Kamal Haasan‘s 2000 film Hey Ram is a magnum opus that explores the complex themes of nationalism, extremism, and the power of love. The film was released for free on YouTube in August 2023, and I highly recommend checking it out. I had avoided watching the film when it first came out, as I couldn’t bring myself to watch a film about a person who had planned to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. However, after seizing the opportunity to watch it in 2023, I am grateful for the experience. Kamal, who wrote and directed the film, does an excellent job of portraying the nuances of the story and the characters. The plot is still relevant and engaging today, and the film is a must-watch for anyone interested in Indian history or cinema. Gets a Delicious from mangoidiots.
India-Pakistan partition was one of the darkest pages of the 20th century, which was felt less in South India and hence talked less in the mainstream works of fiction and movies in Tamil. Kamal Haasan presents this tragedy close to home, by using the sharp contrast of a Tanjore Brahmin as the protagonist for a story that happens mostly in the North and East of the country. By moving the story between Karachi (West) to Calcutta (East), Madras (South), Maharashtra (West) and finally to Delhi (North) Kamal has tried to present a holistic picture of the Indian Independence era across the subcontinent.
The film’s songs and background score by Ilayaraja were breathtaking. It perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the film. Wiki has an interesting story about how Raja got into the project. The film’s recreation of the India of the 1940s was outstanding. The visuals felt authentic and devoid of any glaring symbolisms. The film’s screenplay, written by Kamal Haasan himself, was masterfully crafted and the intermix of Bengali, Hindi, English and Tamil had been handled seamlessly. It builds the momentum for the protagonist to become a murderer, and then the exact reverse, in a believable and compelling manner. I liked the idea of showing the present (2000) in Black and White, and the past (1947) in Colour.
Today in 2023, we keep hearing about Pan-India cinema, and it is surprising to see a quarter-century ago Hey Ram was one of the pioneers. Shah Rukh Khan appears as a Pathan and a friend of the protagonist – Wiki says SRK had done the Tamil dubbing on his own. Naseeruddin Shah as Mahatma Gandhi was very convincing. Any review of Hey Ram would be incomplete without mention of the beautiful and talented Rani Mukerji, the chemistry between her and Kamal onscreen was outstanding, especially in the mesmerising song “Nee Partha”. Similarly, Vasundhara Das in her debut role as an innocent and educated girl was stunning. Joining them was a stellar cast of veterans from Bollywood to Kollywood including Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Delhi Ganesh, Sowcar Janaki, Hema Malini and many others. The famous Tamil poet Vaali had a small but memorable role.
Hey Ram is a film that will stay with you long after you watch it.
Please remember: Hey Ram is a work of fiction developed around a historical event. The message of love and compassion that the film advocates is a timeless concept.