Kavithalaya Krishnan. Anyone who has watched films in the 1980s and 90s would recognise the name instantly, especially considering his unforgettable performance in Sindu Bairavi (1985) — the iconic film directed by K Balachandar, and his prowess on stage in Crazy Mohan plays. A veteran theatre artist and an engaging supporting actor in films, he may not have had a lot of screen time but he is one of the most “content” personalities in the film industry.
Krishnan was born in a middle-class, orthodox Brahmin family in Mylapore. He was a cricketer and played for his state, read Mills and Boons novels that he stole from his sister and had not watched a single film until he began college. City Express spent an afternoon with him, taking a ride to yesteryear, as he narrated how he found the right people — his unconditional love for Sivaji Ganesan, dazzled admiration for Sowcar Janaki, and undivided devotion to K Balachandar. Excerpts from our chat…
All My Firsts
When I first saw Sivaji Ganesan on the big screen, I instantly fell in love and began watching all his films. I would go to beauty salons just to sneak a peek into magazines and cut out his pictures. I’d also look for people who adored him too. That’s how my association with Crazy Mohan began. He was my senior in school. When I heard him talk about Sivaji, I jumped in and started a conversation. I spoke the first lines he ever wrote for his first play, The Great Bank Robbery. Through his other play, Marriage Made in Saloon, my association with Balachandar was destined. When he bought the rights, I was initially bummed because he didn’t cast me. But then, since Balachandar couldn’t find anyone better to fit into the character, he requested me. Since then, I had been a part of his life till the end. With the little fame and popularity, I began to wear a mask, trying to fit in, trying to eat with a fork…and the one who pulled me out of my pretentious mask was Sowcar Janaki, my childhood inspiration. She told me to not be who I’m not, but take pride in who I am. She was my friend’s mother and I was dazzled when I saw her the first time at her home. She took me to all Sivaji Ganesan shootings! I was blessed.
Breaking Orthodox Shackles
My parents would never take me out to watch movies, unless it was a devotional film. When I acted in my first film Poikkal Kudhirai (1983), my mom was in Ahmedabad. When she came back, I waited for her to be in a good mood and then told her. As expected, she was scandalised. I tried to play it down, telling her that it was the same role I played in Mohan’s play. She was still upset and worried about what her uncles would say. But when the film didn’t do well and was a flop, she was pleased. One day, when my uncle sent a letter to our house stating that he had watched the film and I did a fantastic job, my mom cheered up. She slowly started forgiving me but she’d never let me compromise my day job. I would go for shooting only after work and on weekends.
Life’s Sweet Givings
Once, I read about making a list of all the things you want to do in life. I did it and I hadn’t realised that there was so much I desired. I wanted to play the flute, learn to juggle, play the drums and go abroad. One thing I didn’t want to do was lock myself in a work room and manufacture something that’s not creative. After I quit my job in 1996, I did everything I wanted to do. I believe I’m truly blessed to have not only met the greatest people, but also got to do everything I wanted to without getting my ego in the way.
The ‘Fan-tastic’ Moment
I was a huge fan of KR Vijaya. Imagine my delight when I got a chance to act with her in Madisar Mami. I got to lie on her lap for a scene…it was an incredible moment. I told my mother about it too and she said, “your dreams are coming true.”
No Heart in Cinema Anymore!
In the early 80s cinema used to be a labour of love. It was love-driven; but cinema these days is tech, mind and knowledge-driven. Films are not made from the heart anymore. They have evolved. No longer do we find Sivaji’s melodrama. Yes, there is an improvement in the way cinema is made, but not the content. It has lost its charm. A few of my favourite recent movies are Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (2010) and Engayum Eppodum (2011).