K Balachander – A tribute


KB with the superstar

It is been a few months since KB died. Here’s a tribute to the director. Readers,  please forgive this blogger for the delay.

Grandma loves Iru Kodugal. It took K Balachander, already one of most promising directors in Tamil, to a creative peak. When I saw Uthama Villain I knew we had lost one of our promising actors as well.

When I was young, I hated Balachander. All he seemed to make were triangular love stories– Duet,which flopped, being a case in point. I rarely visited the theatre to see Tamil movies and was very disappointed with Duet. A R Rahman’s songs were great, but the film sucked.

By then, Balachander had already moved to cable TV. His direction made the serials stand apart and audiences crowded around the TV. But I pined for Rail Snegam, which had been aired on DD years earlier.

I simply loved Apoorva Ragangal , Oru Veedu Iru Vasal, Sindhu Bhairavi, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and a slew of other movies. I also adore him for the strong female characters he created on screen like Suhasini in Sindhu Bhairavi. That was probably KB’s peak in the colour era.

Here was a director who mourned the loss of black and white. And, he was right. For indoor shots, black and white was irreplaceable. Example: Moontru Mudichu.

But by then Bharathiraaja, the other great of Tamil cinema, had taken his camera outdoors and whatever KB did, he couldn’t match the camerawork  of Pathinaru Vayathinile.

KB’s camera moved closer. Many of shots were close-ups. Every single muscle movement on the actor’s face was recorded. So it was nothing new when actor Sivakumar, sitting on an easy chair, looks at the bottle, pining for a drop.

As a director, KB would often cut to a shot of a statue or the clock or a calendar to illustrate his scenes better. These became his trademark shots and the audience applauded. But is it right for a director to create his own style?  Many directors choose their style in accordance with the movie, but not KB.

KB had a great ear for music. And, an ability to create superbly executed song situations. He worked his songs, first composed by Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy and then Ilaiyaraja,  seamlessly into the movie.

It must me mentioned that AR Rahman got his break with a movie produced by KB (Roja).

KB also famously introduced, among the host of actors, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. More about his career and life is on Wikipedia. Make a note of awards and accolades he won.

Unlike more of his offbeat movies, Sindhu Bhairavi was wholesome entertainment. I remember falling in love with the movie after watching it a couple of times.

KB’s entire focus during his long innings was on relationships. He started on stage and then made many of his plays into movies. Comparisons can be made to Woody Allen. KB did in Tamil, and occasionally in other languages, what Allen did in English.

The Iyakkunar Sigaram’s movies truly were some of the best in Tamil cinema. I understand there is an award already named after him. We will do good to remember him.

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