THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Veteran actor Kamal Haasan today said he was greatly indebted to Kerala as it was Malayalam cinema that spotted the artiste in him, nursed and helped him come up, "forgiving" his "shortcomings" as an actor.

He was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural of the 'Onam (state's harvest festival)-Tourism' week celebrations organised by the state government, where Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan honoured the actor by presenting him a 'ponnada' (shawl) and paid glowing tributes to him as an artiste and socially-concerned individual.

"It was veteran Malayalam director K S Sethumadhavan who initiated me into my career as a young boy. Later, I was adopted by leading Tamil director K Balachander," Kamal Haasan said.

"I am at a loss for words to express how deeply I am indebted to Malayalis. It was they who helped me come up forgiving my shortcomings as an artiste,” he said.

Referring to the eye-donation campaign being launched at his initiative here on Monday, he said, “Now the people of Kerala ask me, what have you done for us in return. It is as an answer to this question this campaign is being launched.”

He said the eye-donation movement was part of his “humble endeavour” to reciprocate the love, affection and support the Malayalis had extended to him by seeking to do something above parochial considerations.

Sethumadhvan, who initiated Kamal into Malayalam cinema when he was just a five-and-a-half year old, was among those who felicitate him.

A light-and-sound show titled “Suvarna Kamalam” to mark Kamal’s 50 years in Indian cinema, conceived by eminent director T. K. Rajiv Kumar, was the highlight of the evening.

Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Culture Minister M. A. Baby, Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran and Youth Affairs Minister V. Surendran Pillai felicitated the actor.

Various film associations also honoured Kamal Haasan on this occasion.