Nassar is Tamil actor, producer, writer, director, lyricist, and singer. He hails from Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu and studied at St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School. He moved to Chennai after school, where he finished his pre-university at Madras Christian College. At Madras Christian College, he was an active member of the Dramatic Society. Later for a brief time, he worked in the Indian Air Force.
He joined the Film Institute in Chennai, in the year 1982-83, and received his diploma in acting. Prior to this, he also underwent training in acting at the Acting Training Centre, affiliated to South Indian Film Chamber, Chennai. He entered the film industry in 1985. He has acted in about 300 films, which include Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and English language films. He also became popular in TV serials. Nassar is married to Kameela and they have three sons.
Presently, Nassar is the President of The NadigarSangam, historically known as the South Indian Artistes’ Association, a union for film, television, and stage actors in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, based in Chennai. Formed in 1952, the group has a charitable trust fund to provide pension to retired actors, voice support for actors caught in controversy, and have collectively protested socio-political issues.
Nassar shares with Marie Banu his views on women empowerment.
What was your inspiration to join the film industry?
I chose acting as a profession. I don’t put special effects to be remembered as an actor. This is my job and I do my best as I have to compete and stay long. Acting is no more an art here. I have to excel in my profession and stay long in my career.
One of my sons learnt music, but has taken up acting. Another son is getting trained to become a cinematographer. It is their wish and I am trying to give them the best education possible.
Can you tell us about your training programmes?
I train people who aspire to become actors in Blue Ocean Film & Television Academy (Bofta). I also have a trust called Adavu which looks into the native arts. Mostly, I look into ‘Therukoothu’. Now, I have shifted my entire focus on NadigarSangam.
Being the President of NadigarSangam, what are the areas in which your present team is focusing upon?
We are trying to help the thousands of traditional theatre artists who are poorly paid. This is our prime focus. In due course we are planning to conduct workshops and bring back the conscience of the theatre, because it has lost all its colour.
Sangam will work better with the support of all the actors and committee members. With the help of Agaram foundation team, statistical data will be collected about the members of this association. According to the data collected each and every member will benefit through the policies and schemes. The committee will concentrate towards benefiting underprivileged members and their children’s education.
How do you think we use media to create social change?
Theoretically, we call film as a media, but I doubt it has been used as an effective medium for social change. Probably, during pre-independence, when we only had theatre and film, we used it intensely to propagate the freedom struggle. But, now it is not so.
To accept the fact, films made now focus only on entertainment. To my knowledge, in whole world, it is only in Tamil language that we have made the most number of films against corruption. So, where did the message go? It is obvious that because the message will sell, such films were made. If the message is ineffective, it might as well not be told.
Now, I see a lot of social media sites active. I think it is because we were a suppressed community for a long time, people are using social media to spurt out whatever they think. One should be cautious while expressing his or her view in the social media. At times, without confirming or analyzing whether it is right or wrong, people post messages thereby creating problems.
Most of the people in our country can afford smart phones and various levels of interactions in social media are going on. But, I don’t know if it would bring about a revolution as in Egypt or in other countries. It is time for introspection! The new generation should be responsible.
Your thoughts on women empowerment?
At first, women empowerment must happen in my own industry. We find the percentage of women in the film industry to be less. A lot of women should come to direct movies, work with camera, etc. Women have proved to be as capable as a man in doing any job—whether physical or mental. It is good that our country has given them space to fly fighter planes. Of course, somewhere, men are jealous. Finally, they have meet the challenge!
We still have a long way to go. Women empowerment should spread from urban to rural areas, thereby having our entire nation covered. Many jokes on husband and wife relationships are shared in social media. If power and responsibilities are shared equally amongst men and women, these silly jokes will fade away. This will solve a lot of problems.