Balaji Tharaneetharan thought ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’ would remain unreleased

Balaji Tharaneetharan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Let us use cricket metaphors to describe Balaji Tharaneetharan’s filmography; the filmmaker himself does not mind. Three films in eight years — if the 2012 release Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (NKPK) was a short ball pulled over deep square leg for a six, then Seethakaathi (2018) was an outswinger which missed clipping the off stump.

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The third, Oru Pakka Kathai (OPK), starring Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash, much like Vijay Sethupathi’s injured medulla oblongata in NKPK, has managed a miraculous recovery after lying in cold storage for over four years. The film releases on ZEE5 on December 25, and Balaji says he is a relieved man. “I started the project six years ago. I wrote Seethakaathi after NKPK and when I realised it would be delayed, I wrote OPK. There definitely has been plenty of upsetting moments due to the delay. It is not just me. For both Kalidas and Megha, this was supposed to be their début film, likewise for Govind Vasantha (music composer) as well,” Balaji adds.

Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash in a still from ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’

Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash in a still from ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Whilst OPK became entangled in a devious web of financial issues, Balaji moved on to direct Seethakaathi. “I thought that OPK would remain unreleased. After a point of time, it became hard for me to show my face around, even when meeting the cast members because despite the hard work they put into it, the film didn’t release and I had no idea why that was the case,” he remarks.

The film follows the story of a middle class family. “How the family and those around them react when presented with an abnormal situation, is what the film is about. Our thought processes are dictated by our understanding of faith and the values we hold dear. The film shows how people will react when they become vulnerable,” he explains.

Balaji remarks that he has a natural inclination for infusing humour into his writing; NKPK stands as proof to his claim. However, he is quick to assert: “All the scripts I wrote before NKPK were serious drama subjects. I started with NKPK because I assumed that drama subjects were not commercially viable,” he says. However, a gap of six years following NKPK, before Seethakaathi could release, did more than just make the filmmaker nervous.

Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash in a still from ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’

Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash in a still from ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I had a mental block. I was disappointed that my second film had not been released after so many years. It affected my writing as well. By the third year, the block was serious,” he says.

Complicating things was the response for Seethakaathi. While received fairly well by critics, the film did not perform well commercially. Balaji notes his “experimentation” didn’t go over well with the audience. What was the experiment? “The opening scene with Aurangzeb which ran for 20 minutes was the scene which left doubts in me. I did think it was too long, but left it in on the producer’s insistence. There was nothing wrong in the scene. We were all of the opinion that if we let the audience sit through the scene, they would understand the film’s genre well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case,” he says.

Seethakaathi’s lukewarm response did leave a mark on the writer in him; Balaji has since not made a film, however, he says he has now completed a draft of a story he expects to make soon. Meanwhile, he wrote dialogues for Delhi Prasad Deenadayal’s upcoming political-thriller starring Vijay Sethupathi, Tughlaq Durbar.

“It is easier to sit down and pen a script on the back of a successful film. When a film fails, you will be extra cautious. Now this is both a positive and a negative. The positive is that you will feel more responsible to write the right things, but the negative thing is you will think too much and not attempt anything new,” he explains, pausing to add with a laugh: “I have not taken a step back from films. This is my speed.”

‘Oru Pakka Kathai’ streams on ZEE5 from December 25.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 7:42:02 AM |

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