Suresh Krissna is one director who has directed some of the biggest names in South Indian cinema like Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi, Vishnuvardhan and Mohanlal to name a few.
As the countdown of Kamal Haasan's Tamil film, Dasavathaaram begins, Suresh Krissna reminisces about his association and relationship with the actor whom he directed in three films Sathya, Indrudu Chandrudu and Alavandan. Excerpts:
My association with Kamal Haasan dates back to 1979 on the sets of Ek Duje Ke Liye.
As I was born and brought up in Mumbai, and was working with LV Prasad, Mr Balachander brought me from Mumbai for Ek Duje Ke Liye shoot in Visakhapatnam as they didn't have a Hindi coach. I became an assistant director to K. Balachander.
Kamalji and I immediately struck a rapport. I was always by his side as I had to work with him on all the Hindi dialogues.
Ek Duje Ke Liye and Varyumayin Niram Sigappu were happening almost back to back. There were a lot of Delhi scenes in Varumayin... and I helped in those. I helped out with the Hindi portions in Ek Duje Ke Liye too.
Once the whole shoot was over, Kamalji would come to the hotel where all the assistants and cameramen were living, and play cards and have fun. It was pure entertainment and tremendous camaraderie. He never gave the impression that he was a star and we never felt we were working with one. Kamalji loved that unit as he was always close to Balachander Sir.
I remained an assistant to Mr Balachander for seven years and did 14 films. And in almost every second film, Kamalji was there. We did Varumayin Niram Sigappu, Apoorva Ragangal in Hindi and Punnagai Mannan.
Kamlji watched me grow from being a fifth assistant to Balachander Sir to becoming associate director of Punnagai Mannan.
When I was ready to branch out as director, he asked me if I was interested in directing a film he was producing as well as acting. What more can anyone ask for? So I said fine. The film was Sathya.
After wrapping up the first day of shoot, I overheard Kamalji say to Mr Ananthu that I was good and confident. Luckily, since I had been with Kamlaji for so many years I was not apprehensive directing him at all.
Sathya was based on the Hindi film Arjun. Kamalji bought the rights and we did the adaptation. He never made me feel he was the hero. He would come with ideas regarding sound effects, performances, etc. For me it was my first film, so I was still learning. What more could one ask for? Mr Kamal knew each and every department thoroughly.
Actually, I recall the time Mr Bharathiraja saw the first copy of the film and immediately said to me, 'Suresh you want me to believe that this is your first film?' I thought it was a great compliment. Mr Balachander saw it and was happy. He just smiled, patted me and went.
On the whole, directing Sathya was a fantastic, memorable experience. I cannot believe that the film was made 20 years ago.
There are lots of interesting incidents I still remember but the most memorable one was the umbrella scene. There was a sequence to be shot in the rain with numerous umbrellas on the streets involving nearly a thousand junior actors and five cameras. Kamalji was not supposed to be there. When he saw the whole chaos, he asked me to get him a ladder. I did. He got on top of it, took a megaphone and just like an assistant director, he bellowed into it. What he did made a huge difference. Sarikaji was also there on that day on the sets. It was a really great day.
After Sathya my next film was Prema with Rama Naidu Sir for which I got the State Award. At that time when the movie was doing very well, Rama Naidu Sir approached Kamalji for another film and that too in Telugu where he did a double role.
Kamalji always works more on his double roles. He wanted some very unusual masks for his roles in Indrudu... It was cumbersome but he was extremely patient and willing to get the time-consuming make-up done.
The character of the Mayor was a fabulous one. Everybody worked hard for this one, most notably Kamalji and S.P.Balasubrahmanyam Sir. To sing for Mayor Rayudu [Kamal's character] was tough because the character had a peculiar voice. In the recording studio Ilayaraja explained to Balu Sir that he had to sing in a particular tone. However, he didn't get it. Then Kamalji came into the studio and spoke in the voice that Ilayaraja wanted. Immediately Balu Sir got it and sang the whole song in that voice. For three months after that Balu Sir could not sing as he lost his voice completely.
It was toughest film to shoot and technically one of the most solid films. It was based on a novel which Kamalji had written in a weekly. Dhanu [producer] had approached him to do a film adaptation of the novel and they wanted me to direct. Kamalji worked on the screenplay and dialogues. In Alavandan he wanted motion graphics, a blue and a green mat. It was tough.
The characterisation was good -- one is an animal and another a trained animal [commando]. There were a lot of special effects in the film, which took a year to complete.
We shot in Delhi during the thick of winter. While we were shooting Kamalji developed an injury and couldn't shoot for a month and a half. So whatever we had shot we had to re-shoot in Chennai where it was summer. Samir Chanda, the art director and others had a tough time recreating winter in Chennai. The producer had to use an air-conditioner to cool the whole floor because anybody sweating on the frame would have looked odd.
After Alavandan Kamalji moved on to comedy and his directorial ventures. I have not directed him since.
Kamalji loves singing. I remember we all used to sit together and sing songs from old films and even play Antakshari [in Tamil]. He is very up to date with films. He is also an avid reader.
Expectations of Dasavathaaram
Dasavathaaram will be mind-blowing. For just two characters in Aalavandan, he put in a lot of effort, imagine what he must have gone through for his ten roles in Dasavathaaram.
Ravikumar, [the director of Dasavathaaram] and Kamalji have done Avvai Shanmukhi together. And with Dasavathaaram too they have done their best. I hope it runs for a year.