Chennai: Eminent filmmaker and Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner K. Balachander died in Chennai on Tuesday at a private hospital after prolonged illness.
Hailed as “Iyakunar Sigaram” (Peak among directors) in Tamil film industry Balachander, 84, was hospitalised following age related ailments on 3 December. He breathed his last at 7.02pm on Tuesday, hospital authorities said.
He is survived by his wife, son and daughter. His other son, Kailasam died on 15 August this year. A multi-lingual filmmaker, Balachander debuted with his Tamil film ‘Neerkumizhi’ (by adapting his play of the same title) in 1965.
He has directed films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi and has written, directed and produced more than 100 films. He has launched more than 65 actors, actresses and technicians in the Tamil film industry.
His blockbuster movies include ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai’, (Tamil) which was remade as ‘Anthulaney Katha’ in Telugu, ‘Maro Charitra’ (Telugu), ‘Ek Dhuje Ke Liye’ (Hindi), and ‘Thillu Mullu’ (remake of Golmaal in Hindi).
He introduced several top stars including Rajinikanth (’Aboorva Ragangal’), Kamal Haasan (’Arangetram’), ace villain actor Prakash Raj (’Duet’), comedian Vivek (’Manadhil Urudhi Vendum’) and character artist Nazar (’Kalyana Agathigal’).
He has received several accolades including Dadasaheb Phalke award (2010), Padma Shri (1987), Kalaimamani Award (Tamil Nadu) Nandi and Golden Nandi (Andhra Pradesh) besides many film awards like Filmfare among others.
“He suffered a heart attack by 6.45pm and he succumbed to it. His infection too had intensified. Though the fever was under control there was little that we could do given his age,” a hospital spokesperson said. Balachander also had other health issues including urinary tract infection. He had undergone a surgery recently to remove a tumour in brain, the authorities added.
The veteran filmmaker, who was born on 9 July 1930 at Nannilam in the then composite Thanjavur District (now Thiruvarur), was a trendsetter in South Indian cinema, who courageously touched unconventional and sometimes controversial themes in his movies. His ‘Apoorva Ragangal’, which saw Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan coming together, portrayed complicated inter-personal relationships and romance that transcended generations.
Balachander’s ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’ was a brilliant portrayal of a yearning for intellectual companionship by the protagonist and the intricate relationship problems that came with it. He began his life as a teacher and then became a superintendent in the Accountant General’s office in Chennai. He showed a keen interest in movies from a young age. He entered Tamil filmdom by writing dialogue for MGR’s movie ‘Dheiva Thaai.’ Even while working in the AG’s office, he staged several dramas. His successful play ‘Server Sundaram’ was later made into a Tamil film (1964) and was directed by Krishnan Panju and produced by AVM. ‘Major Chandrakanth’, ‘Mezhuguvarthi’, and ‘Navagraham’, were his other successful plays.
Kavithalaya and Min Bimbangal were his production houses that made films and television shows respectively. When satellite television came to occupy a sizable entertainment space among audience in early 1990s, Balachander was quick to recognize its importance. He produced several television mega serials including ‘Rail Sneham’, and ‘Kai Alavu Manasu’, which topped the TRP charts.
Recently, he acted in ‘Rettaisuzhi’ which was produced by film director Shankar. A science graduate of Annamalai University, he has been conferred honorary doctorates by several universities including the Madras University in 2007.
Almost all leading Artists and Technicians from South film and Television Industry paying their homage and Many film and Television Trade bodies and unions cancelled their shoot today to mark as a respect and mourn the demise of the veteran Director, who is considered as the most respected person in the Industry for his seniority, experience and achievements.
Superstar Rajinikanth paid tribute to his guru, He spent more than an hour with the family of K Balachander. An emotionally disturbed Rajinikanth said ” Balachender was my friend, philosopher and guide. I’ve no words. I feel like I’ve lost myself. I pray God to rest his soul in peace.”
Another legend he introduced Kamal Haasan is rushing from the US to be part of his Guru’s final journey.
His demise marks the end of an era of new age film making that has brought in many changes since 1970s to present day.