SUBHA J. RAO

After the searing Veyil, Vasantha Balan wants to make more movies steeped in reality.

Many summers ago, a young lad ran away from home with dreams of making it big in tinseldom. Fifteen years later, he has paid tribute to his land, his people and their lives in `Veyil.' The play of human emotions, pent-up fury and a brother's undying belief in another have fetched director Vasantha Balan critical and commercial acclaim.Was Vasantha Balan sure of the audience reaction when he set out filming the movie? "The subject was universal. We all have brothers; every house has a loser. And, the film has real human emotions," insists the director."One decision can change a person's life. That's what happens with Murugesan (played brilliantly by Pasupathy). If he had not stolen the jewels and money and run away from home, his life would have been different. This one mistake plagues him throughout life," says Vasantha Balan, who prefixed his mother's name to his own after he left home.

Autobiographical touch

Some sequences in `Veyil' have an autobiographical touch — Vasantha Balan says his younger brother inspired the film. "For 15 years, I did not contribute to the running of my household. Every time I went home broke, I did not know if they would buy me a ticket to Chennai. At my sister's wedding, my brother took complete charge; I stood in a corner like a guest. That set me thinking. Here we were, two brothers — one a success and the other a failure."Did the fact that he experienced these things help translate them better onto screen? "Yes. I worked on the script for one-and-a-half years. I had every detail. I knew how small I felt every time I went home. All that went into Murugesan's character. And, Pasupathy is a great actor. He brought it out beautifully."Many in the audience were moved on seeing the scene when Murugesan, wearing worn-out slippers and dirty clothes and his face gaunt with hunger, returns home. But, one thing that had them squirming was the violence. Was it necessary? "By nature, these are very loud people... short-tempered. Almost every house will have vessels that were dented after being flung in anger. They live and die for their word," he says.When did Vasantha Balan know the film would work? "When I was shooting the death scene (a little before the climax), I got 100 women from my village to sing the oppari. They did not stop long after I called `cut.' And, those in the area thought someone had really died."Has the response to the film shored up his confidence? "Oh Yes!" Considering that Veyil narrates a slice of Vasantha Balan's life, how did his family react to the film? "They were all jittery. And, they could not view it as just a film. My future hinged on it. They are very happy now," he says.Despite the romantic interludes, there was a thin vein of grief, a harbinger of what is to come, through the film. Was that intentional? "I wanted to shock people. Soon after a romantic melody (Urugiye, Marugiye), Thangam (Murugesan's lover) kills herself. I gave an indication of that even in the lyrics."Another revelation of the film was Shriya Reddy as Pandiamma, whose heart is filled with tenderness for Murugesan, her childhood companion. "I loved her skin colour. And, she has an oval face like most girls in my village," explains Vasantha Balan.What did his mentor and producer, director Shankar, say after seeing the film? "Shankar Sir saw the double positive in his room. He just told me that it reminded him of an Iranian film. I was on cloud nine."After this, what? "I have always wanted to make films on human emotions. Till now, I have held on to my conviction. I hope to continue it."