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Thalaimuraigal was meant for a legend like Balu Mahendra

May 06, 2014 09:23 IST

'Thalaimuraigal was meant for a legend like Balu Mahendra'


S Saraswathi/ in Chennai

Legendary filmmaker Balu Mahendra's Thalaimuraigal won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Film on National Integration at the recently held 61st National Film Awards, that acknowledged the best Indian films of 2013. 

Unfortunately, Balu Mahendra passed away just a few months after the film released. 

Besides writing, directing, editing and wielding the camera, Balu Mahendra for the first time in four decades, also made his acting debut in the film. 

Thalaimuraigal brings out the deep emotional bond between a grandfather and his grandson, overcoming the barriers of language and rigid conservative values. 

The film conveys the need for a sense of pride and appreciation for one's mother tongue and the preservation of one’s cultural heritage.

The multi-faceted Sasikumar, director of Subramaniapuram produced the film under his home banner, Company Productions.

This is Sasikumar's second National Award; his previous production Pasanga received the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 2009.

In this interview with, Sasikumar talks about his association with Balu Mahendra and how much he was missed on this momentous occasion.

Congratulations to your second National Award! How does it feel?

I feel very happy, but I really miss Balu Mahendra sir.  This honour would have brought even greater joy had he been present with us today. 

Balu sir is truly a great legend and he wanted to do a film with me and my production house. 

This by itself was a huge honour for me; it was like I had already won an award.

Image: A scene from Thalaimuraigal


'Thalaimuraigal was not made with any thought of commercial gain'

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How did you get this opportunity?

Balu sir called and told me that he would like to come and meet me.  I offered to go to him, but he insisted on coming to my office. 

He expressed his desire to do a film with Company Productions.  I immediately agreed without even hearing the story.

He wanted to make a film about our culture, depicting our values, a film for Tamils.

Thalaimuraigal was not just a film about the beautiful bond shared by a grandfather and his grandson; there were so many other elements, so much more to the film.  I absolutely loved the script and his reasons for doing it.

We started work almost immediately. He said that he could complete the project on a very small budget and he did just that.

Any particular reason why he chose to approach you?

I really do not know the answer to this question. 

Balu sir himself was asked this question on several occasions and he always replied that it was the power of the Universe that brought him to me.

He said that the universe had decided that there would come a time and age when someone called Sasikumar would produce a film for Balu Mahendra and that is exactly what he believed had happened. 

It was predestined that I would do a film with him.

As I have mentioned many times in the past, Thalaimuraigal was not made with any thought of commercial gain.

I did it solely for my personal satisfaction and the prestige of working with a legend.

Image: A scene from Thalaimuraigal

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'I think my not being involved with the film turned out to be the biggest support to Balu Mahendra'

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How involved were you with the project?

I think my not being involved with the film turned out to be the biggest support to him.

It was his story, his film; I did not interfere with any of his decisions.

I visited the sets just once and that too because I was part of the climax scene and was called for the shoot.

In the past, I had always heard about how Balu sir worked, but this was the first time I actually had the opportunity to watch him in action. 

The climax required a huge crowd and everything was perfectly planned.

He first shot all the scenes with the crowd, then the people on stage and finally when my turn came, almost everyone had left.

The scene was shot with no one present; it did not feel like acting at all.  Everything just seemed so natural and beautiful. 

Tell us a little more about the legend.

The tremendous speed with which he works and the detailed planning of every scene were his greatest strengths.  Watching him, I understood that for creating art, the creator has no age constraints; it is purely his love to create. 

Unfortunately, it is we who think they are past their prime and keep them away.  They have so much talent in them, it is incredible.

Though I may not have been fortunate enough to work under him, I did work under both Bala sir and Ameer.  Bala sir had the opportunity to work under Balu Mahendra and Ameer was mentored by Bala. 

It was Balu Mahendra, who created this foundation; I believe we have all learnt from him.

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'I am very happy winning the National Award'

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After more than four decades in the industry, what prompted him to act in the film?

After everything was finalised, he invited me to his office.  He showed me a black and white picture of an old man who he said would be essaying the role of the grandfather in the film.

I was very impressed with the man in the picture, who had such powerful eyes. I told Balu sir that he had finally found another Chokkalinga Bhagavathar.

Imagine my surprise when he later told me that it was actually him in the picture.  Until that day, I had only seen him with his cap and glasses. 

On that day, he told me of his decision to do the role of the grandfather himself.

You seem more recognised as a producer. Would you feel greater satisfaction if you were given the National Award for the Best Actor or Director?

Not at all.  This is a national honour and I am very happy. 

It does not really matter what role I have played.  It is still my film that has received the National Award, and I am proud.

Image: Sasikumar reviving the National Award

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'I want to do all kinds of films'

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As a producer, what do you look for in a script?

I am a big fan of cinema.  Whenever I am listening to a potential script, be it as an actor or producer, it is always as a fan. 

If I am entertained, if I enjoy the script, than I go for it.

Any particular genre?

I want to do all kinds of films, socially relevant ones as well as commercial films.

 In fact, Company Productions has been doing films in all genres, but we choose our scripts with care.  We usually just plan one film a year.

Are you currently working in any film?

I am working in a film called Tharai Thappattai under Bala sir's direction.

Can you share with us your experience of the awards ceremony in Delhi?

I accepted the National Award on behalf of the production house. Also with me, representing Balu Mahendra sir, was his grandson, Shreyas. 

We greatly missed his presence on this memorable occasion and it was really nice to have his grandson with us. 

Also present were Balu sir's wife Akhila amma, son Shanki Mahendra and his wife. 

The entire family was present and it was truly a momentous occasion for all of us.  

Image: A scene from Thalaimuraigal

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