2015 was a year of mixed blessings for Kamal Haasan. His Thoonga Vaanam, a remake of the French film Sleepless Night, was a huge moneyspinner.
The proud producer and actor says, “We are happy and proud. Without the unprecedented bad weather in November we could have been happier still but not prouder. The reviewers and the general public made us take pride in the work we have done.”
So why adapt a French film, and that too which was not quite the stuff classics are made of?
“I am influenced from my teens by the thriller novels of James Hadley Chase. Also of course by French and European Cinema. I chose Sleepless Nights for its unique French sensibilities,” says Haasan.
What Haasan really liked was that the hero’s character in the French film was no superman. “There is no special effort to make the protagonist much larger than life. You root for him like you root for the hunted animal on the run in a National Geographic footage. As a matter of fact, the way I drag one of my unconscious victims is very reminiscent of a predator dragging its prey to a safer place.”
When he wrote the Tamil-Telugu version of the French original Kamal Haasan he decided to completely rework the source material. “I always enjoy doing thrillers. I am not comfortable doing superhuman characters. No wonder I like French Cinema. When I sat down to write the screenplay I only had the original version in my rearview mirror, as you can obviously see.”
Haasan explains that working with a director Rajesh Selva who was on the same wave length as Kamal Haasan helped. “Selva worked with me in various capacities for the past seven and a half years before he debuted with Thoongavanam. He started off as 3rd assistant and moved up in rank to dialogue supervisor. During that time I presume he devoloped complete trust in the way I develop a screenplay and tweak the characters to form. So I did not have a worried director breathing down my neck and asking nervous questions about my deviations from the original.”
Thoongavaanam took on the mighty Salman Khan starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and still held its own. “Thoongavaanam was a far cry from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, probably similar in distance as my last film Uttama Villain was from Thoongavaanam, but aesthetically Uttama Villain and Thoongavaanam belong to a discerning audience. Both required audience participation to make it a success.”
Now Kamal Haasan says he’s planning another action film with Rajesh Selva . “We are planning another action movie shot overseas. We are contemplating this to be a double version in Hindi and Tamil.”