Remembering K Balachander: Director Suresh Krissna talks about the making of a KB film
In this week-long series dedicated to veteran filmmaker K Balachander to celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, celebrities reminisce about the auteur and his work.
"Since I was brought up in Mumbai, I had only seen Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Salim-Javed and the likes. My exposure to Tamil cinema was minimal. I was a college student working at LV Prasad sir office's account department when he got the Hindi rights of Maro Charitra. We learned that we were doing the Hindi version titled Ek Duuje Ke Liye and that Balachander sir would direct it. I knew nothing about the South Indian film industry and as someone who could speak both Hindi and Tamil, I was tasked with the job of receiving him, taking him around Mumbai, having him meet Laxmikant–Pyarelal and Anand Bakshi. While taking him around, I discussed everything about Bollywood with him, including a lot of gossip. I guess he liked my innocence. I took him to restaurants that specialised in South cuisine as he liked idly sambar. I remember that he loved to wear white.
He had tremendous command over his technicians. When the film began shooting in Visakhapatnam and the dialogue assistant didn't make it, I was called in. The dialogue assistant then arrived, and I was made an assistant director. Only after I began working did I realise who I was working with. The team would go to any lengths to make sir's dream come true. He was short-tempered and I think it’s because his head always burst with ideas. He was not one to compromise, and could draw good performances from even a junior artiste. He was technically strong, and always took notes of the focus, trolley and shifts. Despite not knowing Hindi, he knew how to extract work. The way everyone respected him and seeing him be part of every plan, made me realise who he was. By the time the film finished, I, who had started off being talkative, had become silent (laughs).
He was a 50-year-old working on a love story with the passion of someone half his age. He was great at evoking emotions associated with romance. For one scene, I had to write the word 'Sapna' on the beach sands. It was time-consuming and as we didn’t have any walkie-talkies, it was hard to coordinate. He noticed spacing issues and asked me if I had ever fallen in love. I said I had not, and he said that's why I could not understand how this word had to look. He asked me to imagine I was doing it for my lover and when I did it right, he patted my shoulder and said I would get a girlfriend now (laughs).
Working with him, I learned hard work, scene conception, drawing performances, and never to compromise on quality. The legacy he has left behind is massive and each of his 100 films is a landmark. There should be a film appreciation course just for his films so that the next generation can learn the legend we had."
(As told to Gopinath Rajendran)