KB: Kollywood’s Discovery Channel

It was KB who introduced Sowcar Janaki to the stage

Updated - January 04, 2015 07:44 am IST

Published - January 03, 2015 08:41 pm IST

K. Balachander with Mohan V. Raman

K. Balachander with Mohan V. Raman

The initials KB, which stood for Kailasam Balachander, could very well have been an acronym for Kalaiulaga Brahma (the Brahma of fine arts). Hindu mythology says that Brahma was the creator of mankind, and Balachander was a creator, not just of fine and sensitive films but of several actors who continue to dominate the industry today. Everyone knows that KB introduced Rajinikanth and re-discovered Kamal Haasan, but here are many others who are also Balachander finds.

They fall into many categories. Those who made their debut under his direction, those whose first film was produced by him, actors he brought in from other languages, and small-time actors who got noticed through his films. These introductions are not confined to cinema but to the stage and television as well. In fact, speaking of which, it was KB who first realised the immense potential of the small screen. Long before others came to this medium, he started making TV serials. Both AVM Saravanan and S.P. Muthuraman recall how they first approached him for advice before entering the fray. In the mid-60s, KB was the first and probably only dramatist to show a trailer for a play. In the middle of one of his plays, he suddenly staged a scene with no connection at all to the one on stage. KB then announced that this was a scene from his forthcoming play, recalls Kathadi Ramamurthy.

From other regional language films, the biggest name he brought to Tamil cinema was Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi with a negative role in 47 Natkal . Sarath Babu was introduced in Pattina Pravesam where Sivachandran and Delhi Ganesh also made their debuts. Actress Lakshmi made her directorial debut under KB’s banner with Mazhalai Pattalam . Actors Madhubala, Meenakshi Seshadri, Y. Vijaya and Ramesh Aravind are some others introduced by KB to Kollywood.

Mammooty, who made his Tamil film debut with Mounam Sammadham , got his real break with Azhagan made the following year. Music director Maragatha Mani was also introduced by KB. Prakash Raj ( Duet ) and ‘Kavithalaya’ Krishnan ( Poikkal Kudhirai ) were spotted and nurtured by KB. In fact, Poikkal Kudhirai saw Crazy Mohan launched as a dialogue writer.

Character actor Radha Ravi, introduced in Manmadha Leelai (1976), recalls how Kamal Haasan introduced him to KB. Nasser, who made his debut in Kalyana Agathigal (1985), says his approach to not just acting but the industry itself has been shaped by KB. Jai Ganesh was introduced in Aval Oru Thodarkathai. Years earlier, KB had cast Major Sundarrajan in the title role of Major Chandrakanth, which was not his debut but the film that brought him recognition. Sripriya says, “Though I made my debut in a film called Murugan Kattiya Vazhi, it was my role in KB’s Aval Oru Thodarkathai that truly made me an actress.”

Among directors, Ananthu, Amir Jan, Vasanth, Saran, Samuthirakani, Suresh Krissna, Hari and Selvaraghavan are just some names who learnt the craft from KB. Comedians ISR, VMT Charlie, Dhamu and Vivek were all his discoveries. He also brought to the silver screen people famous in other fields — Vaali, SPB, Shihan Hussaini, Rajesh Vaidya, child prodigy singer Deepika and Ganesh-Kumaresh are just some such examples. He was also responsible for transforming many TV newscasters into actors — TV Varadarajan, Fathima Babu, Uma Padmanabhan and Srividya Shankar.

Pratap Pothen recalls how it was the simultaneous release of Varumayin Niram Sivappu and Moodupani that made him a star. He adds, “It was KB who insisted I dub my own lines in Varumayin Niram Sivappu.” S.Ve. Shekher was introduced in Varumayin Niram Sivappu and Y.G. Mahendra in Navagraham. In fact, YGM was reprising the role of Sivakumar in Sindhu Bhairavi for the TV serial Sahana when he was rediscovered by KB as an actor who could also deliver emotionally charged performances.

It was KB who introduced Sowcar Janaki to the stage and, through her role as Pattu Maami, as an actor capable of doing comedy. He did the reverse for Nagesh. By casting him in Server Sundaram , Neerkumizhi , Ethir Neechal and Major Chandrakanth, he made the comedian a serious actor. Actors Saritha, her sister Viji, Jayapradha and Jayasudha were shaped by him. Sridevi, Jayanthi and Sujatha were elevated to the status of heroine by him.

Music director V. Kumar, who provided the background score for his plays, was developed into a music director by KB. Dance masters Sundaram, Raghu and Kala got their first choreography breaks from him. Cinematographer B.S. Loganath was given his first independent break in Arangetram and they went on to have a record partnership of 50-plus films. KB’s assistant Raghunatha Reddy got a break with Poovilangu and then Achamillai Achamillai . Reddy’s assistant Tamizhmaran also got a break on the small screen. Actors Renuka and Kavya made it big on TV thanks to KB.

In fact, if I am a well-known face in the Tamil-speaking world today, it is because I too am a KB product. His first serial for the then new channel called Sun TV was Chinna Thirai. The first episode was Muththam (The Kiss). This was my first ever TV serial. From then on, he found something in me and cast me in a number of his serials in pivotal roles.

This list is far from complete and I am sure that many competent and successful people have been omitted. KB had a prolific ability to spot talent. Some rose to super stardom while some are writing of his greatness.

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