Legendary filmmaker and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee K Balachander, known for bringing in a whiff of fresh air with close-to-life stories, was born today 90 years ago. Starting out as a playwright, KB, as he is often referred to, wrote blockbuster plays, some of which were turned into feature films. His contribution to Tamil theatre, as most would agree, was unparalleled.
Making his directorial début with Neerkumizhi (1965), a melodrama centring around a hospital and its patients, KB was behind some of Tamil cinema’s finest characters and movies, in a career that spanned four decades. He was instrumental in shaping the careers of superstars Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Sridevi, and has introduced a host of actors including Sujatha, Saritha, Nasser, Prakash Raj and Vivekh to mention a few.
On his 90th birth anniversary, actors Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vivekh and Parthiban reminisced about their memories with the iconic filmmaker. In the video released by Kavithalayaa’s YouTube channel, Rajinikanth said that he was indebted to KB for introducing him to cinema and rechristening his name. “Had he [KB] not introduced me, I would have still become an actor, playing small character roles in Kannada cinema. Fortunately for me, I have been blessed with name and fame. But all that was because of KB sir. In the four films I worked with him, Balachander made me a complete actor, he said, “Not just me, KB sir was solely responsible for introducing a host of actors (sic).”
Calling him an “important son of Indian cinema”, Kamal Haasan, whose first major role was in Arangetram, said, “Mr K Balachander. A mere name with fame that I heard as a teenager. Who would have thought he would take many roles in the life of an actor like me. Benefactor, mentor, collaborator, father & now when I think of his childlike energy, I feel the pride of a father. My salute to this important son of Indian Cinema.”
Incidentally, KB’s last film was the Kamal Haasan-starrer Uttama Villain, in which he played the role of the actor’s mentor. He passed away on December 23, 2014, at the age of 84.