If I didn’t come to movies, I would have died – Dir Bala
” It didn’t tell the pain..
the spoken word..
Tears are poor peoples’..
– The words of Poet Vairamuthu are coming out of the Editing room of Dir Bala and we are able to hear them outside.
Is it Atharva? Surprised! With our eyes wide open, we are looking at the pictures that are in front of us. It talks about the history of slaves. The tea plants which grow for 100 years is cut and shrink and its growth stopped in midway and they keep it a just a small plant. The same sadness is reflected here. For the each cup of tea we drink, what these slave labors have to go through at tea estates and the blood they shed over the years – It’s their world that is depicted in Paradesi.
Bala comes out of the Editing room and we start the conversation..
Q: In Bala’s movies – “Avan Ivan” was a disappointment. Why? What happened to you.
“Nothing Happened” Bala smiles. Movies are like Snake and Ladder games. The Dice will be rolled always. No one knows when will you get a Ladder or a Snake. If we know in advance, then what is interesting about Cinema. “Avan Ivan” is a failure in terms of your critical analysis. But why I would care about critics’ reviews. I was able to discover this wonderful artist within Vishal. I was able to take Arya who looks like a Hollywood hero to my village. My producer was able to sleep peacefully when the BO Collections were tallied. These are some of the few good things that happened because of “Avan Ivan”. Since people like you in the press asked me to make a fun movie, I made “Avan Ivan”. Now you guys are asking me to make a movie on my own style, so I made “Paradesi”.
Q: “From where are you getting these titles. “Paradesi” title itself is scary?
A: What is so scary about it ? We are all Paradesis. People who are not able to find a living in their own land & who move out of it — all are Paradesis. I – the movie maker and You – the one who is interviewing also are Paradesis too. There are some Paradesis who go in the car. There are some Paradesis who beg in the street. In the same way, in 1940’s – Atharva is one of the Paradesi who went to work as a slave labor in a Tea Estate. You are saying — The title “Paradesi” itself is scary.. Do you know the name I kept at first – “Sani Bhagavan” – Don’t laugh at it!
Q: “Vikram, Surya, Arya, Vishal.. and now Atharva?”
A: Just look at Atharva carefully. Even when he smiles innocently, there is a little sadness in his eyes. For an actor, that is wonderful. Most of the other actors will reach the heights in their 100th movie – I feel Atharva has reached the height in his 3rd movie – Paradesi.
Q: How do you decide on the story for a movie. Are you making the novel “Red Tea” as the movie “Paradesi”.
A: I just took the place/settings/arena from “Red Tea” and made everything different for “Paradesi”. Everyone in this world is inspired. A person “lives” only up to 20 years in this world. After that their life focuses on Job, Family, Children and their education etc.,
I lived a life without any set rules. There are so many things I experienced. I observed so many people. I have seen so many things in my life. Only my intuition guides me everyday. As for as I’m concerned, there are no stories. Only Characters. One Love, One Betrayal, One Enmity, One Pain, One Victory.. These are some of the ups and downs which form the story.
“Sethu” is based on an inspiration from a Malayalam short story – “Iruntinde Athma”. From what I saw in Ramanathapuram Refugee Camps was “Nandha”. “PithaMagan” was based on Writer Jayakanthan’s “Nandavanathil Oru Andi”. “Naan Kadavul” was based on Kamal Hassan’s “Anbe Sivam”, writer Jayamohan’s “Ezhaam Ulagam/7th World” and what I saw in Banares – the life of Ahoris and their activities. Now you will get a clear picture about how I decide on stories. No one is a self-taught here.
Q: Why are you torturing Heroes.. From “Sethu” to “Paradesi” you are changing your heroes to “One particular type” – Why ?
A: The movies demand it.. What can I do? I think in a movie, the hero shouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb.. You have to see him a just as a common man, that particular character. For that, one has to work hard. I have to change them to “one particular type”.
Q: What can we expect in “Paradesi” ?
A: Mostly unexpected items will be in “Paradesi”. Except me, every other technician is new. Cameraman Chezian, Editor Kishore etc., everyone is new.
For the first time, poet Vairamuthu has written lyrics. G.V. Prakash has done music. He is just 25 and he has completed 25 movies already. I’m very pleasantly surprised by his humility and maturity. He has done a wonderful job in Paradesi.
Vairamuthu Sir.. His experience is more than G.V. Prakash’s age. In this movie, each and every song has to speak the story. Only someone who lived in the Western Ghats can only write these songs. I completed the whole movie. Then I showed him the edited version. Then only he wrote the songs. I struggled for 3 months to shoot this movie. Within 3 weeks, he added strength to the movie through his songs. The Tamil language in the songs will prick the heart of listeners.
Q: Why don’t you have any respect for women? Why Male chauvinism is dominating in your movies?
Yes, I agree, my movies used to have male chauvinism. When my daughter was born and when she started to beat me with her little hands, my male chauvinist ego has gone away. Whatever love I learnt from my daughter is shown via Vedhika, Dhansika to last little girl kid in Paradesi.
Q: Let’s have some funny Q&A.. Let’s go for something like Bala’s Top 10?
A: Oh.. Do you have this too ?
Q: 10 Favorite People.. Favorite Movies/Novels etc.,
A: M.G.R – “Petraalthaan Pillaiya”
Sivaji – “Thevar Magan”
Kalaignar – “Parasakthi”
Jayalalitha – “Engerundho Vandaal”
Kamal – “MahaaNadhi”
Rajni – “Mullum Malarum”
Balu Mahendra – “Veedu”
I think this should be enough?
Q: Still you have 3 left?
A: What ? Still 3 more ?
Q: Who are all your favorite directors?
A: Rudhraiah, Manirathnam and Balaji Sakthivel.
Q: Whom did you want to direct in the past ?
A: Nana Patekar and Jothika.
Q: Who are your favorite movie heroes?
A: All my movies’ heroes – For the kind of mindset I’m in today – Atharva.. Heroine – Anushka.
Q: If you didn’t come to movies, what else you would have done ?
A: I would have become a Doctor. hmmm… For the kind of atrocious life I lived, I would have died. Enough? Please complete the interview!