chatlineDirector Bala goes on a levity trip withAvan Ivan.malathi rangarajanon
the filmmaker's creative detour
If modesty is a virtue, Bala has it in excess, and if frankness is a fault, his exchanges brim over with it! Looking a lot fitter than he did when I met him just before the release ofNaan Kadavul,he welcomes me with a warm smile. This meeting is aboutAvan Ivan, Bala's next.
“Certain interactions remain with me for long. I vividly remember our last conversation,” he says. It was at Hotel Green Park and even then, his candour surprised me.
Bala is still the same. Doesn't he feel he has to exercise caution, particularly when talking to the media?
“Why should I? Then after you leave when I look at myself in the mirror, won't the image mock at me?”
Fair enough, only that such forthrightness from an interviewee is rare to come by.
Bala is known to take a long time for each project. Comparatively,Avan Ivanseems to have been completed early. “Not really — we shotNKfor 260 days with breaks in between andAIfor 220 at a stretch.” But unlikeNK, this is said to be in a light-hearted vein and yet … “Yeah, even then it took me that number of days,” he nods.
Two films each with Vikram, Suriya and Arya — does he have a particular reason for repeating his heroes?
“Sure, because most heroes are wary of working with me,” his tone is serious, and I sit up! Which actor wouldn't want to be part of a Bala film? “The general feeling is I'm not an easy person. The media has created that impression. And that my films take too long to get over,” he shrugs.
The latter is true to an extent. “Not the former,” he cuts in. “Once the actors begin to work with me they know I'm very cool. That's why Vikram, Suriya and Arya are still my well-wishers. They are constantly in touch, and afterAIVishal has joined the group,” smiles Bala. “Arya knew about the story I had in mind and it was he who brought Vishal to me,” says Bala.
Then why does he subject his heroes to such torture? Arya, for example, had to master ‘sirasasanam,' the yogic posture, in 30 days (perfecting it takes a year and a half generally) forNK, and now it is Vishal who will appear with a squint throughoutAI. “I feel bad too. I thought I should do something different for Vishal, who had reposed confidence in me. The idea came to me on the set. And he was game,” says Bala.
For nearly 25 days Vishal practised holding his eyeball to one side. “I felt really sad to see him do it, because the nerve on that side of the face would at once get swollen and it would take half an hour for the swelling to subside. So each time we had to wait that long for a shot — obviously we couldn't shoot him with the nerve looking prominent. A real ordeal,” his voice shows concern.
Comparatively Arya's challenges inAIseem less. “Yes, I want to show that he can shine in a light character too,” he says.
It is said that Vishal is playing a transgender. “Not at all, he is a theatre artist who has played female roles for so long that he has an effeminate streak in him. Even that vanishes, once he becomes an action hero,” Bala explains.
Bala believes in finding stories from life. “It's just observation, inspiration and imagination,” he smiles.
And was Vishal able to deliver? “As I've told you, no actor is bad. It's up to the director to elicit a good performance from him. What else is a director for?”
Heroines Janani and Madhushalini are greenhorns who've made it to Bala's territory. “They've also dubbed for their roles.”
AIis being touted as a comedy — a genre new to Bala. “It is fun till the last 15 minutes, after which it turns serious,” is all he divulges. The levity trip is because people began to brand him a cynic. “My director (his mentor Balu Mahendra) and others advised me to change tack. I have. Let's see how it works,” laughs Bala.
BarringNandawith Yuvan, Bala has always gone with Ilaiyaraja. This time it's Yuvan. “I sincerely feel that there's more talent left untapped in Yuvan — particularly the emotions he can bring to music. His job forAIis of international standard,” he comments. Lens man Arthur Wilson has joined hands again with Bala afterNK. “We are on the same wavelength and that makes work easy.”
Avan Ivanis Bala's fifth film and according to him this is the first time he hasn't locked horns with the producer! “That's because I was very careful with my behaviour. Agoram is a great person and I wouldn't have forgiven myself had I upset him,” he says. The others? “The mistake was always with me, not with them. I consciously didn't wish to repeat it this time.”
Not once does Bala get defensive. “My director would tell me, ‘Accepting mistakes and apologising are the hallmarks of a good human being.' The words have stuck.”