Haasan made his Bollywood debut in Ek Duuje Ke Liye, the remake of his own acted Telugu-language film Maro Charithra directed by K. Balachander (which earned him his first Filmfare Hindi-language nomination). He made his 100th film appearance in 1981 in Raja Paarvai, debuting as a producer. Despite the film’s relatively poor box-office performance, his portrayal of a blind session violinist earned him a Filmfare Award.
After a year of starring in commercial films, Haasan won the first of three National Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal of a schoolteacher caring for an amnesia patient in Balu Mahendra’s Moondram Pirai, later reprising his role in the Hindi version, Sadma.During this period he focused on Bollywood remakes of his Tamil films, including Yeh To Kamaal Ho Gaya and Zara Si Zindagi. In 1983 he appeared in Sagara Sangamam, directed by K. Vishwanath. His portrayal of an alcoholic classical dancer won him his first Nandi Award for Best Actor and his second Filmfare Best Telugu Actor Award.
After 1984’s multistarrer Raaj Tilak, Haasan appeared in Saagar (released 1985), winning the Filmfare Best Actor Award and nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award. The film was India’s representative for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1985. He left Bollywood temporarily after Geraftaar and Dekha Pyar Tumhara to feature in Japanil Kalyanaraman (a sequel to his 1979 Kalyanaraman).
In 1986, Haasan produced the technically brilliant Vikram and collabarated with Kodandarami Reddy for Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu and then K. Vishwanath in Swathi Muthyam, playing an autistic person who tries to change society; it was India’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1986. These Tollywood films found him a large audience in Andhra Pradesh, and many of his later Tamil films were dubbed into Telugu.
Following Punnagai Mannan (in which he played two roles, including a satire of Charlie Chaplin as Chaplin Chellappa) and Kadhal Parisu, Haasan appeared in Mani Ratnam’s 1987 film Nayakan. He received his second Indian National Award for his performance; Nayakan (inspired from Hollywood movie The Godfather ) was submitted by India as its entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1987 Academy Awards, and is on the Time’s All-Time 100 Movies list.
In 1988 Haasan appeared in his only silent film to date: Pushpak, a black comedy, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (a remake of the Telugu film Rudraveena) and Sathya (remake of Hindi film Arjun) in 1988. Haasan’s all four films of 1989 were major success, Apoorva Sagodharargal, where he played a dwarf,then Chanakyan, an original Malayalam film, later the blockbuster Vetri Vizha (where he played an amnesiac) and finally Haasan played two parts in Indrudu Chandrudu, winning the Filmfare Best Actor and Nandi Awards for his performance. By the end of the 1980s Haasan was successful in the Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi film industries, with Filmfare Awards in each industry and two national awards.