Bengaluru: Ending her 28-year-silence after bitter divorce from superstar Kamal Hassan, Bharatnatyam exponent Vani Ganapathy says her ex-husband could take a leaf out of the books of younger actors "Divorces today are handled so tactfully, with a lot of understanding, there is no slander of the other person."
Vani’s decision to tell her side of the story came after Kamal Hassan claimed that alimony left him bankrupt when his daughter Shruti was born. "For 28 years we have been divorced and I have always refrained from mudslinging, because it’s a very private affair. In the heat of the moment, when everything is still fresh, things can be said, but we have both moved on now. Why does he behave like a man obsessed?" she said.
Since their divorce Vani has only seen him once, ten years ago, completely by chance. "He was in town promoting a film. I was driving out of the Taj West End and saw him, walking along a pavement. I wasn’t sure, even, that it really was him, so I asked the friend sitting beside me to take a look. Turned out it was him, but it had been a long time, so I stopped the car and said hello."
At her home in Bengaluru, after a clearly hectic day, Vani settles down into an ornate sofa and gestures to the antiques and the works of art crowding the living room, all part of a collection that has grown over the last three decades. "Every single one has been bought with my money, I have worked for all of it," she said. "That's why I decided it was time to go public with my statement, too. If Kamal claims that I drove him to bankruptcy, people might even think that all this came from him. My silence should not be mistaken for acceptance," she added.
Kamal Hassan with Vani Ganapathy (Photo: DC)
Alimony and divorce go hand in hand, she said indignantly. "But my making him bankrupt is completely false. In what court in the world has alimony been allowed to drive someone to bankruptcy? I was completely shocked when I read it. His ego must have been hurt when I walked out of the marriage, but so much has happened since. He could have said financial crisis and let the subject pass. Our relationship lasted 12 years and I know him well - he doesn’t answer a question if he doesn’t want to. Kamal knows better than anyone how to fake a smile and charm his way out of a situation."
Despite the gravity of his statement, going public with her own was still a difficult decision to make. "A lot of it had to do with the fact that I am very close to Kamal’s family," Vani remarked. "The first thing I did was call Suhasini, his niece. She’s very fond of him, but they know how he can be. This time, though, she told me to do what I had to do," Vani said.
The question must be asked of course - was alimony part of the divorce proceedings at all? "I'd rather not specify," she said. "It's a private matter, nobody outside the two of us really needs to know the ugly details! There was alimony, yes, but it was too petty to discuss, really. He even refused to give me used appliances from the flat we shared. What could I expect from a man like that?"
Vani is angry, there’s no doubt about that. Still, as she pulls out an old, tattered photograph of the two of them together, cut out of an old Tamil magazine, she finds a word of praise for her ex-husband. "He can charm his way out of every situation," she remarked. "Kamal can talk about anything, he’s the sort of person who can read the first and last pages of a book and discuss it at length," she said, adding, "That's why I know it’s impossible to prod something out of him. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, he knows what to do," Vani said.