Paruthiveeran and Subramaniapuram you can see the influence
of Balaji Sakthivel’s Kaadhal. That’s how
much it revolutionized contemporary Tamil cinema. His
Kalloori deepens this tradition of the modest, authentic
Tamil film. After Kaadhal, Balaji Sakthivel could have
easily made an ambitious film with big stars, but he
chose instead to do something smaller, on a more intimate
scale. You have to admire him for it. There are few
false notes in Kalloori.
plot and dialogue are
rendered, staying faithful to its small town roots,
never once betraying its authentic rural sensibility.
The actors look uncompromisingly South Indian: every
face here reminds us of real people and there’s
no attempt to airbrush the actors and make them movie-handsome.
Sakthivel maintains a fine, calibrated balance between
the formulaic and the artistic.
senior editor, Pradeep Sebastian, caught up with this
soft spoken, mild, humble, and articulate director.
Samurai, Vikram was ready
give me his dates”
What’s your new project titled?
I am now doing a film for Lingusaamy titled Vazhakku
en 18/7. I am currently in the scripting stage,
working on the dialogues. The audition for the
cast is also going on simultaneously. The shooting
might start by December end or January. This time,
too, I am looking out for new faces. I believe
that getting the right cast is my strength. Hopefully,
it should be done by the end of this month.
was not an assistant
you involved in Shankar’s Endhiran?
let me get it clear that I have not
worked even in Sivaji, as the common
belief is. It was just a friendly visit
to the sets of Sivaji as Shankar is
my friend and mentor. It was Gandhi
Krishna and JD Jerry who worked in Sivaji.
I just took part in some discussions.
For Endhiran, I don’t have the
time since I am involved in my own project
for Lingusaamy. I have just been part
of the first reading of Endhiran.
did the big directors react to Kaadhal?
was the first to see it – he saw
the rushes –without the music
– and cried. He literally cried.
“I’m reacting not as the
producer of the film,” he told
me, “but as a fan.” After
the movie released, K. Balachander was
the first to react: he came up to me,
and just said one word: ‘Astounding!’
And kept looking at me with such admiration
that I began to feel shy and self conscious.
Bharathiraja hugged me tight and cried.
Mahenderan (director of Uthiripookal,
Mullu Malaram) Balu Mahendra and Priyadharsha
told me of all the subtle nuances in
the film. I didn’t know myself
if I did them consciously or it simply
happened by instinct. Mani Ratnam called
me on the phone and spoke with me for
an hour about Kadhal. I got letters
everyday from the audience for months.
did you feel when Samurai did not click?
Samurai was recently shown on TV many
people told me that they quite liked
it. But I believe that a movie’s
success lies in the reactions that it
gets when it is first released. If the
movie is not able to capture audience
in the first viewing, then there is
certainly something wrong with the movie.
If people, who have later liked the
movie, offer other explanations for
its failure, it just acts as a consolation.
Something with the script was not right.
After the movie was released, I felt
that things could have been a bit different
at places. That’s what taught
me the importance of the script. I cannot
blame anyone else, the cast or the crew,
the script was entirely my responsibility
and it was not fool proof. I corrected
all that in Kadhal.
and Bharathiraja held me tight and cried
The transition from Samurai to Kaadhal to Kalloori.
I feel that no two films of mine should be the
same. It should not be as if I am trying to say
the same thing in different ways. Every director
wants each of his films to be different. It is
easier said than done, but I am trying to do it.
So, I don’t try to replicate any factor
of my earlier films, be it a success or a failure.
I make films only the way they deserve to be made.
That gives you the thrill of moving ahead rather
than always knowing what you are going to do.
There is a quote: ‘do the thing you should
fear, the death of fear is certain’. I don’t
think much about success or failure. Before I
made Samurai, I had a subject like Kaadhal. In
fact I wanted to make a movie with only 3 heroines
and no hero. That I had been part of Gentlemen
made producers persuade me to make a hero-centered
movie. That’s how Samurai happened. After
that I just went with the flow of things and Kaadhal
happened. That’s when I grew in confidence.
assistant directors- Shankar, Pavithran
stayed in the same mansion”
brought you to cinema?
was brought up in Dindigul, where I
had my education. I was only an average
student but loved watching movies over
and over again, observe the minute details
and discuss how things could have been
made better. When I was in college,
I saw Ben Hur, it was a movie that greatly
influenced me, I watched it around 20
times. That’s how I got interested
in film making. Then, I met a person
who was learning at a film institute
and developed friendship with him, that
too influenced me a lot. After that
I happened to watch Chidambaram, a film
by veteran Malayalam director G. Aravindan
which had Bharath Gopi and Smitha Patil
in the lead. So, I had diverse influences
which finally inspired me to come to
Chennai, after lying at home that I
had landed a job at the Ponds factory
at Chromepet! In Chennai, I worked as
assistant to Aravindraj, Pavithran,
Shankar and Venkatesh. My wife works
at the Guru Nanak College and we have
a daughter and a son.
Kaadhal set off the Paruthiveeran-Subramaniapuram
very happy that my movie served as an
encouragement for other directors and
they feel confident enough to do similar
movies. Now, even Subramaniapuram director
has said in an interview that he was
inspired by Kaadhal - that is really
wonderful. Even Ameer talked about the
movie during the making of Ram and said
he was disturbed by the climax. So this
kind of subject was in everyone’s
mind but the fear of a commercial failure
was always there. I feel happy that
Kaadhal was able to break the jinx.
But to say that I was the man behind
it would not be right. If you ask who
belled the cat, it is I who made the
story, Shankar who decided to produce
it and the audience who received it
very well. Ultimately, it is the people
who matter. Now that directors are following
this trend, it is really healthy for
cinema. I believe that there are only
two types of movies, good and bad. All
other classifications are only for film
makers. So, we need all kinds of movies.
and Ameer acknowledged that
began as a Dhanush- Ileana project. ”
part in Kaadhal.
Samurai, Vikram was ready to give me
his dates in spite of Samurai’s
ordinary performance. In fact, he was
the one who gave me office space to
work on the Kaadhal story. It was Vikram
whom I had in my mind for the story
but had the lingering feeling that he
was under pressure from producers. But
when the story attained the full form
I felt that it would not suit Vikram
and I informed him about it and he too
agreed. Then, it was Lingusaamy who
heard the story and expressed his willingness
to produce it, but he had a few problems
during the making of Ji and so things
were getting delayed. Then I narrated
the story to Dhanush who also was very
impressed with the story, it was during
the time of Thiruda Thirudi. But this
also did not work out. It was at this
stage that Shankar came in, that was
during the making of Boys. He agreed
to finance my movie on one condition
that I would take care of all aspects
of production. It was this bit of encouragement
that got me going. Things were easy
for me because the script was so familiar
to me. Vijay Milton’s experience
with the camera was a huge positive
in the execution.
Sandhya, Kaadhal Dhandapani and the
first planned on Ileana, but she was
not able to come due to some reasons.
So things were getting delayed. I decided
to go for a newcomer. It was then that
we saw Sandhya. At first I was not sure
what she could do, but she acted out
a scene from Thiruda Thirudi with so
much spontaneity that I had no doubts
about her talents any longer. Actually,
I had a very beautiful face in mind
for the character of Aishwarya. This
girl was also beautiful, but it was
her acting that really sealed the issue.
is when one of my friends casually showed me a
passport size photo that he had for some other
purpose. I immediately felt that I had found the
man. We brought Dhandapani and told him that he
need not act much, he just had to be his natural
Then, we had a tough time finding the one-handed
brother. Actually, I used to send my associate
directors to scout for people without one hand.
They used to scout the physiotherapy center near
Udhayam theater and bring to my office any one
handed person. But the face never satisfied me.
It was then that one of my assistants spotted
a man who looked perfectly normal, but one fine
day removed one of his hands to put on his shirt.
His looks suited the role to a tee. But he is
miles away from acting, he is in fact a sportsman.
I had to work a lot to get the right results from
him. He is the only artiste in the movie whom
I had to really work on, otherwise, everyone else
was really talented.
How did Kalloori
Actually, I had
a happy ending to the film. I should have kept
it, since most people felt it would have been
better. But somehow at that time I felt the weight
of the subject, and thought I should make it tragic.
A mistake, in retrospect.
The casting for
I wanted to keep
it uncompromisingly rural. To show a real college.
If you see most movies, college life will only
be a backdrop for romance. But I wanted to show
what life for classmates is like. And I wanted
Dravidian faces. I searched for them everywhere
– on the streets of Chennai, in small towns,
even among extras.
is exotic. Fair, stylish, cosmopolitan
and from a city. I wanted to show the
interaction between a girl from Bangalore
and these kids who’ve always lived
in a small town. I saw her first in
an advertisement. By the time I approached
her, she had already signed KD and Vyabari.
But I was determined to cast her. She
is young but observant, with subtle
reactions. She’s the kind of actress
who will give you exact change when
acting! What do I mean? Some actors
give you their acting in big notes.
But if I want, say, 55 rupees and 50
paise, she’s the kind of actress
who can give me the exact reaction I
want – to a decimal point!
two comic silent students from the Kalloori
got the idea to cast two students who
will keep looking at each other and
saying, “You say. No, you say.
No, you say…” from watching
two of my assistant directors! I asked
them to describe a shot to me, and they
looked at each other and said, ‘you
tell’, no, you tell, no, you tell..and
I suddenly saw how funny it was. I asked
them: ‘is this a technique you
guys have to not say anything in the
end? I turned to my crew and said, ‘how
will it be if we put two characters
in Kalloori like this?’ I kept
looking for two actors to play these
students and finally found them in the
college where my wife teaches.
message to Behindwoods readers.
My Deepavali wishes to Behindwoods viewers.
can give you the exact expression you
are looking for”