Mumbai: As Rajnikanth turned 62 this week, close friend and biggest archrival, Kamal Haasan spoke with admiration, love and a sense of solidarity about the South superstar.
Said Kamal Haasan, "Rajni and I have been leaning on each other's shoulders for so many years. In fact, once during a shoot in Singapore, we did just that. The director didn't know it was just an excuse to doze off in-between shots (laughs). We would be roaming all over Singapore, all night. We returned at 3 am and were on the sets for a 6 am schedule. We caught up on our sleep, on the sets."
Kamal has done 10 films with Rajni so far. "And most of them were hits, though we did have failures. We've done three films for our mentor K Balachander. I've also done guest roles in Rajni's films. I'd do anything he asks me to, no question of refusing him."
Kamal admits they have fiercely possessive fans. "The war between the two fan clubs stopped only about 15 years ago. We both told them to stop after there were stray incidents of violence on both sides. Considering fans have killed each other for our distinguished predecessors, MGR and Shivaji Ganesan, our fans can be considered pacifists (laughs). I went ahead and set a new precedent. I turned my fan club into a social service organisation."
Ask Kamal Haasan to rate Rajni as an actor and he says, "Rajni is a phenomenon. Both of us were young actors who started from scratch. He was the bus conductor with acting aspirations. I was the clapper boy. It's quite strange, but our paths as actors were always intertwined."
Kamal Haasan is not averse to doing another film with Rajnikanth. "It depends," he says. The South star reminisces an incident that took place years ago, "There was an incident early in our careers when he was riding pillion on a motorbike with me. When I skidded, Rajni asked if I knew how to ride. I assured him even if I fell, I wouldn't let him fall. I was so touched when at a function, some years ago, Rajni said, 'That's what happened in our career. He never let me fall. In 1983, when I wanted to leave everything behind, it was Kamal who cajoled me back to the material world.' I guess we'll do a film together. We've been talking about it for many years. (However) We're worried about the expectations."