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Interview Team : Kaushik L M; Jeevakaran

Daniel Balaji remains one of the most menacing villains ever seen in Tamil films. His roles in films like Polladhavan and Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu are hard to forget and will stay in memory. His dialog delivery and mannerisms always stand out as a unique factor. Balaji is back to impact the viewers in a small but significant role in Yennai Arindhaal. Kaushik catches up with the maverick actor as the big Ajith starrer gets ready for its release.


Let’s start with your role in Yennai Arindhaal ? 

It’s a role with much value and importance, though being short and sweet. There is always an expectation when it is a Gautham Menon film, and with me joining him again after Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu. The character has no name and no dialogues too. The possibilities of this role haven’t been explored much in the film though it has good scope. All I can say is that Yennai Arindhaal would be a total mass film for Ajith fans.


How does it feel to be back with Gautham after all these years? 

I've always been close to him, though I couldn't act in his other films in recent years as those films didn't have scope for a villain. He has everything on paper and would give his actors hints. He prefers thinking actors who are aware of his vision, and not the ones who just enact what he does. He called me just like that for this role.


Can you feel his growth as a director? 

I have known him since long and was aware of his making and standards even before Minnale. He has maintained his standards of making, irrespective of the film’s success.


Your favorite role considering just his films? 

All those roles are equally special. I was convinced about each role that I played, and they are all close to my heart.


About your other upcoming film, Vai Raja Vai?

It is a proper villain role, and I had great fun shooting the film, unlike my other film experiences as a villain. Gautham Karthik is very lively and charming, and is totally chilled out. 
Aishwarya doesn’t fall under the typical female directors league. She is commercial in her inclination, and is energetic and fast just like her dad. She is totally aware of what she wants.
It is a film about gambling set in casinos and we have also shot on a cruise. It is a pakka commercial film with good songs.


After the 2006 - 2007 peak, you haven’t been seen much in Tamil. Why so?

I always wanted to spread my wings to other states, and not just in Tamil. If I am impressed with the story in say Malayalam, I just go ahead, as they are all quickies shot very fast. I have received great response from the masses there, even in remote places.
In Tamil also, I am ready but it depends on the story. I want to do something different and not the regular ones. I have rejected a lot of such regular offers. I got lots of police roles after Kaakha Kaakha, and a lot of shallow psycho roles after Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu where the directors didn’t have any clue on the psychology or depth of the characters. I just gently refused such directors.
In 2009, I did Muthirai as a hero. I did lot of work on my look and styling based on the character’s graph. The film opened well in theaters with close to full houses, but was somehow pulled off from theaters after 2 weeks. It was a jolly film without any boredom, and does well even now whenever it is shown on TV.

I got a lot of shallow psycho roles after Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu.


You don’t have regrets about any of your films? 

In each film, I was convinced about my role but the overall film may have turned out in an indifferent manner.
For example, the film Marumugam. The team consisted of my friends. I had a good character as a proper villain shaping the film. Story-wise, it was right on the mark but the making wasn’t satisfactory and there were production issues. It was meant to be done in a classy way, but was done in a normal way. It could have turned out much better but had lots of problems.


About the prominent new wave in Tamil cinema now

It is healthy and opens up possibilities with new concepts, making style, different kind of performances and experiments. These films may be having small budgets but they have good concepts and aren’t overtly commercial.
They offer something different compared to the regular commercial fare. People who seek something fresh will be satiated by such new wave films.
But not all these films become hits, only the really unique ones stand out. Films which just follow the same success formula and template, don’t make a mark and just fade away in a week’s time. And new actors, though talented, don’t always suit the medium of films and they may not be able to do justice to such new-age scripts and elevate the characters. Proper actors are needed, even if they are new. Else they’ll just fade away fast.
Malayalam cinema has always been at the forefront in this aspect, with the success of films like Bangalore Days which had established actors playing unique characters. Such multi starrers should start happening in Tamil too. 
I was part of a Malayalam film called Paisa Paisa, which had a very unique concept. In Malayalam, there is focus on the story and screenplay, and their making suits these two parameters. Of course, they have commercial films too.

Multi starrers like Bangalore Days should start happening in Tamil too.


In other languages, how do they perceive you? 

The same villain image continues there too, but with some interesting choices too like the Kannada remake of Kalavani, titled Kirataka. The film crossed 100 days. I have Dove coming up in Kannada.
I make sure that my lip-sync is proper and do good work on my dialogues in all my other-language films. I ensure that the liveliness isn’t lost. Prompting and stuff are very important while doing other-language films.


Any interview with you would be incomplete without ‘Amudhan’. He is evergreen despite all these years.

My casting in the movie shocked quite a lot of people. Even during the making of Gharshana, Gautham told me firmly that I would be the villain in his next movie. But a few of his films got dropped due to various reasons, and finally Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu fell in place with Kamal Haasan on board. I was busy with other films and one fine day, I opened the newspaper and saw that the film’s pooja was set to happen. I was surprised, as I didn’t get any intimation.
I called up Gautham to congratulate him, and he immediately asked me to come to the pooja venue. I hesitated as it was already getting late but he said that people would wait till I came over. Everyone there was wondering who the villain was, and finally I reached the venue. Gautham introduced me to the gathering as the villain. Most of the 50 who had gathered were shocked.
A lot, including his own assistants, doubted my caliber and openly expressed the same to Gautham too. But he firmly stood his ground and had great belief in my capabilities. He didn’t even entertain discussions about the casting and then only people stopped.

My casting in Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu shocked quite a lot of people.


Favorite scenes in the movie?

The cult scene, when Anderson is murdered in his apartment and Kamal jumps off the burning apartment. And the scene where I abduct Jyothika from her home. It was a real challenge and creatively fulfilling too from a lighting perspective. This scene would have surely jolted the audience.
Then, the climax when Kamal would come after getting hold of my partner. I had to utter my lines in a knelt-down position as if I was surrendering to the cop. But I had creative arguments for about 20 mins with Gautham regarding kneeling down, before finally going ahead with it. I was so emotionally involved with that role, that Gautham had to remind me that this was just a film role, in which I was surrendering.

Gautham had to remind me that Amudhan was just a film role.


The preparation that you did for this role as the serial killing psychopath? It must have been quite a ride right?

I slimmed down my body and also made my looks youthful, based on the character’s demands. I had to have a good combination with a fair actor, who is like a boyfriend. So I put on flashy costumes. Other mental adjustments were done on a consistent basis.
And for Polladhavan’s Ravi, my preparation was minimal as I started shooting almost immediately after listening to the script. It all fell in place fast within a day. I handpicked my costumes off the street and chose a realistic curly haired wig.


Finally do the public fear you wherever you go out? 

After the initial fear and stigma, people now see me with respect as a good actor. I have heard some of them saying “What an actor, he scared the shit out of me.”




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