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MILPITAS, CA — Tamil film actor Dr. Kamal Haasan was the guest of honor at the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence celebration, held here Aug. 13.

Thousands thronged to the event, jointly hosted by the Association of Indo Americans, Bay Malayali, Bollywood 92.3 FM, and the Consulate General of India, in San Francisco. 

The Indian flag is waved on stage at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

The burning heat of the afternoon was alleviated for many by cool sips of mango lemonade, piping hot bhatura, back-to-back on-stage entertainment, and of course, the anticipation of seeing the film legend, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2014. Haasan was in town to not only to celebrate 75 years of Indian Independence but also his film career and the success of his latest movie, Vikram.

Vikram

A swarming crowd was ready to celebrate with him. As a white limousine pulled into the back of the event stage, fans gathered behind an orange barricade eager to get a glimpse. A red carpet was rolled out onto the asphalt as various AIA team members  lined up on both sides to greet the actor. 

Kamal Haasan at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Right before walking down the carpet, fans pushed through the barriers, forcing security to push them back. As the actor walked down,dozens of flower petals fell upon him, underscoring his almost god-like status, further iterated by shouts of “Andavar” — God — from the crowd.

Vidya Vox

Singer and YouTuber Vidya Vox performed before Kamal Haasan appeared. She drew a large crowd of fans, dancing on stage and singing a classic Kamal song “Annaaththe Aaduraar” from the movie, composed by Ilaiyaraaja and originally sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam in the movie Apoorva Sagodharargal.

Vidya Vox performs on stage at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Classical dancers from various Indian traditions gather on-stage for the group finale at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

As Kamal Haasan ascended the stage looking sharp in a light gray suit and cooling glasses, screams of “Vikram” for his latest movie and “Big Boss” were heard as well. 

Selfie Fever

After being introduced and honored by Consul General Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad, the actor thanked his fans throughout his career, from when he started as a young child in movies to now. “My career is only 12 years younger to Indian Independence,” he quipped. 

To the younger generation of movie lovers he mentioned, “Some of them don’t know me: that’s why I keep acting in them to remind them.”

Fans have their cameras out eager to see Kamal Haasan at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Selfies were not allowed, yet fans nonetheless slipped through to the front of the platform stage taking selfies with the actor in the background. One enterprising woman already on stage, quickly sidled up next to the actor, taking a selfie before being pushed back.

Vande Mataram

While Kamal Haasan was one of the main attractions, the entire event was a celebration of Indian culture and history. Dancers representing various folk and classical traditions performed on stage showcasing India’s diversity. Representatives from several states and communities in the Bay Area walked on stage with an image of India’s flag waving in the background.

Odissi, a classical dance from Orissa, is performed by Fiona, Arushi and Sulagna at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Rangoli and Carrom competitions were held along with entertainment including a Hogwarts train, bubble water bouncing, and rock climbing.

As Kamal Haasan told the crowd before leaving, “I come here out of love.” The love and pride the crowd felt about India could be heard through shouts of “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram” celebrating India’s Independence.

A replica of the Ashoka Chakra to be used as part of a human re-creation of India’s flag for a drone image lays on the ground at the Swedes 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
A rangoli submission for the contest at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Kids bounce in the water inside blow-up bubbles at the Swades 75th Indian Independence celebration in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...