love-triangle story of two sisters in love with one man, and how one sacrifices the lover for the sister. I challenge if someone can make a path-breaking film like that today. He was a risk taker, who had an incredible fan-following when MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were at the peak of their business. The audience came to theaters to watch films made by a director. And that was quite a rare scenario. Sridhar made all kinds of films—comedy, complicated love stories, breezy love stories, unrequited love—and then came K Balachander. You could say cinema was talkie until Sridhar came into the picture, and changed the medium into a visual experience.
You have been in the industry for a long time. Tell us about one particular aspect that has never ceased to amaze you.
Kalyana Parisu and Veerapandiya Kattabomman were released around the same time—1959. While the Gemini Ganesan-starrer was made on a budget of Rs 1 lakh, Sivaji Ganesans film was made on Rs 15 lakh. I became a lawyer when Sivaji Ganesan came to limelight with Parasakthi. I am close to both—Sivaji Ganesan and MGR. In 1954, Sivajis remuneration was Rs 2.5 lakh, and MGRs was about Rs. 75,000. In 1967, when DMK came to power, MGRs salary went up to Rs 7 lakh, and Sivajis remained the same. When MGR did his last film as an actor, his remuneration was Rs 13 lakh. I used to witness how fans were mad about MGR-Sivaji, and I am witnessing the same with Rajinikanth-Kamal Haasan. People still hero-worship. They fight for these guys. And it is ridiculous. MGR and Sivaji were good frienRead More