Kamal Haasan’s 11 Iconic Dance Moments Across Decades

Exploring Kamal Haasan's 40-year-journey with dance from Thakita Thadimi in Salangai Oli to Pathala Pathala in Vikram

Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Vikram (2022) not only marks Kamal Haasan’s comeback to the big screen after four years, it also marks the screen icon’s comeback to the thundering dance floor after 7 years. The actor impressed fans with his footwork in the hit song ‘Pathala Pathala’, which came on the heels of his last dance performance in Uttama Villain in 2015. Having begun his journey with dance at the tender age of 12, the actor soon went on to master different art forms with vigour in the next few decades.

Kamal’s varied filmography has led to a collection of beautiful dance pieces over the course of his career. Here, we decode some of the actor’s top dance moments, spanning decades and different dance categories.

Retro/Disco

The first and most iconic category of dance in Kamal’s repertoire is that of the retro/disco aesthetic. This aesthetic comprises grand stages, shiny and glitzy décor, and most importantly vivid, trippy lighting and a good deal of liquor.

Solla Solla Enna Perumai – Ellam Inba Mayyam (1981)

In this song, Kamal Haasan is seen donning a disco bling attire, while dancing along to the beats of Ilaiyaraaja’s magic. The number is set in a party and we see Kamal enamour the guests in a state of frenzy. Interestingly, Ellam Inba Mayyam was perhaps the first time Kamal donned up to 7 or more different getups.

Happy New Year/ Ilamai Idho Idho – Sakalakala Vallavan (1982)

Over the years since its debut, Ilamai Idho Idho has undoubtedly gone on to become a song that rings in the New Years of many in Tamil Nadu. Kamal Haasan is seen dancing, sprinting and often riding his motorcycle in style in this song, elevating its incredible techno beats with some nifty footwork.

Engayum Eppodhum – Ninaithale Inikkum (1979)

In this disco song, we get to see Kamal Haasan immersing himself in a performance, often singing and playing the trumpet to an excited audience. Rajinikanth and Kamal give each other a run for their money in this number, leaving listeners in the song and reality captivated in equal measure. The technicolour lighting and the visual treatment in the song need a special shoutout in making this song a vivid experience for fans.

Megam Kottatum – Enakkul Oruvan (1984)

To end the list of disco songs performed by Kamal Haasan, it only seems fair to mention ‘Megam Kottatum’. Taking the name quite literally, the song is completely shot in the rain. Besides the alluring light-up floors, Kamal’s raincoat getup, and the superb use of umbrellas as props, the rain plays its own character in the dance.

Theatrical/Stage

The next category of dance performances is theatrical or stage-based dances. These dances are truly extravagant and Kamal often has a story to tell with each of his moves.

Naatuku Oru Seidhi – Anbe Sivam (2003)

While one might not associate this song with a traditional theatrical setup, this song is a stellar example of street theatre. In the movie, we see Kamal Haasan have the agenda to question a reputable company’s low wage policy, which is conveyed spectacularly thanks to the actor’s acting and dancing prowess in ‘Naatuku Oru Seidhi’.

Iraniyan Naadagam – Uttama Villain (2015)

For those looking for a traditional stage/theatre setup, ‘Iraniyan Naadagam’ fits the bill. It is a full-fledged theatrical performance embodying the Theyyam dance form. Kamal Haasan performs the story of Hiranyakashipu and his son, Prahalad in the form of dance in this visual explosion of a song.

Play Acting and Storytelling

The next category can be easily confused with theatre, for it is in a way an act with a story, too. Play acting and storytelling however disengage themselves from a bound stage set-up and are more informal and spontaneous. In these performances, Kamal Haasan is more often than not the leading man or the solo performer.

Kadavul Paadhi – Aalavandhan (2001)

While this performance makes use of background dancers, it is mostly a solo performance. In the nature of play-acting, his moves are highly exaggerated and emotive. This performance also brims with various philosophical elements, bringing up questions of religion, faith, and human nature. The dance is an excellent piece of introspective art.

Nari Kathai – Moondram Pirai (1982)

This is a very special performance since it’s a form of dance and storytelling, enacted to perfection by Kamal Haasan to Sridevi, whose character has mentally regressed to the state of a child in the film. In a fitting performance, the actor resorts to theatrics to tell the story of a fox to a childlike Sridevi.

Traditional

And now on to the most-awaited and the actor’s beloved category- the traditional genres. Trained professionally in different forms of traditional dance forms, there is inarguably no one who can exude the elegance that Kamal does in these songs.

Unnai Kaanadhu Naan – Vishwaroopam (2013)

In this song, Kamal Haasan is seen performing Kathak legend Birju Maharaj’s moves. With this intricately-choreographed song — which went on to bag the National Film Award for Choreography —Kamal skilfully transports us into a world of serenity. The song is also known to have exposed Tamil audiences to the nuances of Kathak.

Thakita Thadimi – Salangai Oli (1983)

This song is a rare insight into Kamal’s acting and dancing sides merging into one. Kamal, who plays a Kuchipudi dance professional in the film, performs in a brilliant state of inebriation in this song. It is telling of Kamal Haasan’s genius to see the actor intentionally struggle to dance and portray his on-screen character’s state of mind.

Vikram Title Track – Vikram (1986)

To conclude this piece, it only seems fair to revive Kamal Haasan’s dance performance in the title song of 1986’s Vikram. Like the film itself, the choreography and the electronic music used in the song are modern and ahead of their time. This song is also sampled in the new Vikram (2022) and hence holds a lot of sentimental value to Kamal Haasan’s fans.

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