On Sunday, the who’s who of the south Indian film industry descended at the Ungal Naan event held in Chennai to felicitate legendary actor Kamal Haasan, who has completed 60 years in the Indian film industry. And, as expected Superstar Rajinikanth’s speech was one of the high-points of the star-studded evening.
It was 2009 all over again. Hundreds of fans and the biggest names of show business witnessed one of the ever-lasting friendships in the history of Indian cinema. For the uninitiated, 10 years ago, there was a similar event to honour Kamal for his 50 years in cinema. And, Rajinikanth spoke at length, underlining his friendship with Kamal.
“There is no other actor in the history of world cinema who is as accomplished as Kamal. That’s why he’s Ulaga Nayagan (Universal Hero),” Rajinikanth said.
The Petta star recalled the first time he saw Kamal Haasan on screen. It was Kalathur Kannamma (1959), which was Kamal’s debut as a child artiste. “I saw that film when I was about 10 years old I think. I was in fourth or fifth class,” he noted. “When I saw that kid on a movie tent screen, I was awed by him. And I am still in awe of him even today.”
Rajinikanth shared a few more interesting and lesser-known anecdotes from the early days of his career, which mostly involved him being overwhelmed by his admiration for Kamal. He claimed that watching Kamal deliver difficult shots in a single take made him question his desire to become a hero. He also remembered an incident where Kamal was injured on the sets of Aadu Puli Attam (1977). “Kamal fixed his shoulder dislocation with a turkey towel and an iron rod on the sets. Because he knew it was not easy to get permission to shoot on Mount Road. He returned to the shot after taking just a 10-minute break,” Rajinikanth recalled, suggesting that he can’t think of any other actor being so committed to his craft.
Ungal Naan was, indeed, a throwback to the 2009 event, where Kamal and Rajinikanth demonstrated their mutual love and respect for each other without any reservation. But, back then, both were years away from taking their political plunge. That is the reason why Sunday’s event was important. It might just be the last opportunity for them to show the world that their friendship would (and will) remain intact irrespective of their differences as both get ready to lead seperate fronts in electoral politics.
“I was told to maintain a fake feud with Kamal so that our films would sell more tickets,” Rajini added. Without taking any names, he said a popular celebrity suggested he and Kamal should be like Dara Singh and King Kong of the film world. “But, I refused to accept the advice. My friendship will remain intact even when Kamal and I go into a different field (read politics). Our friendship won’t change,” he noted. “So I request my fans that they should not fight in our names.”
As Rajinikanth ended his nearly 20-minute speech, Kamal Haasan walked up to the stage and appreciated his friend’s gesture. He retorted Rajinikanth’s sentiments and promised to protect their friendship always.
Kamal also noted that fans must also reflect the love and companionship that he and Rajinikanth share. “At the end, only love will help us survive, live and win. And Rajini and I have been the living examples of that, and we will continue to be so,” he said.
The actor continued, “As he (Rajini) said, we don’t know what the future holds for us. But the past and present have provided us such a wonderful friendship. And we will never give away this friendship. It is one of our first promises that we make here today on this stage.”
“Like films, our style and ideologies may be different. But, this friendship will never change. We have protected this relationship for 43 years, and we will continue to do so for the remaining days of our life,” Kamal Haasan concluded.