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June 6, 2000

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'The heroes of today's films are all bastards'

Balachandra Menon Completing 25 years in the film industry is no small achievement. It becomes all the more laudable if the person is successful in his field.

Balachandra Menon has successfully completed 25 years in the Malayalam film industry as writer, producer, director and actor. He began his career as a journalist interviewing film personalities, but was soon acting in and directing films.

Filmgoers in Kerala loved Menon from his very first movie because he made acting look very natural. Before him, there were many whose acting was rather laboured. But Menon's dialogues were unpretentious, spontaneous and laced with humour. Needless to say, he became an instant success. Malayalis eagerly awaited his next release. All his films, without exception, were huge commercial hits.

He also has this special ability to discover talent. The list of actresses he has discovered is long, and it includes successful heroines like Shobhana, Parvathi (Jayaramís wife), etc.

His output decreased in the nineties, as the middle class, which loved and patronised his films, stopped going to the theatres, content to watch whatever was available on television. So Menon, the successful director, took up farming!

But the magic of cinema was hard to resist. And, in 1998, Menon made Samantharangal, a film that was very serious, disturbing and sans humour. It was a total antithesis of the kind of films he used to make earlier. The film earned Menon two National Awards -- for Best Producer and Director. Then came the surprise as it also fetched him the Best Actor award.

In this interview with Shobha Warrier, he talks about the three influences in his life -- farming, films and women!

You were quite prolific earlier. Now you rarely make movies. Are you disgusted with the kind of films that are made now?

I used to make only two films every year. Sometimes three. Now the gap between my movies is more than a year. But I don't feel the gap, as I am involved in all the aspects of my film; from story to screenplay to direction. With the entry of television, those who liked my kind of family-oriented films prefer sitting at home and watching television. They no longer go to the theatres.

I do not know whether you have noticed this phenomenon, but the heroes of today's films are all bastards -- they have no fathers! I cannot conceive that kind of a hero. That could be one of the reasons why I was not so active in the last few years. The audience, which used to enjoy my films, stopped going to the theatres in the nineties and I cannot satisfy those go to the theatres now.

What kind of films and themes make you feel at home?

I am at home when I portray human beings, human beings like you and me. I think I am good at that. I get carried away by the emotions of people. I like creating people who follow some philosophy in life. I cannot make slapstick comedies.

Didn't you feel excited when you heard you were chosen Best Actor at the national level in 1998?

Surprisingly, I didn't feel excited at all, even though it was the nation's highest honour. It was a friend of mine from the film world who broke the news to me. He was hurt because I did not show any excitement. He asked me, 'Why are you not excited?' See, what I felt was, 'There are so many people who have won the award before me and, this year, I have won it, that's all.' But those who get excited are the fortunate people.

Why do you say that?

Because they can experience such emotions. I feel a life with all these small, small excitements is a materialistic life. I cannot experience such feelings. It all depends on your upbringing, I think

What about disappointments? Don't you feel bad when a film of yours flops?

Mmm... disappointment? Samantharangal, the film which I produced, did not run well in the theatres even though I felt it should have. Anyway, I didn't feel happy when it did not run!

Was I disappointed? No, I didn't expect it to be a big hit. One thing I can tell you, you learn a lot from both your successes and failures. I told you about my upbringing. I spent all my childhood in the company of elders. That could be one of the reasons why I do not experience excitement. I donít remember ever having flown a kite! I was very serious even then.

'Creating comedy is a painful process'

Do tell us what you think of this interview

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