I was an ordinary man, an engineering graduate, and then a professional. And then everything changed, transforming my black-and-white existence into colour.
Meeting KB left me in no doubt that employment for me was idiocy. I thought I loved cinema, a little more than the average human being, perhaps, but nothing out of the ordinary. With him, I realised I suffered an all-consuming obsession with the medium.
With KB, I turned into the dog in the HMV poster: fascinated, rapt, content, even in the face of the inscrutable.
I cannot talk about KB the phenomenon. I am in no emotional state for that sort of magnanimity. Today, I am selfish. I will only think of the person I know. And what he did for me.
He turned my name into an identity. Few people know T. Krishnan. Even I hardly recognise him on most days. Kavithalaya Krishnan is who I am. It is who he made me. Over three decades, he gave me stature, status, credibility in a mercurial world. He gave me pride and a special brand of humility. I have seen him create stars, with hardly a pause between one and the other, and somewhere in that illustrious list, he squeezed me in.
In the markets of Melbourne, the malls of Dubai, on the sidewalks of West End, on the steps of Trafalgar Square and, especially, in those streets of Mylapore, a face would step out, point at me, and ask, “You act in K. Balachander films, right?” My name unknown, but forever written in gold in the records of Tamil cinema.
He made me a part of everything in his life. When he came to TV, he expanded my inner goals, gave me roles I never knew I could play. When he revived his theatre, he made me secretary of the initiative. When the Dadasaheb Phalke was announced, he called me first, even before he told his family. When they asked him why he took me along to the awards ceremony, he said, I was perhaps the only one happier than he was, about the award!
He spun stories like it was a cause and, somewhere in that miracle, he gave me a tiny space, and kept me within his focus.
I nagged him for three years before he agreed to have his biography written. In the foreword, he acknowledged that it wouldn’t have come out if not for me. In a career that is legendary in breadth, he wrote an entire chapter of the book on me.
I was the companion, the confidante, the sounding board, the ghost writer to an inimitable, adorable, iconic, and undoubtedly great man.
He called me his friend. When my father passed on this November, he came, though ailing, and sat by me for three hours. He told me that he was always there. And I believed him, as I have, always.
This is the only time KB did not keep his word to me. He is no more. The vacuum is everywhere. My mentor is no more. A master is no more. My friend is no more.
And yet, in a way, he is always with me. He will always be with me.