July 9, 1930 |
Nannilam, Madras Presidency, India
|Occupation||Playwright, stage conductor, screenwriter, director, producer, actor, television director|
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Kailasam Balachander (born 9 July 1930) is an Indian film director, screenwriter and producer who works mainly in the Tamil film industry. Well known for his distinct film-making style, the south Indian film industry knows him as a master of unconventional themes and hard-hitting subject matters of contemporary time. His films are well known for its portrayal of women as bold personalities and central characters. Popularly referred to as Iyakkunar Sikaram (English: (lit.) The Top Director), his films are usually centered around unusual or complicated interpersonal relationships and social themes. Starting his cinematic career as a screenwriter, Balachander soon graduated as a director with Neerkumizhi in 1965. In a career that is spread over 45 years, he has contributed to nearly 100 feature films either as a screenwriter or director, thus becoming one of the most prolific film-makers in the country. Known among his colleagues as a tough task master, he is credited with having introduced and nurtured numerous actors, notably Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, Saritha, Prakash Raj and Vivek.
As of 2013, Balachander has won nine National Film Awards and multiple Filmfare Awards. He was honoured with the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award, in 1987, and is a recipient of the ANR National Award and Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema.
Balachander owns a production house named Kavithalaya Productions which has been producing films since 1981. Apart from Tamil, he has made films in other languages such as Telugu, Kannada and Hindi. He has also made a few film appearances and has directed a few TV serials as well.
Early life and background
K. Balachander was born in 1930 into a Tamil Brahmin household, at Nannilam in the then Tanjore district (now Tiruvarur district), India. Balachander stated that, "From my eighth year I've been seeing cinema" and recalls that his earliest interest towards cinema grew after watching films of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, then the Superstar of Tamil cinema. At the age of twelve he was drawn to theatre and drama, which eventually helped him develop an interest in acting, writing and directing amateur plays. His obsession towards theatre continued even while doing his graduation (in Zoology) at the Annamalai University, as he regularly took part in stage plays. After completing his graduation in 1949, he started his career as a school teacher in Muthupet, Tiruvarur district. In 1950, he moved to Madras (now Chennai) and joined the Accountant General's office as an apprentice clerk, and during this time he joined "United Amateur Artistes", an amateur drama company. Soon he formed his own troupe and it was during this time he came to prominence as an amateur playwright with Major Chandrakanth, written in English. As the scope of English was highly limited in Madras, he re-wrote the play in Tamil, which ultimately became a "sensation" among the people. Balachander's acting troupe consisted of people from film industry such as Major Sundarrajan, Nagesh, Sreekanth and Sowcar Janaki. Other plays include Server Sundaram (Waiter Sundaram), Neerkumizhi (Water Bubble), Mezhuguvarthi (Candle), Naanal (Tall Grass) and Navagraham (Nine Planetary Houses). All these produced and directed by him, were received well by the critics.
Entry into films: 1960s
Balachander while working in the Accountant General's office, was offered to write the dialogues for the film Dheiva Thaai (1965) by its lead actor M. G. Ramachandran. Balachander was initially reluctant, as he was more theatre-oriented, but on the insistence of his friends he decided to work on the film. By this time he was promoted as a superintendent in his office. Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar acquired the rights of his play Server Sundaram, and decided to make a film based on it. The film dealt with the story of a waiting staff at a restaurant had Nagesh playing the lead. It won a lot of accolades including the Certificate of Merit for the third Best Best Feature Film in Tamil and Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Film. During this time another play Major Chandrakanth was adapted into a film in Hindi as Oonche Log. The film won a National Film Award. Balachander then made his directional debut through Neerkumizhi (1965) which in turn was based on his own play. The film's cast consisted of actors who were a part of Balachander's regular troupe. His following efforts included Naanal, Major Chandrakanth and Ethir Neechal, all based on his own plays. Major Chandrakanth was already filmed in Hindi as Oonche Log the previous year. The Tamil version had Jayalalithaa essaying a major role in one of her earlier films. In 1967 he made Bama Vijayam, a full-length comedy family drama film. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film was highly successful and remade in Telugu by Balachander himself. The success of both the versions prompted a Hindi remake titled Teen Bahuraniyan, produced by Gemini pictures. In 1969, Balachander made Iru Kodugal, a family drama starring Gemini Ganesan, won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.
During the 1970s, Balachander started making off beat films, mainly revolving around family and social issues. In 1971 he made four films. In 1973, he made Arangetram, which dealt with poverty and prostitution. The film centered around the eldest daughter of a conservative Brahmin household who becomes a prostitute in order to settle her siblings and support her family. It was ahead of its time in Tamil cinema mainly because of the controversial theme. The film also had Kamal Haasan playing his first major role as an adult actor. The actor would go on to act in 35 films under Balachander. The same year, he made Sollathaan Ninaikkiren, based on a novel by Manian. The following year he made Naan Avanillai, He made the film on the insistence of Gemini Ganesan, who also produced and enacted the lead role. The film based on the Marathi play To Mee Navhech, revolved around a man who deceives and marries five different women performing nine different roles. The film met with commercial failure, however, Gemini Ganesan was adjudged the Best Tamil Actor at the following year's Filmfare Awards ceremony. Following that, Balachander's made Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974), his second female eccentric film after Arangetram that dealt with the story of working woman who hails from a middle-class family. Inspired by the 1960 Bengali film Meghe Dhaka Tara, it explored the emotions of a young woman who happens to be the sole earner for her family. The latter dealt with a father-son relationship and inter-generational romance that culminates in a complex quandary. The film marked the acting debut of Rajinikanth, who would go onto establish himself as a leading actor in the later years. It won critical acclaim in spite of its controversial theme as it won three National Film Awards including the award for the "Best Feature Film in Tamil". During this period he made films mostly with Kamal Haasan as the lead actor. In 1976, he made three films; Manmadha Leelai, Anthuleni Katha and Moondru Mudichu. Manmadha Leelai explores the life of a womaniser, played by Kamal Hassan, who gets himself involved in various affairs with different women. Often considered ahead of its time, it achieved cult status and is considered a "trendsetter" in Tamil cinema. Anthuleni Katha, a Telugu remake of Aval Oru Thodar Kathai had Jayaprada in her first starring role. received equal acclaim in Andhra Pradesh as in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Avargal (1977), which follows the life of a divorcée as she traverses relationships in reverse, from divorce, to marriage, to falling in love, Varumayin Niram Sigappu (1980), a drama that charts the travails and conflict of being unemployed in a bombastic and harsh city. 47 Natkal (1981), which traces the adversities of a newly-wed Indian woman living with an scurrilous, expatriate husband in a Parisian suburb,
Bollywood success: 1981–89
Balachander re-entered the Hindi film industry after Aaina through Ek Duuje Ke Liye in 1981. The project was a remake of his own Telugu film Maro Charitra had Kamal Haasan repeating his role as a lead actor. The film marked the Bollywood debut of various artists from South India including Kamal Haasan, Madhavi and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. Like the original, Ek Duuje Ke Liye emerged as a major box-office success and earned critical acclaim. Balachander received the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay, apart from two other nominations – for Best Director and Best Story. The song "Tere Meere Beach Mein" became so popular, eventually winning a Filmfare Award for Anand Bakshi and a National Film Award for Balasubrahmanyam. Sindhu Bhairavi (1985), about the intellectual collision and subsequent romance between a lofty Carnatic musician and his ardent critic.
The period starting from the late 1980s till late 1990s saw Balachander venturing into Television and making a number of Television series including Kai Alavu Manasu, Rail Sneham, Ramani vs Ramani, Oru Koodai Paasam, Kadhal Pagadai, Premi, Jannal, and Anni. Like his earlier films, most of his serials focussed on women, and portrayed them as strong personalities. In 2003, he made Sahana, that touted to be the sequel of his 1985 film Sindhu Bairavi. On venturing into Television, he noted "This medium helps to reach out to the public. That's why I am into making serials". In 2009, Balachander returned to theatre after a 40 year hiatus through the play Pournami, which had Renuka playing the lead role.
Balachander got married to Rajam in 1956, while he was working at the Accountant General's Office. The couple has two sons named Kailasam and Prasanna, and a daughter Pushpa Kandaswamy, who is the Chief executive officer (CEO) of their production house Kavithalaya Productions. Kailasam is an entrepreneur while Prasanna, a Chartered Accountant, is the Managing Director and CEO of a leading investment bank in India.
Film artists associated with K. Balachander
K. Balachander is known for introducing new faces to the film industry. He has introduced over 100 actors in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages. Balachander had long associations with some senior artists in the South Indian film industry like Gemini Ganesan, Sowcar Janaki, Nagesh and Muthuraman. Even though he was not the one to discover them, he played a prominent role in shaping their careers. The following refers to a limited number of film personnel who were either discovered by him or enacted their first major role in a film directed by him.
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