Though Bala Saravanan started his career on the small screen in TV serials such as Kallikattu Pallikoodam and Kana Kaanum Kaalangal, it was his lead role in a short film (Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, which was later made into a full-length feature starring Vijay Sethupathi) that got him his big break in Tamil cinema. Half a decade later, Bala now finds himself in an enviable list of the most sought-after comedians in Tamil cinema. Excerpts from a conversation with the actor:
Would you say you’ve made it in the industry?
I’m extremely happy with where I am, but I have a long way to go. It is gratifying to be considered among the industry’s top comedians and, especially, for choosing good roles. This is what I wanted to do and I’m happy with where I’m at right now. It was hard to get here and I’m trying to hold on to it by doing good films.
After Nagesh, Goundamani, Vadivelu and Vivek, why isn’t there one big name ruling the roost right now?
It’s simply because of the fact that we’re too many in number. Apart from me, there is Kaali Venkat, Karunakaran. Yogi Babu, Robo Shankar, Arjun, Munishkanth and Rajendran to name a few. With all of them doing films in regular intervals, no one person is getting singular attention. We all started recently, but a few years down the line, I’m confident that some of us will stand out from the crowd.
Does your rural dialect come in the way of playing urban roles?
In fact, I think it’s a plus. But yes, I do want to try different dialects. But right from Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, most of my roles have generally been based in Madurai. I hope to do a film based in Coimbatore. Kamal Haasan sir’s Sri Lankan dialect in Thenali and K Bhagyaraj sir’s Palakkad dialect in Antha Ezhu Naatkal are personal favourites. But directors seem to prefer that I speak the Madurai way. I’ve got three films lined up which are all based in Madurai (laughs).
Have you been offered the lead role yet?
I did get two offers but I am happy with my current position. It’s a huge responsibility. Sustaining it is a big challenge.
Tell us about your future projects.
I’ve got Kootathil Oruthan that stars Ashok Selvan and Priya Anand. I’ve also got Ulkuthu with my good friend Dinesh. Apart from these, I’ve got three big projects lined up but I’ve been strictly asked to not utter a word about them (laughs). I’ve also got my Malayalam film Godha.
So you’re making inroads into other languages.
(Laughs) Yes. The film is Kunjiramayanam director Basil Joseph’s second film. Tovino Thomas of Ennu Ninte Moideen fame is playing the lead. I don’t know Malayalam but I’ve seen a number of their films. I was able to understand Malayalam on the sets. It felt just like a regular Tamil film set.
Where do you go from being a comedian side-kick?
I want to become an actor who’ll be able to pull off any given role. I look up to Kishore sir. Bollywood star Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a role model.
Who’s your favourite comedian?
Vadivelu. His comedy sequence with just a mat in Panchalankurichi is my all-time favourite track. He manages great humour even without the help of other artistes.
While on that, what’s your take on insult comedy?
I’m not a fan; it’s a bad trend. Right now, I may not be able to call the shots, but eventually, I’ll reach a level where I will have a say against such tracks, especially when directed at people’s looks. Regular-looking women are those we know as friends, colleagues and sisters. Our friends and siblings don’t look like Tamannaah and Nayanthara.