S. R. ASHOK KUMAR

K. Balachander's `Poi', his 101st film, is readying for release. What keeps him at the crease?

I still care for creative work. The urge to do something new is still alive.

From "Neerkumizhi" to "Parthale Paravasam", his 100th film, director K. Balachander has explored varied themes, most of them offbeat. K.B., as he is popularly known, is now busy with ``Poi," produced by Prakash Raj's Duet Movies.In a freewheeling interview, KB talks about his new film, his directorial style and his years in cinema. Excerpts.You didn't take long to scale the peak and in a way you gave Tamil cinema a new definition. What keeps you going? I still care for creative work. It is not money alone anymore, although that also matters. I do films more for my satisfaction. The urge to do something new is still alive. Which five of the 100 will you choose as the best? Among black and white, "Punnagai" is one of the best. "Ek Dhuje Keliye" was a good love story, colour with all the commercial ingredients. For political awakening it is "Thanneer Thanneer," which got the best regional film award and fetched me the best screenplay writer award. "Achamillai Achamillai," that commented on a political illness, is one of my favourites. "Punnagai Mannan," was a contrast to ``Ek Duje... " It was in response to people who argued why lovers should commit suicide. But how can I ignore "Vaaname Ellai," "Sindhu Bhairavi," "Jathi Malli" and so on?"Parthale Paravasam" did not get a good response. Will ``Poi" be different? Let me make it clear that ``Parthale Paravasam" satisfied me as creator. The story was different and I was happy with the screenplay. Casting Simran and Madhavan, two major stars, was a mistake. It raised a lot of expectations. The songs became very important and this made the screenplay diluted. With minor actors, the film would have been a box-office hit. Apart from Kamal and Rajini, name some stars you introduced who have really impressed? Prakash Raj is one of the best products I have given the film industry. But he has not been exploited properly. Vivek, Delhi Ganesh, Nasser... the list goes on.Among the women, Saritha, Sujatha and Jayapradha are noteworthy. It seems effortless when they act in your movies. I study the artistes for one or two days to see how they emote. If their eyes are eloquent, I use a lot of silent shots to exploit that. Your single long shot of the heroine in ``Achamillai Achamillai" was much talked about. Saritha is a profound artist. She can remain in focus without being monotonous. Kamal is another actor who can sustain a close-up. This encouraged me to use Saritha for that 250ft-shot. She took it as a challenge and came out in flying colours.

You are acting in "Poi." How do you assess Balachander the actor? I am primarily an actor. I gave up acting only because I took up direction. I know my limits. What is "Poi" about?It is a love story without the villain element. And the screenplay is not clichéd. I'm handling very young talent and it is a new experience. When can we see Balachander directing Rajnikanth or Kamal Haasan again?Rather difficult to say. They both have gone far away from me and may not suit my type of filmmaking anymore. Do you think you have achieved something here?I wouldn't be working if I thought I had achieved anything at all. I have always given films, which are ahead of our times. For me achievement is honest, sincere and hard work. Snapshots``I'm primarily an actor," declares Director Balachander (Extreme left) who is doing a cameo in Poi. This, however, is not the first time he is facing the camera. `Premi,' his mega serial on TV, showcased his histrionic talent a decade ago. He essayed two roles, totally contrasting.