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Remembering K Balachander: The man who made stars

Express News Service

I was just a school kid in Class 9 when K Balachander sir signed me for Aval Oru Thodar Kathai. But I barely felt a difference between my school and KB sir’s sets. Everyone was so disciplined, and all of us would assemble at the sets on time and begin work.

It was no place for jokes. KB sir had a quick temper, and even a simple, “Enna pannitu irukkinga?” would send chills down our spine. Everyone including experienced artists like Sujatha ma’am would tear up in fear. But he was always surprised by how I remained calm despite the pressure. He used to show me as an example to others and say, “Look how composed she is. Be like her.”

On the other hand, when we performed well, he would appreciate us with all his heart and give us gifts. It was Balachander sir who set the performance of Kamal sir as the benchmark. KB sir loved seeing him perform so much that, even if we aced a scene, he would say, “You did well. But if you observe and learn from Kamal, you can do much better.” Though he celebrated Kamal so much, he remembered never to do it in front of him. KB sir was a starmaker.

Unlike the rest of the filmmakers who turned only their male leads into stars, KB sir gave the spotlight to even the character artistes and transformed their lives. The artistes who worked in KB sir’s films became stars overnight. For instance, Prameela who acted in Arangetram became a star within a day of the film’s release. No matter how many times I see Arangetram, I still fail to control my tears during the climax. I would call the film his best work.

Many don’t know that KB sir was a wonderful actor, and so, to see him perform in Uthama Villain was not a surprise for me. Even if there were five characters in a shot, he would enact all their roles. But to be honest, most of us failed to recreate even half the effect of his performances. I wrote a film called Kadhoduthan Naan Pesuven and MA Khaja sir directed it in 1982.

Unfortunately, the film became a flop. But KB sir saw the potential in the film and bought the Telugu remake rights of it. I consider this to be the greatest achievement and award of my life. If someone tells me they like my acting, writing or direction, the credit should all go to KB sir. He was an irreplaceable teacher.”

In this week-long series dedicated to veteran filmmaker K Balachander to celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, celebrities reminisce about the auteur and his work. Here, actor-director Sripriya talks about working with him in the 1974 film, Aval Oru Thodar Kathai 

(as told to Navein Darshan)

Source: The New Indian Express