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Director's special

SREEDHAR PILLAI

`Balram Vs Taradas' brings together I.V. Sasi and Mammootty after a gap of 15 years.



BACK IN THE RECKONING: Veteran director I.V. Sasi.

World renowned director Steven Spielberg once remarked - "The most difficult job in world cinema is to make entertaining movies that will make people and the box-office happy."

Critical acclaim

Very few directors have been able to achieve critical acclaim and box office success in Indian cinema, where commercial and meaningful cinema are like parallel lines that never meet. In Malayalam, the only director who has achieved both is director I.V.Sasi, the path breaker who has directed more than 130 odd films over a span of 31 years and has constantly delivered super hits and some of them classified as classics or good cinema. Sasi had made his debut as a director with `Ulsavam' (1975) and shot to fame after `Avalude Ravukal' (1978).

Today, I.V.Sasi's 140th film `Balram Vs Taradas' is releasing worldwide and it is one of the costliest (Rs. 4 crores, including print and publicity) Malayalam films ever made. It is Sasi's 35th film with Mammootty after a gap of 15 years! The last film they did was `Neelagiri' in 1991 and they are one of the most successful director-actor combinations in Indian cinema.

In early 80's after the untimely death of Jayan, the then superstar, in a freak helicopter accident, Sasi was on the look out for a hero for his kind of commercial cinema within some aesthetic sensibilities.

During the golden age of Malayalam cinema - the 70's and 80's - the script and story-telling were the most important factors instead of the gimmicks and superstar presentations of today.



Katrina Kaif and Mammootty in `Balram Vs Taradas,'.

In a way, it was Sasi who discovered Mammootty as a commercially viable hero inmainstream Malayalam cinema through `Trishna' and later established him as an actor of substance through M.T. Vasudevan Nair's scripts in films like `Aalkootathil Thaniye,' `Anubandham,' and `Adiyozhukkukal.'

And now with `Balram Vs Taradas,' the successful combination is back with a racy, edge-of-the-seat action drama in which Mammootty plays a dual role.

Says Sasi: "It is for the first time in Indian cinema that two popular characters Balram (`Avanazhi') and Taradas (`Athirathram') from two different films from the same actor-director combo are coming face to face creating some exciting moments."

Sasi agrees that film making and audience tastes have changed with times and says that "good cinema should excite the minds. It is the style of story telling and representing it effectively on screen, that matters the most when making a movie."



Mammootty as Balram.

Writers T. Damodaran and S.N. Swamy were working on the script of `Balram Vs Taradas' for the last three years after producer Liberty Basheer got the nod from Mammootty to go ahead with the project.

In many ways Balram and Taradas, the two characters in the film is a challenge to the actor who has reinvented himself recently in commercials like `Thommanum Makkalum,' `Rajamanickam' and the latest `Thuruppugulan,' which had done wonders at the Kerala box-office.

Says Sasi: "The dual role that Mammootty plays is not clichéd. Both Balram and Taradas are strong characters who have their own ways of looking at life and dealing with problems.

They are entirely different in attitude, looks, behavior and gait. It is Mammootty's best ever performance in recent times and he has worked hard for it."

Sasi adds that he has changed with the times and technically `Balram Vs Taradas' is far superior to his earlier films with a glossy touch given by cameraman Sanjeev Shankar and visually stunning songs and scenes shot in Dubai and the Malabar Coast.

Action adventure

Sasi and his scriptwriters have made the film an action adventure with drama, sentiments, comedy - all in the right proportion along with glamour in the form of Katrina Kaif, the supermodel and Bollywood actress who plays Supriya a top film actress who is in love with Taradas.

Adds Sasi: "Katrina is apt for the role as she is the pivot around which the story takes a twist and she has done a neat job along with the supporting cast of Mukesh, Jagadhish, Siddique and others. The two songs in the film tuned by Jassie Gift are peppy with Afzal and Rimi Tomy in a dance number."

Concludes Sasi: "I am extremely happy by the way the film has shaped out and the big question that people are going to ask at the end of the film is- Who was better - Balram or Taradas?

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