A self-learnt filmmaker, Mouli goes down memory lane.
Director-actor Mouli needs no introduction. Be it drama or cinema, directing or acting Mouli has etched his name. Known for his exploits in theatre, he effectively used re-recording in dramas. “Then it was not so easy. It required a lot of rehearsals,” he says. He also used lighting effects to show 10 different locales on stage. A Kalaimamani award winner, his movies won five Nandi awards including one for best direction in Telugu.
A destiny’s child, he discovered his talent soon. “I never went after opportunities. Time guided my way,” he says. It happened when he and his friends staged dramas and light music performances to raise funds for the cricket club they belonged to”Our group leader suggested me to write. I never thought could write a play. I was just 19 and I wrote a 45-minute play. We staged it at a function organised to felicitate thespian Sivaji Ganesan for his Padma Shri award and it received tremendous response. Sivaji appreciated my timing and fuelled my passion.
Born in a conservative family to Harikatha exponent T.S. Balakrishna Sasthrigal, Mouli had his task cut out. His parents never allowed any distraction in his studies. “They wanted me to complete my education. I did B.Tech., but could not resist the temptation to write plays.” Faculty members spotted his talent and encouraged him to participate in inter-college competitions. His plays swept all prizes including best direction, best play and best script.
But his parents never entertained the amateur drama groups who started coming with offers till Y.G. Parthasarathy and his wife convinced them.
Mouli soon became a member of YGP’s team, writing comedy tracks. “I wrote Flight No. 172 with the sole aim to make people laugh,” he says. Despite being admonished by other drama troupes, and reviews calling the play ‘full of gags’, it earned him name and fame completing 100 shows in a short time.
His next, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ based on a freak thought on what would happen to humans if they found out the world was coming to an end, was an equally big hit.
When Mouli met director K. Balachander with a film script, he was impressed. As my friends also wanted me to direct, Ivargal Vithyasamanavargal happened. “He used to come for my plays as he liked my style of writing. He wanted me write a comedy track for the movie Arangetram. But I felt the film did not warrant any separate comedy as it would dilute its seriousness,” he says.
But later, Mouli directed Annae Annae and Oru Pullangulal Adupu Oothugirathu under the KB banner. He also acted in his movie Nizhal Nijamagirathu. “The original Malayalam film had no comedy track. But he gave me the liberty to insert comedy sequences wherever I wanted. I wrote 16 scenes for the movie and it did well,” says Mouli.
His next project Matravai Neril took just 25 days to complete the shoot. The movie with new faces ran for 100 days and earned good name for him. Unlike his first film which was heavy on dialogues, the second one was full of visual elements.” Vaa Indha Pakkam also ran well to establish him as a director in Kollywood. Also dubbed in Telugu, it ran to packed houses and introduced Mouli to the Telugu industry. “The same producer approached me to do a direct Telugu movie. I did not know the language. But I had popular Telugu writer Jandhyala translating my script. I was also provided a writer-translator as I also improvise on the spot,” he says. The movie Patnam Vochina Pathi Virathalu with Chiranjeevi and Radhika donning lead roles was a smash hit and ran for 280 days. From then on there was no looking back. Next 15 years he gave Tollywood 30 hits but yearned to get back to Tamil. Old friend Kamal Hassan gave him the opportunity to direct two films Pammal K.Sambandam and.
A humanist that he is, Mouli donated the proceeds from the sale of Flight No.172 DVDs to ailing drama artistes. “I have created a corpus to provide financial assistance for them,” he says.
Currently he is busy acting in the Tamil serial Nathaswaram. “I take pride in entertaining the commoner. Peoples’ appreciation is the best reward,” he says, readying for the next shot.