Atharva on his experience of working in Paradesi with maverick filmmaker Bala

Atharva Murali is the talk of the film industry at the moment, and the young actor agrees that a Bala film can do that to any artiste. Confident and articulate, Atharva couldn’t help but describe working with Bala in Paradesi as “an awesome experience”. Through the course of the interview, Atharva, time and again, talks about how “intense” and educating the whole experience turned out to be for him.

Basic training

He confesses that he wasn’t really sure what to expect when he was signed for the film. “Like any other newcomer, I had basic training. You know the usual stuff such as dance, stunts and a bit of acting in the hope that my film would be a sensational hit.” But, the sensational break never came.

Acting as the lead in what is possibly a trademark ‘dark’ Bala film about the harsh treatment meted out to Indians by the colonial rulers wasn’t a walk in the park. Even with Bala by his side, walking him through the role step by step, the actor recounts the initial few days, “It was a complex role, and it took me a while to get the hang of it.” Added to the demands of the role was the pressure of working with the maverick filmmaker who, according to Atharva, expects his actors to raise their intensity to match his own.

“Bala sir keeps improvising all the time on the sets. There is always a little dialogue he would add, and a little correction he would make to enhance our performances as he went along,” recounts the actor. As days went by, pressure mounted on him, which made him realise that he was collaborating with a filmmaker who wanted to make a film that is nothing less than spectacular.

Call for excellence

Atharva agrees that Paradesi couldn’t have possibly been made without Bala’s clarion call for excellence, “The forests would look beautiful from a distance, but shooting within those areas was demanding and difficult,” informs Atharva.

Sensing the difficult path ahead, Bala went out of his way to get the actors, including Atharva, on the same page as him. But the actor is happy that he was able to keep pace and deliver what was required. “He will push you until he gets what he wants,” says the actor, but clarifies that Bala was also “extraordinarily patient” with his actors.

When pushed to pick out one special trait of the director, Atharva thanks Bala for showing faith in his actors. “He doesn’t act out scenes like other directors. He simply sits in his chair and talks to his actors. That way, he makes the actors think about the character, and more importantly trusts them to deliver,” says Atharva

All the hard work has indeed paid off today. The initial reviews received after the film was screened for Bala’s close circle of friends, has emboldened the makers to compete at prestigious film festivals.

“People say that the film is good enough to compete with films made in Europe and America.”

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