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P Balachandran, Malayalam Actor and Filmmaker, Dies at 69

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P Balachandran. Photo by Thachan.makan, licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, cropped, resized

P Balachandran, the Malayalam director, screenwriter, and actor who was last seen in the Mammootty-starrer political thriller One, died on Monday morning at his residence in Vaikom, Kerala.

He was 69.

The filmmaker, who was bedridden for several months, was undergoing treatment for meningitis at a hospital in Kerala.

Born on February 2, 1952, in Kerala’s Kollam district, Balachandran attended the Devaswom Board College in Kollam and School of Drama and Fine Arts in Thrissur.

Balachandran won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and Kerala Professional Nataka Award for his play Paavam Usman in 1989. The late filmmaker had written the scripts of Malayalam films including Punaradhivasam (2000), Kammatipaadam (2016), and Edakkad Battalion 06 (2019).

While he made his directorial debut with the Malayalam film Ivan Megharoopan (2012), which was a biopic of Malayalam poet P Kunhiraman Nair, Balachandran had acted in over 40 films, including Trivandrum Lodge (2012), and Charlie (2015).

Balachandran’s last film as an actor will be the Malayalam independent film Orangu Marangalude Veedu (House of Orange Trees) directed by Bijukumar Damodaran, also known as Dr Biju.

“The shooting of the film was completed just before the lockdown in March 2020. After two months, he fell sick. We were friends since 2010 since our theatre days. However, we collaborated after years of friendship for the first time for this film,” Biju told Silverscreen India,

Next film ” House of Orange Trees ” Dr Biju

Posted by P Balachandran on Sunday, 6 October 2019

The film, which also features Nedumudi Venu in the lead role, is a story of three old men, and Balachandran plays one of them, Biju said.

“Since Nedumudi Venu and Balachandran among several others are from a theatre background, he enjoyed the company of the cast and crew,” Biju said.

Biju said that he and Balachandran were planning to collaborate for more films. “I was regularly in touch with his son Srikanth about his health. He was taking treatment from home for his illness,” Biju said.

Calling Balachandran, a “very simple man” who “mingled with everyone” irrespective of their position in the film sets, Biju said that Balachandran had a “humanistic approach” towards everyone.

“He was a man full of resources and stories about the drama industry. He used to share his experiences at the film sets. He was a very good actor too and had the potential to do more films,” he said.

Biju said that House of Orange Trees will release within three months in theatres and also is expected to have an OTT release. He regretted the fact that Balachandran could not see the film’s final cut.

“Since it is a sync-sound movie, there was no need of dubbing. The sound was captured at the time of shooting itself. Otherwise, he would have seen some portions,” he said.

Malayalam theatre and film actor Prakash Bare, who has acted in Balachandran’s only directorial venture Ivan Megharoopan and in House of Orange Trees told Silverscreen India, “Everyone in the film industry would say that his talent and potential were a lot more than we could extract from him in the limited time we had. He was not a person who would function by power equations which exists in the industry. He was strong with his art and kept his spine straight and head strong.”

Bare said that he was “lucky” to be part of Balachandran’s only directorial film and added that the latter was capable of creating “more gems”.

“A lot of them call him Balettan (brother in Malayalam) fondly. He had the magical ability to convert insults into jokes and laugh it off, making others laugh too. That was his success in dealing with equations in the industry. Balettan was respected in the theatre circle in Malayalam as practitioner, writer, director, and teacher,” Bare said.

Recalling a scene from House of Orange Trees, Bare said, “There is a long shot, about 10 minutes, featuring Nedumudi Venu and Balettan, where both are cooking and talking. They have demonstrated their real talent. While competing with each other, at the same time contributing to each other’s performance. It was a great finale to his work,” he said.

Bare said that Balachandran was a “fighter”.

Balachandran is survived by his wife Sreelatha, son Sreekanth and daughter Parvathy. His final rites will take place at his residence on Monday.

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