Legendary filmmaker K Balachander passed away at a private hospital in Chennai this evening. He was 84. The director was admitted to the hospital last Monday for what it described as “age-related ailments.” After a see-saw week, where his condition oscillated between stable and serious, Balachandar took a turn for the worse over the last couple of days.
The director’s health is said to have been poor since his son passed away in August, and he has avoided public appearances since then.
Popularly known as Iyakkunar Sigaram, Balachander debuted as a director in 1965 with Neerkumizhi starring Nagesh and Sowcar Janaki in the lead. During a four decade long career, he worked on nearly a 100 films in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. His last directorial venture was the 2006 release Poi. He is the recipient of the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke award – the Indian Government’s highest award for cinematic achievement. He also received the Padma Shri award in 1987.
His films explored offbeat premises – feminism, social taboos and familial complications. And beyond a stellar body of work, Balachander was known for introducing and mentoring several of Tamil cinema’s top actors and directors. Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan are Balachander’s proteges, and both the actors have revealed in a number of interviews that they owe their success to him. Actors Vivekh, Ramesh Arvind, Prakash Raj, Geetha, Sri Priya and Sujatha were others that were nurtured to stardom by Balachander.
Besides direction, Balachander also produced films under his Kavithalaya Productions banner.
He also has several television serials to his credit. His Rail Sneham, Kai Alavu Manasu, Kadhal Enna Pagadai Kaaya and Sahana broke established stereotypes in the TV industry, and his production house also produced many serials including the most popular Marma Desam.
Celebrities have been paying their last respects to Balachander at his home, and the funeral will take place on December 25. The Tamil Film Directors’ Union has announced that shootings will not take place tomorrow.