By Aditya Savnal. Posted on February 23, 2016
Much before Tamil cinema came to be known and acknowledged for its unconventional plot lines and execution, the late K Balachander fondly called as 'KB Sir' by fans and the film fraternity, dealt with unconventional and bold themes in an illustrious career that spanned over 5 decades and saw him direct as many as 80 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.
Hailed as Iyakunar Sigaram (director who scaled the peak), Balachander's films dealt with socially relevant themes, the dynamics of middle class Indian families and celebrated the average citizen.
The filmmaker was particularly noted for directing a large number of women centric films that dealt with the economic and social odds faced by everyday women and the remarkable and devastating sacrifices they would undergo to overcome them.
K Balachander (centre) with Kamal Hassan & Rajinikanth
Besides revolutionizing Tamil cinema and inspiring entire generations of filmmakers, K Balachander discovered and introduced some of the biggest names in Indian cinema including Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, A R Rahman (Balachander's Kavithalaya Productions had produced Roja) and Prakash Raj.
Quite often, his films also managed to evoke controversies by dealing with themes that were not only way ahead of their time but also deemed as scandalous. Apoorva Ragangal and Aarangetram (which marked the debut of Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan respectively) dealt with inter-generational romance and a woman who becomes a prostitute to support her family respectively are two such films.
In this feature, we take a look at 6 of the most acclaimed films of Balachander that are available online (with English subtitles) and tell us why his films were ahead of their time and have left behind an indelible legacy in Indian cinema.
Ethir Neechal (Swim Against The Tide) is the story of an orphan (Nagesh) who does a dozen odd jobs for the residents of a housing complex and falls in love with one of the residents. The film which has music by M.S Viswanathan and also stars Sowcar Janaki and Jayanthi was remade in Hindi as Laakhon Mein Ek with Mehmood.
Venkatachalam (Sarath Babu) is drawn towards Thilagam (Sobha) a domestic aide who comes to work in his house and gets pregnant. After being thrown out of the house by Venkatachalam, his friend Sanjeevi (Kamal Hassan) and domestic aide Kasi (Hanumanthu) take care of Thilagam and a conflict ensues.
Nizhal Nijamakirathu (Illusion Becomes Reality) is a remake of K S Sethumadhavan's Malayalam movie Adimakal which was also remade in Telugu as Chilakamma Cheppindi with Rajinikanth.
An iconic female oriented film by Balachander, Avargal features Sujatha who after being dumped by her boyfriend, gets married to her boss (Rajinikanth) who turns out to be a sadist and takes pleasure in torturing her. Meanwhile, a ventriloquist (Kamal Hassan) falls in love with her.
Avargal is one of the many films that featured Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth together before they achieved stardom. It was also remade by Balachander in Telugu as Idi Katha Kaadu which featured Chiranjeevi and saw Kamal Hassan reprise his role of the ventriloquist.
Starring Kamal Hassan and Sridevi in the lead roles, Varumayin Niram Sivappu (The Colour Of Poverty Is Red) narrates the frustrations of the unemployed youth. Balachander remade it in Telugu as Aakali Rajyam with Kamal Hassan and Sridevi and as Zara Si Zindagi with Kamal Hassan, Mazhar Khan and Nilu Phule.
A remake of K Vishwanath's Telugu film O Seetha Katha, the film features Sridevi as a woman who exacts revenge on her husband (Rajinkanth) for killing her lover (Kamal Hassan). Interestingly the Malayalam remake Mattoru Seetha featured Kamal Hassan as the antagonist.
Based on a play of the same name, Iru Kodugal (Two Lines) revolves around a man (Gemini Ganesan) who gets married to two women (Jayanthi and Sowcar Janaki). The film was remade in Kannada by Balachander as Eradu Rekhegalu and its Hindi remake Sanjog was directed by S Balasubramanian and starred Amitabh Bachchan.