The camera opens to a lanky loin-clothed boy walking towards the audience carrying a water pot on his head. He gets distracted by a cinema star's (Rajnikanth) photograph lying on the path. He picks it up with great difficulty still managing to balance the pot which is precariously perched on his head. A gush of wind takes the photo away from his hands; the boy tries to catch it and breaks the pot. The water gets immediately absorbed by the parched land, the boy tries to save it in vain. Cut. Title card "Thaneer Thaneer" ( Water! Water!) appears on the screen. A film which dealt with water scarcity and corruption, the message of which was conveyed even before the title was shown in a dialogue-less two minute interlude.
The man behind the camera was K Balachander and this scene was referred to as the 'Balachander touch'. The term which was given to a particular style of filmmaking: where a dialogue-less exchange or minimal but pointed dialogue was used to convey a message in place of a detailed verbose rendition.
Balanchander or KB as he is fondly called, needs no introduction to the Hindi-speaking world. Even today, whenever a yesteryear cinema lover listens to Lata Mangeshkar's honey filled Tere Mere Beech Mein emanating from a radio, he or she gets immersed in the memories of watching romantic tragedy Ek Duuje Ke Liye's riveting climax.
The blockbuster introduced South Indian artists Rati Agnihotri and singer SP Balasubramaniam to Hindi film industry, both of whom, utilised the hit to carve successful careers in Bollywood in their respective fields.
Balachander had always believed in young talents rather than betting on proven horses. His belief goaded him to introduce more 60 new faces to the film industry. A small excerpt from the list he introduced includes names like Rajinikanth who was introduced in Apoorva Raagangal, Kamal Haasan whose first film as an adult actor was Arangetram, character artist Nasser in Kalyana Agathigal, comedian Vivek in Manathil Uruthi Vendum, Prakash Raj in Duet and many more notable names in Tamil Cinema.
The Balachander touches
KB conveyed his message through powerful visuals and sharp dialogues. All his films had one scene or the other which can be cited as 'Balachander touch'. Sample these...
In his film Iru kodugal (parallel lines), the hero had a past relationship with a Hindi-speaking superior at work, who is obsessed with the Hindi word 'accha' which she uses many times in the movie. Hero's wife comes to know of this old relationship and confronts him. Hero, unsuspecting of the depth of his wife's knowledge about his past affair, blasts back at her repeating, "What do you know, what do you know". Hero's wife replies, "Accha." There are no more dialogues in the scene.
In his film, Nizhal Nijamakirathu (Illusion becomes reality), the heroine in a moment of anger yells at the hero not to cross the rangoli and come inside the house.
But internally she had always liked him though general hatred for men had stopped her from revealing her true feelings. The next time the hero passes the house, she brushes off the rangoli and looks apologetically towards the hero, who comes and stops near her, sheds a knowing smile but leaves without entering.