Television actors often complain that they hardly get any big breaks in the silver screen. They are disappointed that the film fraternity deems them as second grade artists. However, there is one actor who, through a few amazing performances in the serials, successfully made his way into the films. Balaji Sarma, who is quite popular among the television audience has handful of opportunities in the cinema, besides, securing the nick name ‘lucky star’. The actor was seen in prominent roles in many of the super hit Malayalam films that were released in the recent past. From Drishyam, Amar Akbar Antony and The Great Father to Oppam and Ennu Ninete Moideen, Balaji has managed to capture the attention of the audience. This Thiruvananthapuram native has proved that nothing is impossible if one works hard with diligence and perseverance. Balaji Sarma opens up to Vanitha Online about his amazing career and also about his experiences.
Balaji is the only son of Harihara Sarma and Parvathy Ammal. His father worked in the national textile corporation and his mother was a post master. He had dreamed of becoming an actor since childhood itself. Balaji was just a class four student when he performed on the stage for the first time. He acted in a play titled ‘Vellikappu’ that was aired on Doordarshan, when he was studying in class seven. Balaji had essayed the role of an elderly person, an Ammavan (uncle), in the play. Though he enjoyed acting in the play, it earned him the nick name 'Ammavan'at school.
Employed at 16
“I was good in academics and passed the 10th standard with 86% marks. But I wasn’t a keen student during my pre-degree days as I was more interested in bunking classes and going for movies. It was during that time that I, along with my friends, went to Kochi to write a recruitment exam for Air Force. Our aim, in fact, was to have a leisure trip to Kochi. However, I got selected. I took up the job in Air Force, at the age of 16, just to get rid of the pre-degree exams. But, my passion for acting was still ignited inside me,” says Balaji.
Quit job for cinema
Balaji worked in the Air Force for nine years. In the meantime, he completed his graduation and even earned degree in law as well. After securing a professional degree, he quit his job to pursue his passion for acting. “I became a lawyer as I had to earn a living in case I couldn’t make it into the movies. My parents didn’t blame me for quitting my job because I was so passionate about acting. As I am their only son, they stood strong with me,” recalls the actor.
Entry into movies
“We just have one life and should work hard to achieve our dreams. For the first six months after returning home, I had tried hard to find opportunities in movies. Mahesh Mitra who was my mother’s colleague had written the script of Naadan pennum Naattu Pramaniyum and I got a chance to act in it. Before that, while on a leave when I was in the Air Force, I had acted in a movie called Meen Thoni. Though, after Naadan Pennum Naatu pramaniyum, I had a few minor roles in many movies, it was in Ozhimuri that I got a character which got noticed. There was no looking back after that movie,” says Balaji.
Balaji admits that he got bored doing minor roles in the movies. He thought he should do something else to be noticed by the audience. That is how he began anchoring, which opened up opportunities into TV serials. Alakal was his debut television serial and his character named Murugan was widely appreciated. The actor was then flooded with opportunities to act in serials. Most of his serials including Manasaputhri, Alakal, Kayamkulam Kochunni and Moonnu Mani were super hits. Many of them even ran up to 500 – 600 episodes.
“I became active in the movies after Ozhimuri. Gradually the number of opportunities in serials became less. No one called me to do roles in serials after I began to get more offers from the movies. As cinema was my ultimate aim, I decided to do serials only if I get an amazing role. Though I am happy, I don’t think I have done any roles that had given me a scope to showcase my real talent. Cinema gives better living conditions than serials. I would be financially secure if I do at least two movies in a month. Though minor roles, I acted in three movies last month. As far as I am concerned, I never felt any discrimination just because I came from the serials. None had treated me as a second grade artist. It has been nineteen years since I began my acting career,” noted the actor.
It was after the blockbuster movie Drishyam that Balaji began to get offers from the big movies. He feels that artists like him too would get noticed when they act alongside super stars Mammootty and Mohanlal and even mouth a dialogue or two. All the movies in which Balaji had acted became top grossers. He also played the lead role in the movie Telescope directed by MB Padmakumar. The actor is eagerly awaiting the release of this movie which would hit the screens soon. Balaji’s character named Manushyan had won him the Prem Nazir Memorial Foundation’s best supporting actor award. He has a number of films lined up for release including Sachin, Jallianwala Bagh, Uriyadi and Kuttimama.
“Wife Smitha and our daughter Navomika is my world. I wish to do more anchoring and am waiting for good opportunities. Though I am a lawyer, I haven’t been inside a court room. I do wish to practice and I am a member of the bar association as well. Though I am a lawyer in real life, I have mostly played roles of police men in movies. I had essayed policemen in at least 10 – 15 films,” concludes Balaji.