K. Balachander's association with Bharatiraja began with his first film, the trendsetting Padhinaaru Vayadhinilae that catapulted the lead trio of Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Sridevi to heights of success

That the veteran who has scaled pinnacles as an auteur has turned actor for a movie directed by a first timer, comes as a surprise. And that Bharatiraaja, another filmmaker, who has made great strides in the art, is joining him as a performer adds to the intrigue! The past master is K. Balachander and the film is Rettachchuzhi, an S Pictures production, which rolls out today.KB's penchant for the greasepaint has never overridden his passion for the pen. So, you've hardly seen him donning it except for a few films where he directed himself. Poi is probably one of the more recent examples. (Not many may know that K. Balachander's acting forays began even during his early theatre days.)

“That's right,” says KB, “This is the first time I've worked for another director.” It may be because Thamira has apprenticed under him for more than eight years. “That's not the only reason. Thamira convinced me about the worth of the script. I liked his confidence, and, of course, I knew my inclusion in the cast would help the young technician. So, I went ahead,” he clarifies.

It wasn't just Balachander who liked the line Thamira had worked on. Even Bharatiraaja felt the same. “Bharati joined the bandwagon only because the premise impressed him,” says KB. Another feather in Thamira's cap is that the film was selected for screening at the Dubai Film Festival.

Shankar, for whom Rettachchuzhi is the eighth film as producer, also liked the way the tale travelled. But, he was even more taken in by the idea of the two giants coming together and saw it as casting coup of sorts. His conjecture is proving right because the fact that two formidable filmmakers are playing prime roles in a director's maiden venture has kindled much interest in the movie. So, what's Thamira's effort all about? “It's more a story of children. They are the thrust of Rettachchuzhi, though Bharati and I play significant characters, where one is the antithesis of the other as far as ideologies go. We act as people, who are petty and childish at heart,” Balachander informs.

Twenty-two children have been roped in for the film, one of them being actor Karunas' son, Ken.

When an illustrious personality who has proved his mettle as a maker faces the camera for another director, it isn't easy for him to rein in the creator inside him. Smiles Balachander: “True, it's quite impossible to take instructions implicitly. At times, within the framework of a scene, I've suggested portraying my part in a particular way. Otherwise, I've done what Thamira wished me to.”

Balachander's admiration for Bharatiraaja's creations and the rapport they share is well-known. “Yeah, it's been the same over the years, despite the generation gapbetween us,” says the senior.

Their association began with Bharati's first film, the trendsetting Padhinaaru Vayadhinilae that catapulted the lead trio of Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Sridevi to heights of success. “‘You have hit the bull's eye', I wrote to him then,” smiles KB.

Didn't the master craftsman go a step further when, at a gathering, he announced: ‘If Bharatiraaja is even a day older than I am, I would fall at his feet'? “Ah … that was for his Pudhiya Vaarpugal. The media created a furore about it. Without quite comprehending the spirit of the statement, they questioned: ‘How can a director of KB's calibre say he would fall at a young maker's feet', recalls Balachander, and continues: “Cinema is a field where one rarely acknowledges the good work of a colleague. I'm different. I've been brought up to be frank and forthright in my compliments. I don't even know Gautham Menon. But, I found his Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya so compelling that I wrote a long letter to him about how the film impacted me. You can read it on the Net.”

Anjali of Angaadi Theru is also a part of Rettachchuzhi. Does Balachander share screen space with her? “No, but when I watched the rushes, much before Angaadi Theru came out, I could make out the potential in her, and congratulated her,” says the seasoned starmaker whose incredible list of capable finds includes Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.

About the film, set in the rural areas of Tirunelveli, he further says: “It was decided that the generally-spoken lingo would suit the character better, though I've spoken the native Nellai dialect in other films.

“I would like to add that the film should work out well, and personally, as an artist, it was a gratifying experience. The unit treated us with deference, and though I didn't want it, they insisted on having two caravans at the spot, for Bharati and me,” the colossus of a filmmaker signs off with humility.

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