‘My first film appearance was in K Balachander sir’s Kannada film, Sundara Swapnagalu, a remake of Sollathan Ninaikiren, in which I reprised the role played by Kamal Haasan. KB sir and I bonded beautifully while working on that film. He liked me so much that he introduced me in Telugu with Rudraveena and in Tamil through Manadhil Urudhi Vendum. Sir had the rare quality of not just spotting talent but also moulding them to do greater things by giving them the right opportunities. He took it on his shoulders to make a star out of an actor.
We had a great relationship, and unlike many others, I can say that I have never been scolded by KB. Though I was in Bengaluru, we remained in touch, and whenever we met, he would take me to his office or house and have long chats. He was an excellent influence in many of our lives not just as a creator but as a mentor too. People from KB’s school are able to do so many things because we were already on the shoulders of such a giant. His dedication and his creativity brushed off on all of us.
Though I worked in a flurry of films initially, it was a long time before I got to work with him again in Duet. In between, I had worked in Punnagai Mannan as Revathy’s ex-boyfriend, a track that got chopped out of the film. When he first called me for Duet, he thought I looked like Meenakshi Seshadri’s thambi (laughs). But I was insistent on doing a film with him. I told him it was time to sharpen my skills. He asked me to wear glasses that would look like vehicle windshields… The rest, as they say, is history. It became one of my most powerful roles, and to date, people talk about the film and its songs.
Getting to direct him in Uttama Villain was one of my life’s most fulfilling experiences. I should thank Kamal sir for the opportunity. He often looked at Kamal and me, and said we were one soul in two bodies. During the shoot, we saw KB sir’s health failing. Having seen him walk around like a tiger on the sets with rare energy, it was difficult for us to see that force get trapped in a frail body. I am glad that towards the end of his life, we were all there with him.’
In this week-long series dedicated to veteran filmmaker K Balachander to celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, celebrities reminisce about the auteur and his work. Here, actor-director Actor Ramesh Aravind talks about working with him in the 2015 film, Uttama Villain
(As told to Avinash Ramachandran)