Nineteen years have passed since Sindhu vanished from the lives of singer JKB and his wife but Tamil audiences still remember them from Sindhu Bhairavi. This is the kind of impact created by the K Balachander film.
Starring Sivakumar as JKB, Suhasini as the young Sindhu who was madly in love with him, and Sulakshana as the silently suffering wife Bhairavi, Sindhu Bhairavi was a huge success at the box-office and won many awards.
Though Balachander has been toying with the idea of making a sequel to Sindhu Bhairavi for the last 10 years, something stopped him from doing so. 'I feared people would compare the two and say the sequel was not as good. I didn't want to take such a big commercial risk,' he once said.
Balachander has been producing television serials through Minbimbangal, the television offshoot of his movie production outfit Kavithalaya. Towards the end of his successful series, Anni, he went through his old files looking for an idea for his next serial and chanced on the rough sequel to Sindhu Bhairavi he had written 10 years ago.
Balachander decided to bring the characters back to life on television.
Sindhu Bhairavi was released in 1985. The film ended with Sindhu leaving her son with JKB and Bhairavi. The serial (Sahana -- Sindhu Bhairavi 2) starts 19 years down the line. Sindhu's son Surya is 19. Bhairavi has given birth to a daughter, but they have no clue where Sindhu is.
They will not find Sindhu before the serial reaches around 50 episodes says project executive Subha Venkat.
Balachander wanted the same artistes to reprise their roles on television. Unfortunately, Sivakumar was committed to a daily soap. Suhasini was willing to play Sindhu but Balachander decided to have a different face -- he felt if Suhasini played Sindhu, viewers would expect Sivakumar to play JKB. "You cannot separate JKB and Sindhu. Sir [Balachander] felt if we are going to have a different JKB, let's have a different Sindhu too," says Subha.
Y G Mahendran, the well-known theatre and film personality, will play JKB. "It is a challenge for a comedy artiste like me to do a character role like JKB. I am enjoying both the challenge and the role," he said. Mahendran, who has acted in more than 300 films, said it is a kind of homecoming for him. "I acted in a Balachander film 26 years ago!"
He is not worried about the fact that JKB was once successfully portrayed by Sivakumar. "Had it been done by Sivaji [Ganesan], I would not have accepted the role. Only two people inspire me, and they are K Balachander and Sivaji. When I have KB on the sets to guide me, why should I worry? I also have my other guru Sivaji in mind."
Balachander and his unit could not trace Sulakshana who disappeared from the film scene 12 years ago. So they decided to kill Bhairavi's character and keep her as a photograph in the serial. As it transpired, Sulakshana found out about the sequel from the newspapers and contacted Balachander. To his delight, she told him she would play Bhairavi.
"They were so happy to see me," says Sulakshana. "The script was rewritten and Bhairavi was alive again. I am happy to act as Bhairavi. She is still the same soft person. The only difference is she is older and the mother of two children. There is more understanding between JKB and Bhairavi now -- she doesn't fight with him."
Carnatic singer Anuradha Krishnamoorthy, who has never acted before, will play Sindhu. When contacted by Minbimangal, a surprised Anuradha was reluctant to accept the offer. "My initial reaction was I am not interested in acting. I am a professional singer. I had absolutely no plans to act. I told them I needed time to think. It was my husband's gentle persuasion that made me meet K Balachander. Once I met him, I was struck by his simplicity. When he told me they would see to it that my kacheris (concerts) would not get affected because of the shooting, I said yes."
"That Suhasini acted in the original film does not bother me at all," she says. "I am a student as far as acting is concerned. My only concern is I shouldn't disappoint Balachander."
Rajesh Vaidya, who is composing the songs for the serial, faces a tough challenge; the songs composed by Ilayaraja for Sindhu Bhairavi are considered masterpieces. Carnatic stalwarts Dr M Balamurali Krishna and Sudha Raghunathan will render the songs.