Direction Dreams: Director Bala’s approach to dubbing is phenomenal

This weekly column brings to you a promising assistant director, and their aspirations and this week it is Mantra Veerapandian
Direction Dreams: Director Bala’s approach to dubbing is phenomenal

Mantra Veerapandian

Director(s) worked/working with: Bala
Key responsibilities: Scripting, ensuring continuity, and dubbing
Films worked/working on: Naachiyar, Varma

Why filmmaking? 

I spent much of my childhood with my grandfather, who was a villu pattu artist. While I had some inclination towards narrating stories, I ended up getting an engineering degree and took up a job in Muscat. But after working for a year, I resigned my job and came back to Chennai to pursue my passion. I made a few short films and got opportunities to narrate some stories to actors. The feedback that I received from almost everyone was that assisting directors would help me realise my full potential. Around this time, I was introduced to the book, Ivan Thaan Baala. After reading it, I loved the sincerity in Bala’s school of thought and wanted to assist him. I came to know that there was a requirement for an assistant director for director Bala’s next film. After the multiple rounds of interviews over two months with his team, I finally got to speak to Bala himself. It was a friendly conversation, and at the end of it, he asked me to join the very next day.
What do you like about Bala?

His belief in the discipline of filmmaking. I also like his approach towards his assistants. He weighs our strengths and allots tasks that match them so as to build confidence, and then slowly familiarises us with other, more difficult aspects.

There is this another special attribute that has always been the highlight of Bala school of filmmaking: he can bring the actor of anyone. 

What have you learned about films?

Quite a lot. But the main takeaway is, as a filmmaker you must involve yourself in every task. 

What’s one area of filmmaking that you had a tough time with initially, but are better at now?

I would not say tough time, but then I was initially often bewildered when director Bala viewed canned shots and visuals without any audio. Then I realised that he has his own approach to dubbing. He sculpts distinct personalities for the characters in the film and adds extra dimensions to the emotions on screen, through the dubbing. This was something I initially couldn't get my head around, but now I'm familiar with it. 

Who is a director you wish you could work with, and why?

AR Muragadoss and Dharani, because I am a big fan of commercial films. 

What's the most memorable thing you have done as an AD or the most memorable event during the course of your journey?

For Naachiyar, we needed a junior artiste for a certain scene. When Bala saw the person we had chosen for the scene, he was disappointed by our choice and upset that we did not take our jobs seriously. The shot was canned later with another junior artiste and we all understood what he meant. 

Subsequently, I was given the sole responsibility for the execution of a particular scene. After wrapping the shoot that day, director Bala called me, praised me for my efforts and pointed out that this is the standard that I should always adhere to. It was a proud and memorable moment for me.

Which is the best film you’ve worked on so far, and what were your contributions?

Varma, because I was exposed to a multitude of challenges and overcoming these gave me a kick.

Who is the dream cast of your debut film?

I'm a fan of Vijay. I would love to do a film with him. But for one of my scripts, I think Simbu would fit the role perfectly. 

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