Remembering K Balachander: Viji Chandrasekhar talks about the 'filmmaker far ahead of his time'
In this series dedicated to veteran filmmaker K Balachander to celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, actor Viji Chandrasekhar talks about working with him in the 1981 film, Thillu Mullu
‘If not for Balachander sir, I would not be what I am today. He introduced me to the beautiful world of cinema in Thillu Mullu, and I am grateful for that opportunity for the rest of my life. My role in the film as Uma, the sister of Rajinikanth’s character, was not prominent in the original Hindi film, Gol Maal, but KB sir developed it. It was my debut and I was quite young, and would shiver in fear at the sight of him. In all my life, he’s the only one I have been scared of. However, I must say that as stern as he was, he always remembered to appreciate good performances. He taught us all the magic of acting using our eyes.
Even Rajini sir was scared of KB sir and revered him. His voice and the way he walked seemed so majestic to us. Rajnikanth sir was still an upcoming artiste at the time Thillu Mullu was shot, and KB sir used to be in awe of his performances and would keep telling him, “You are the Superstar.”
His sets were a place of total discipline, with pin-drop silence observed. This fear and silence I talk about came from our respect for him. All his films were ahead of their time by at least a decade or two. Take, for instance, his film, Thaneer Thaneer, that discussed the issue of water scarcity, at a time when it was not as big a problem. His thoughts were modern and without any gender bias.
Years after Thillu Mullu, I did a film called Aarohanam. After seeing the film, Balachander sir wrote a letter to the director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan saying, “I discovered Viji but you have rediscovered her.” There’s nothing better than to hear such words from your guru. You wouldn’t believe it, but he last called ‘Action, camera and cut’ in a scene with me in the climax of the TV serial, Amudha Oru Aacharyakuri. I did a cameo in that serial with no questions asked, and no payment demanded. He thanked me for it in the credits. I’m a microdot in the world he has created and yet, he remembered to give me credit for my work. That’s the kind of person he was.
All the ocean of learning that has come from him cannot be put into words. Be it nuances in expression, or confidence and positivity, all the knowledge I pass to my acting class students is what he passed on to me. I will forever be grateful to him.”
(as told to Haritha Mohan)