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Balaji’s new plan for the big screen

RJ Balaji  

After providing comic relief in a clutch of movies, RJ Balaji is now a busy man, with four back-to-back projects. He’s part of director Vijay’s Idhu Enna Maayam, Vishnuvardhan’s Yatchan, Vignesh Shivan’s Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, and teams up with Jai again after Vadacurry in Manimaran’s political thriller Pugazh.

Balaji, who has made a name for himself as the funny motormouth on radio, says that he reassessed his film career after his first few movies. “I realised I was talking too much and too fast, forgetting it was a film, not an FM station studio. Also, spontaneity is my strong point and I was letting go of that. When I uttered ‘scripted’ lines, they sounded false. Now, I’m here with a new plan,” he says.

In these four films, he is a near-constant presence. “I am part of all the twists and turns in the script. I think it is important for a character to travel through the course of the film. I don’t particularly like standalone comedy tracks,” he says.

For some years now, Balaji has been dabbling in media other than radio. “Now, everyone has to multi-task. I am not against exclusivity, but it is no longer seen as a virtue. It is nice to do a lot of things so that you are constantly on your feet,” he says.

Speaking about Idhu…, Balaji says he plays Vikram Prabhu’s friend in the movie, but not “someone who just advises him about love and life”. “I wanted to do the film because I felt it would be a learning experience. It was.” In Yatchan, he is in Arya’s opposite camp, while in Naanum…, starring Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara, every character believes he is a rowdy. Pugazh will see him add lightness to an intense movie. “And no, I do not utter punch dialogues in any of these movies,” he laughs.

Balaji says that directors give him a free hand. “They narrate the story, give me the script. I am allowed to add my inputs, even while shooting. These impromptu laugh bombs work really well. Thanks to my work in radio, directors trust my sense of humour,” he says.

Humour will work only when it is constantly reinvented, Balaji insists. And, for inspiration, he looks up to his mother. “She has never broken any news to us without lacing it with humour. I am yet to come across someone like her,” he says. “Humour has helped me cope with whatever life has thrown at me. My father abandoned the family. I got married really early; I was just 21, and I was responsible for looking after nine people on a salary of Rs. 9,700! Despite that, if I sounded funny, it was because my mother taught us to take everything in our stride. And, when you make people laugh, your grief reduces.”

Balaji has been receiving offers, but he wants these four movies to release before he takes a call on his career. “I want to sit back and see how people react to these films. That will show if my plan is working,” he says. Balaji also has great plans for Panjumittai Productions, his company that made a couple of social service videos. “I call them ‘kaiphone’ videos. The ‘donate a biryani’ one was a great hit; so was the video about a little girl needing heart treatment. If humour and social causes can join hands, there’s so much we can do,” he adds.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 5:51:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/balajis-new-plan-for-the-big-screen/article7003444.ece

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