Film maker Balu Mahendra draws inspiration from stories close to life

The film industry is a big jungle and all the birds will have to make their own noises Athu Oru Kanaa Kaalam was not a run-of-the-mill movie. This tale of a youth who falls in love with his maid and ends up in a prison for an accidental crime, was critically acclaimed but failed to keep the cash registers ringing. The same happened to his previous film, Julie Ganapathy, in which Saritha played a person with maniacal obsession. Balu Mahendra is one of the few filmmakers in Tamil who believes in telling a story visually. Has he failed to change with the times? "Many ask me this. The change has to take place within and when it happens, my moviemaking will also change. I try to be honest with my subjects and retain viewers in my own way. I want to make films that will improve audience aesthetics and sensibility. Style and substance have to be there," says the film director. Film appreciation, he says, should begin in schools. "People will have to be taught how to look at films. You will have to create an audience and give them a better film."Asked about the slow pace of Athu... , he says there is nothing called slow or fast movie. "Each script has its own speed. You can speed it up only when the script demands it. I believe in visuals and that's my way of filmmaking. Only when I'm unable to make a point visually, do I take the help of sound," he adds.

Classic films

He feels Athu... is as good as his classics Moonram Pirai, Moodu Pani and Marupadiyum."I am happy about the aspects of the film - scripting, performances, camera work and editing. A reasonably satisfying movie." This filmmaker draws inspiration from stories close to life. "Most of the time, it is from within. Next, from people near me. Then, I look outside. I like to tell what I have felt or experienced."He adds that when the audience is able to relate to stories, they react positively. "My films are based on life and relationships. For instance, Marupadiyum (starring Revathy, Rohini and Nizhalgal Ravi), which dealt with 'two women and one-man relationship', is close to many people and dangerously close to my personal life. With such stories, I know the material ... every fibre of it ... so I get into it in a detailed way."Any forthcoming projects? "I have started working on an idea. Hopefully, I should start shooting this March."Does he want to be identified as a trendsetter? "I refuse to fall into any slot. I made Azhiyadha Kolangal and then went on to make Moonram Pirai and Moodu Pani. Later, I made Veedu and Sandhya Raagam, which have nothing to do with any of the other films. I made Sathi Leelavathi, a runaway comedy, when nobody expected it from me."

Space for everyone

On the future of Tamil cinema, he says: "The film industry is a big jungle and all the birds will have to make their own noises. Every filmmaker will have to co-exist as amicably as possible."His list of favourites actors? Sridevi, Archana, Mounika and Poornima Bhagyaraj. "All of them have talent and I got the opportunity to get the best out of them."K. JESHI