Happy birthday Ulaganayagan: Perfection thy name is Kamal Haasan, says Crazy Mohan

When Crazy Mohan received the best actor and writer award for a play he wrote in college from Kamal Haasan, little did he know that he would end up as one of Ulaganayagan’s long-time associates. The combination of Crazy Mohan and Kamal Haasan is legendary and they have a string of hits as evidence. And that bond started years later from the award and interestingly at a cemetery. “I was watching the shooting when I heard someone calling me from inside the cemetery. I went inside to see Kamal in Sathya get up,” Crazy Mohan reminisces.

At that moment, he invited Kamal for the 100th show of his drama. Later, a car came from Raj Kamal saying he wanted to meet him. When he went there, Kamal asked him to write for Aboorva Sagodharargal. “Thottil pazhakam sudugadu varikum nu solluva, enga natpu sudugadu la arambichadhu. Adutha jenmam thottil varikum pogum ninaikaren (They say relationships made at the cradle last till the grave. Our bond started at the cemetery, probably it will last until the cradle of the next birth),” says Crazy Mohan in his inimitable style.

The list of classic comic capers the duo has produced include several massive hits such as Avvai Shanmughi, Panchathanthiram, Michael Madana Kamarajan and several others. But Crazy Mohan says he owes all his success to Kamal Haasan. “Whenever I stage dramas in Tamil Nadu, he is my visiting god. When I go abroad, he becomes my visa card,” says the funny man.

Ask him which is his favourite amid their numerous collaborations and Mohan says Avvai Shanmughi without much thought. “It is a clean script. Though it has influences from Mrs. Doubtfire, Avvai Shanmughi is a lighter film than the former. The roles of Delhi Ganesh, Nagesh, Manivannan and Gemini Ganesan were all added in our version. For every successful man, there is a woman behind. In my case, that’s Avvai Shanmughi.”

The outline of Avvai Shanmughi was decided in a car ride to Pondicherry and back, divulges Mohan. “We had shot for a movie before Avvai Shanmughi that got dropped for some reason. So at that time, Kamal had called me and said, ‘my dates are getting wasted. I have booked KS Ravikumar. Let’s do something’. I couldn’t think of anything,” he narrates. “At that time, we (Crazy creations, his drama troupe) had staged a drama called ‘Meesai Aanalum Manaivi’. This was even before Mrs. Doubtfire. But my fellow people had requested him to choose a different story as it was the golden goose we had back then. He kindly agreed. He then took me on a ride until Pondicherry and by the time we were back, Avvai Shanmughi was in place. We were laughing the entire ride and he asked me to start writing after I came back,” recalls the witty thespian.

Avvai Shanmughi is also a favourite due to its anecdotal value, says Crazy Mohan. There is a dialogue in Avvai Shanmughi where the young girl finds out who the Avvai Shanmughi actually is. When asked how she says ‘En appa vaasam theriyatha enaku? (Don’t I know the scent of my dad?). There was a debate if the line made sense. And Kamal supported me,” says Mohan. In fact, the inspiration for the line came from Ulaganayagan himself. “When he was shooting for Indian and he had his make up on, nobody could recognise him. But Akshara (Haasan) came and sat on his lap and said ‘You smell like my dad’,” shares Crazy Mohan.

Kamal Haasan has no fear states, Crazy Mohan. “I had initially named the lead character Kaali. But the crew were skeptical about it due to sentiments. Kamal had said ‘let it be Kaali, we’ll see what happens.’” This had led Crazy Mohan to a conundrum. “I didn’t know whether to satisfy the crew or Kamal. The same day, we had a recording with Deva. Kamal suggested an idea, saying his mom used to sing ‘Engo piranthavaram, epdiyo irunthavaram’ each word ends with Ram. Then I suggested, ‘Thoonukulum irupandi, thurumbilum irupandi’. Each word ends with pandi, so let’s name him Pandi. Kamal was now happy”

Perfectionist is how Crazy Mohan describes his long-time friend, a man who is like a brother to him. “Sincerity thy name is Kamal Haasan. Perfection thy name is Kamal Haasan and tenacity thy name is Kamal Haasan.” He further adds, “I have not seen such tenacity of purpose with anyone else. Kamal is like a blotting paper. If there is a good aspect in anybody, he would absorb it. He is very versatile.”

Ask him if he has a message to Kamal on his birthday and for his political venture, Crazy Mohan says he wishes that the veteran has a long life. As for politics, the unfailing comedian has a ready wisecrack. “He may wish to become a CM, but I am his favourite CM,” quips Crazy Mohan with a smile.

This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.

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