'During Diwali, many films with big stars are released. KB’s film needed no stars. ‘A film by K Balachander’ was enough to draw the crowds.'
Director Suresh Krissna pays rich tribute to the late K Balachander.
Suresh Krissna is known for his movies like Annamalai, Veera, Baasha, and has worked with top stars like Rajinikanth, Mohanlal, Kamal Haasan and Chiranjeevi.
He pays tribute to his mentor K Balachander, who passed away into the ages on December 23, under whom he worked in his early days:
KB (as K Balachander was fondly called) is no more but he will live on through his movies.
Almost all the films he made bore the stamp of his genius. He was unique in his approach to subjects and his narrative style and that is why he was in a class of his own.
During Diwali many films with big stars are released. KB’s film needed no stars. ‘A film by K Balachander’ was enough to draw the crowds.
I was fortunate to have worked as his assistant for seven years and in 14 films. His classics like Ek Duuje Ke Liye and Sindhu Bhairavi were made during that period.
What made him unique? What was that special quality that made him a genius?
There were many incidents I can quote but there are some moments I can never forget...
The first surprise was when KB did the love story, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, in 1980. He was 50 years old, an age when many said you cannot make a youthful love story.
It was a remake of his Telugu film Maro Charitra, released a year earlier. L V Prasad, another legend of Indian cinema, had bought the rights and wanted KB to direct it in Hindi.
I was earlier assistant to L V Prasad and then joined KB for I knew both Hindi and Tamil.
I am not exaggerating, but the way KB worked in the outdoors in Vizag was unbelievable!
His speed and enthusiasm was unmatchable. He was a livewire, moving from one shot to another. He had a childlike enthusiasm; he wanted to capture each and every shot in the best possible way.
He was a taskmaster when it came to performance. He would not compromise on it. He wanted the actors to perform in the manner he had conceived.
There would be a lot of improvisation, especially when a fabulous actor like Kamal Haasan was in a scene. KB had a tremendous liking for Kamal Haasan.
Kamal Haasan, in turn, knew that if he put in that extra effort, his mentor would like it.
It was a treat to watch a great director and actor working in unison. The efforts of both resulted in Ek Duuje Ke Liye being one of the many great movies they worked in together.
The film was completed with a change in the climax as suggested by Prasadji. In the original Telugu version, the heroine is raped before she and the hero jump from the mountain and die. In the Hindi version, however, there was no rape.
Prasadji felt that there was no need to get the heroine raped when she was going to die anyway.
But when Prasadji saw the full edited version of the film, he felt that it lacked the emotion of the Telugu original.
So he requested KB to change the climax to make it like the original where the heroine gets raped.
The film was in the final editing stage by then. To shoot the scene meant we had to go back to Vizag from Chennai. KB told him not to worry, he would get it done.
KB went to the editing room and preformed the miracle. All he did was change a few shots, interspersed it with close-ups, and in a matter of minutes he had changed the scene from no rape to rape!
That was the work of an absolute genius! None of us could stop talking about this incident for a long time... Even Prasadji commended KB’s editing sense.
Another interesting incident was when Ek Duuje Ke Liye was premiered in Bombay. KB did not come for the premiere. I was there at Roxy Cinema. The cream of the Bombay film industry had come -- Raj Kapoor, Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra.
After the movie ended, there was a standing ovation. Manmohan Desai stood on his seat, clapped and whistled!
Afterwards there was a party at the Oberoi Hotel. Raj Kapoor was seated at a table having a drink. One of the men seated at his table came and asked me if KB was around. I said no and introduced myself as his assistant.
He took me to Raj Kapoor’s table where Raj Kapoor was all in praise of the movie. He appreciated even the minute details of the picture and praised KB sky high. I was so happy.
Then came the bomb -- he was totally against the tragic climax of the film!
He said, “Such a brilliant film but why the tragedy?” He went on and on about it.
It was late at night but I had to convey Raj Kapoor’s observation to KB. I went out of the hotel, found an STD booth and called KB sir. I apologised for the late call and told him what Raj Kapoor had said.
KB coolly answered, “Suresh, what Raj Kapoor felt is very correct. For that matter, all the audience will have the same feeling -- why the tragedy? But it is that feeling that will be the reason for the film’s success.
The tragedy will be key reason for the success! Wow! What an observation!
The next day, when the film was released, it was exactly the tragedy that made people come again and again to the theatres, making it an all time classic.
KB knew the pulse of his audience perfectly.
There are many more things I could talk about. The way Sindhu Bhairavi was made, the way he and Illayaraja worked to create that Carnatic musical classic. Brilliant scenes, brilliant editing, brilliant performances, how that film evolved is a subject I can keep talking about…I can even write a book on that film!
Many people ask me why, coming from the school of K Balachander, I have not made a film like his.
I answer immediately, “There is only one KB and the films he made nobody can make. Definitely not in the way he made them. He was way beyond us all.”
Filmmakers will come and go, actors and directors will come and go, movies will come and go, but there are some names that will remain as long as there is cinema.
KB will remain always alive in us.
In the picture: On the sets of Ek Duuje Ke Liye