K Balachander, now remembered as someone who introduced the big 2 - Rajni and Kamal, while his achievements are much more than just introducing these 2.He has introduced more than 65 artistes and technicians. Has more than 100 directorial ventures to his name. What distinguishes K Balachander from others is the variety of scripts he has handled.
He made his debut as a dialogue writer in MGR's Dheiva Thaai. During the shooting of Dheiva Thaai, KB used to remain isolated and calm.Not many other technicians working for the movie, were aware of who this young man was and out of curiosity people inquired about him.Once they came to know that he was the dialogue writer of the movie, one man asked him, 'you could have told us you are the writer and joined us during our meetings?', KB replied firmly, 'I want my dialogues to speak about myself'. The man who asked this question was none other than the legendary Tamil poet Vaali and sensed this man is going to achieve greater heights. He mentioned this incident in his book 'Naanum indha Nootraandum'.
KB was basically a playwright and to my knowledge, none in Tamil cinema has handled the 'drama' genre better than KB. When you make movies in this genre(drama),your script should be backed by meaningful dialogues and strong performances. A director who gets this combination right, can give everlasting classics. For instance, you watch an Edhir Neechal, Nagesh will be accused of stealing money and none would believe him. One simple dialogue, Major Sundarrajan will understand he is innocent. When people lists out the stolen things accusing Nagesh, spontaneously Nagesh would respond, 'Nayaroda watch adha vittuteengle?'(you missed Nayar's watch). Dialogues like these and actors like Major Sundarrajan,Nagesh, Muthuraman etc has made these movies a classic.
When KB had a heart attack in a relatively young age,he was worried that he may die without achieving anything.But,he consoled himself saying, 'ok I have made a movie like Punnagai, so even if I die,the movie will speak up for myself'.He said this in an interview.But at the time of his death, he has given plenty of classics :-).
If you ask me to pick some best movies in the history of cinema, Punnagai will find a prominent place in my list.You can make a movie about Gandhi,you can also make a movie about the debate - whether Gandhi was right or wrong, but to make a film on Gandhian principles is always a challenging task,which KB pulled off with ease.Punnagai is all about Gandhian principles and I swear, if someone watches the movie, they would think of leading an honest life(ofcourse they may change later :D ).
KB has not hesitated to take on social issues too. His Achamillai Achamillai explains how a noble young man turns corrupt and demonic after joining politics. Through the character of an old man and a character called Sudhandhiram, Balachander mocks so many corrupt practices. Dialogues like 'Sudhanthiratha ella payalum thanakku saadhagamaa payanpaduthikaraanga, Suthandhiratha azha vittirukaangle,Sudhandhiram nee en porandha ne enakku vilangala' etc shows KB's creativity.
Kalyana Agathigal - not many would have heard about this movie. I have mentioned about it earlier too.This is one of my favorite movie. This is another simple movie with strong characterization and meaningful dialogues. The movie openly criticizes religious conversions in the name of love or marriage. The hero is a christian and the heroine Saritha is a Hindu and the hero wants Saritha to convert to Christianity. He says, we don't demand dowry as your Hindus do and Saritha replies, 'instead of money,you people are asking my religion. Isn't this a form of dowry robert?'. Finally she says,'Robert knew I was a Hindu and still he was in love with me, but now he says his religion is more important to him than me and our love. I cannot give up my age old tradition and culture.; When the hero calls her,she plays Kandha Sashti Kavasam and disconnects the call, meaning she is not ready to convert. Not many can make such hard hitting films.
His Unnal Mudiyum Thambi, a Kamal starer(remake of Rudra Veena,a Chiranjeevi directed by KB himself), deals with liquor prohibition and bringing discipline in an entire village. The hero leads from the front and makes his village liquor-free. While narrating the story, an age old gardener's character is introduced to us.The gardener says, 'indha mannula naama porandhadhuku oru artham irukkanam na,indha mannuku naama edhaachu thiruppi seyyanam nu oru nambikkai'(we should do something to this world to make our lives meaningful). The gardener continues,'I cant construct schools or lakes,I am just contributing as much as I can. I will plant daily atleast 2 saplings a day.The trees which I have planted are my children'.This old man becomes an inspiration for Udaya Moorthy(Kamal Hassan). His act of planting trees makes the hero question himself about his contribution to the society.It was then, the hero goes on to inspire the entire village and achieve total alcohol prohibition. Kamal Hassan or Chiranjeevi might have played the protagonist, but the impact this gardener character created was much more than what the hero's character could do(I am writing this with due respect to Kamal and Chiranjeevi).
His musical sense was another aspect that made him a commercially successful director too. Its highly impossible to get producers for your movies without delivering commercial success. You cannot deliver commercial hits with art movies. Infact, delivering commercial hits itself is a unique art. KB was able to extract the best from any music director. Ninaithale Inikkum had more than 12 songs and the movie was a genuine musical hit. He was able to get some lovely melodies like Sangeetha Swarangal Ezhe kanakka from Maragatha Mani. Sindhu Bhairaivi, Punnagai Mannan, Puthu Puthu Arthangal etc from Ilaiyaraja,Duet & Parthale paravasam from A.R.Rahman.
KB's Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal is one movie that had 2 stories, which again was an experiment. People enters cinema industry with lot of hopes and dreams After all, cinema is a dream factory. Rightly Sujatha wrote a novel based on cinema and titled it 'Kanavu Thozhirchalai'(dream factory).This dialogue comes in Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal.
His Ek Duuje Ke liye had a tragic climax, with the hero and heroine committing suicide. Inspired by this, a couple committed suicide in Goa. As a remedy, KB made another movie - Vaaname Ellai, against suicides.People who met with disappointments in their life happens to meet each other and they decide to commit suicide after enjoying their life for 100 days.Towards the end, we are introduced to Mr.Gandhi Raman, a differently abled man, who has done lot of social welfare activities. His presence and words inspires these youngsters and the movie ends with these people taking oath to remain confident and fight all the odds with courage. Watch this scene, none will ever commit suicide.
He made Arangetram(Brahmin woman pushed into prostitution), Manmadha Leelai(movie about a sex pervert sans vulgarity), Nootrukku Nooru(brilliantly portrayed how society frames up an innocent young man with fake charges and how he comes out of it all successfully),Neerkumizhi(about cancer patient), Navagraham(family drama which shows how a stranger can influence a family which doesn't have unity),Major Chandrakant(one of the best movies in the 'drama' genre) etc. He is a king of family dramas too viz Iru Kodugal,Velli Vizha,Baama Vijayam,Puthu Puthu Arthangal,Poova Thalaya,Sindhu Bhairavi etc.
As a KB fan, I clapped for all the scenes featuring K Balachander, while watching Uttama Villain in theater :-). Today the entire world is aware of Tamil Cinema mainly because of Superstar Rajni and Universal Hero Kamal. One cannot doubt their talent. Rajni and Kamal are legends. But KB also introduced Nassar,Prakash Raj,Vivek,Radharavi etc. Almost everyone from Balachander's school has achieved greater heights
It is possible to write a series of posts about KB. Given the variety of scripts he has handled and the kind of artists and technicians he has introduced, there is nothing wrong in calling him the Bhishma Pitamah of Tamil Cinema.