The countdown for the release of Balaji Sakthivel's Vazhakku Enn 18/9 begins. The director talks to k. r. manigandan about the film that's been in the making for a long time

Director Balaji Sakthivel's list of priorities is interesting. At a time when most people accord importance to factors such as power, fame and fortune, his list has trust and living up to expectations at the top.

Begins Balaji, “What I worry about most is living up to people's expectations — especially those like my producer Lingusamy, who have reposed immense faith in me. This is probably my greatest challenge. I have been particular about making a movie that is exceptionally good. I am intent that no viewer who sees my film feels let down or disappointed.”

The director has taken quite a bit of time to complete Vazhakku Enn 18/9, the pre-production work of which started way back in 2008. Admits Balaji, “It is true I have taken quite a while to complete this film, which will hit the screens in April. I finished the middle portions and the climax but was not convinced about the manner in which the film should start. It took me almost a year to decide on the opening sequences, which I finally did in consultation with Lingusamy. The film, which showcases love in both the upper-middle and lower classes today, begins with an inquiry and is deliberately showcased in that fashion because I want to garner the attention of the audience.”

Thanks to his eye for detail, the director is considered an expert when it comes to casting. This time, he has cast Sree, Midhun Murali, Urmila Mahanta and Manisha Yadav as the lead actors in his film. While Sree has been part of the television serial “Kanaa Kaanum Kaalanagal” that was aired on Vijay TV, Midhun Murali has worked in three Malayalam movies prior to acting in Vazhakku Enn 18/9. Both the heroines are making their debut with this film and are from other parts of the country. Urmila is a student of the film institute in Pune, while Manisha Yadav is a model from Bangalore. Sources close to the film's unit say although three of the four lead artistes are not from here, one does not realise it while watching the film as the casting is apt.

Says Balaji, “Several people were considered for these roles before these four were picked. All four are highly talented. I don't mean to say that those who weren't chosen aren't talented. These people were picked as their faces matched my characters' requirements.”

Balaji, who is known to possess a passion for world cinema, is also aware of the latest trends. The director is aware of the ever-shrinking attention span of audiences and has tried to keep his film short, a factor that may work in his film's favour. “My film is just one hour and 55 minutes long. I have only two songs in the film; one of them, the title song,” he says, before proceeding to elaborate on the music of the film. “Prasanna, who scored the music for the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Smile Pinki,' is the music director of this film. One song does not have music and depends entirely on the lyrics and the rendition to impress the audience. Karthik, along with Argentinian singer Sofia Tosello, has rendered this number.”

Another reason why Balaji has managed to carve a niche for himself in the Tamil film industry is his stories are based on real-life incidents. Kadhal was based on a true story and Kalloori was inspired by the bus-burning incident in Dharmapuri that claimed the lives of three TNAU students. Is his next film too inspired by a real-life incident?

“Only the climax is based on a real-life incident. The rest is something everyone comes across on a day-to-day basis,” signs off the director.

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