Kamal Haasan and His Three National Awards

Kamal Haasan and his Three National Awards

I saw an interesting discussion in a movie forum recently on how our Best Actor National Awards have mostly been for performances in offbeat or art house movies. That’s true. Winning Rajat Kamal (Silver lotus) , the most coveted award of the country ,in commercial movies have been often difficult and winning it so with a unanimous acceptance have been still much harder.

We all know how it stirred controversies when Saif Ali Khan (Hum Tum),Anil Kapoor (Pukar) and Amitabh Bachchan (at least on two occasions out of his three wins) won the awards. Mohanlal’s Bharatham saw a very fine instance of a beautifully retrained performance in a commercial movie fetching the top honor. But again his second win was for an offbeat movie. Same was the case with Mammootty for his next two wins after the epic Vadakkan Veeragatha.

This is when I looked at  KAMAL HAASAN’s three National Awards and found that all three of them really special. Not to take away anything from the amazing performances by others that came from offbeat movies . But to please the common audience , critics and the jury alike and then to find wide approval in the decisions jury made – Its remarkable ! To do it three times is phenomenal !

Kamal Haasan’s Moondram Pirai ( 1982) , Nayagan ( 1987) and Indian ( 1996) were all pure commercial movies .They were also big boxoffice successes and importantly they were definitely not written with major awards for its leading actor in mind . Yet at the end , his performances created such a huge impact that when the National award were announced those years, those decisions were wholeheartedly received by everyone. 

A look at these three monumental award winning performances by the legendary actor


How Kamal Haasan won his first National award remaining subdued for a major part of the movie ,then stunning everyone with a magical performance in the final 20 minutes  and even overshadowing the leading actress whom everyone expected to win the award (which she did not) – This would remain one of the most thrilling stories in the history of our country’s most prestigious awards. Moondram Pirai and its Hindi version, Sadma, broke several hearts across the country with that stunning and hugely memorable climax where Bhagyalakshmi fails to recognize Srinivas despite all his efforts and leaves him forever. But they would have been more than happy when their hero won both state and National awards that year.


A character like Velu Naicker – It is a dream come true for any actor. Kamal Haasan got this wonderful chance to portray three phases of a man’s life in Maniratnam’s epic masterpiece and he did a humongously brilliant job by progressing enchantingly through the three stages. He had to display a wide range of emotions – the determination of the young man to rise to the top , the guilt when he sees the son of the inspector he killed, the affection he shows to the poor girl who turned prostitute, the anger when he argues with his daughter, the grief when his son dies, the surprise when he sees the daughter after many years, the pain when he is not allowed to even touch his grandson – and he portrayed all these on-screen with amazing aplomb. I am yet to see a work by another artist that would replace Kamal’s stunning portrayal of Velu Naicker as my most favorite performance by a leading actor in India.

Spare a thought for Nedumudi Venu who almost reached the final round of National awards competition for his Minnaminunginte Nurunguvattam. He could have won the award any other year but in 1987, it had to be Velu Naicker !


Kamal Haasan can make you easily laugh, he can make you easily cry and he can also hold you spellbound when he portray extremely powerful mighty characters . There are few better examples for this last category than Indian’s Senapathy. In addition to a tremendous job by the make-up artist, when Kamal Haasan adjusted his body language, gestures, voice modulation all in an unbelievable manner, we even suspected at times – Was that really Kamal Haasan ? Whether in reality there would be a man like Senapathy is another story. But his terrific confrontation scenes with Nedumudi Venu ( thanks to Shankar for this smart casting too !) and his amazing acting in the sequence where his daughter dies in the hospital – All still remain etched in our minds after all these years !

Its been a while since I have seen that old Kamal Haasan who used to amaze me any time he appeared on-screen. But like any Kamal Haasan fan, I still look forward to a new Kamal movie with bated breath. When this gem of an actor is in sublime form, there are very few things that are more magical on the big screen.

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