Born into a Tamil family in 1930, K. Balachander was an Indian film producer, director, actor and a writer. He was popularly known for his distinct film-making styles and hard-hitting contemporary subject matters. Within a short span of time, he was famous as the master of unconventional themes in Tollywood. Balachander is also referred as ‘Iyakkunar Sigaram’ which means ‘the director who scaled the peak’. Balachander completed his education from Annamalai University in 1949. He was married to Rajam in 1956 and the couple was blessed with three children.
Balachander started his career as a screenwriter. His debut as a director came with the movie Neerkumizhi in 1965. It was only because of M. G. Ramachandran who gave him his big break in Tamil films, that he reached such great heights in cinema. In his career span of over fifty years, Balachander worked in more than a 100 feature films either as a director or screenwriter. With time he became one of the famous film makers in the south. Balachander was also a mentor to many actors including Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Nagesh, Nassar, Sujatha, Jayaprada, Chiranjeevi, Jayasudha, Ramesh Aravind, Saritha, Vivek and Prakash Raj. He established his own production house Kavithalaya Productions (operational since 1981). Balachander, apart from his mother tongue Tamil, had also made films in other Indian languages such as Kannada, Telugu and Hindi. He even acted in a few films and TV serials.
K. Balachander had won 13 Filmfare Awards and 9 National Film Awards for his exceptional direction and screenplay. He was also honored with Padma Shri in 1987 and is the recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award and ANR National Award. K. Balachander breathed his last on 26th July 2008 due to complications of the urinary infection. K. Balachander is remembered as one of the best directors in the Indian film fraternity.
K. Balachander was born on 9th of July 1930 to Dhandapani Balachander and Saraswati Balachander at Nannilam in Tanjore district. He was drawn to theatre and drama at the age of twelve that eventually helped him develop an interest in writing, acting and directing plays. He completed his graduation in Zoology from the Annamalai University in 1949 and began to work as a school teacher in Muthupet in Tiruvarur district. Balachander moved to Chennai in 1950 and worked as an apprentice clerk at the office of the Accountant General. During this time period he joined an amateur drama company named "United Amateur Artistes". Balachander got married to Rajam in 1956 and the couple was blessed with two sons Kailasam and Prasanna and a daughter named Pushpa Kandaswamy, present chairwoman of their production house Kavithalaya Productions. Balachander’s elder son passed away on 15 August 2014 after suffering from pneumonia. His younger son Prasanna is the managing director and CEO of a leading investment bank in India.
Balachander soon formed his own troupe and during this period he emerged as a noted amateur playwright with ‘Major Chandrakanth’ written in English. He re-wrote the play in Tamil, as the scope of English was highly limited in Chennai and it became a huge success. The acting troupe of Balachander comprised of people from Tamil film industry such as Nagesh, Major Sundarrajan, Sowcar Janaki and Sreekanth. Some of Balachander’s major plays include Neerkumizhi (Water Bubble), Server Sundaram (Waiter Sundaram), Naanal (Tall Grass), Navagraham (Nine Planets) and Mezhuguvarthi (Candle).
Balachander was working as an apprentice clerk in the Accountant General's office when he got the chance to write the dialogues for the movie Dheiva Thaai in 1965, by M. G. Ramachandran. Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar decided to make a film on Balachander’s play Server Sundaram. The film was directed by Krishnan Panju, renowned duo directors and it was a major success. This phenomenal film received the Certificate of Merit for the third Best Feature Film in Tamil and a Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Film. Another play Major Chandrakanth written and directed by Balachander was adapted into a Hindi film as Oonche Log and the film won a National Award. He made his directional debut with the movie Neerkumizhi in 1965, the film was based on his own play Neerkumizhi. Later he directed movies based on his own plays which included Major Chandrakanth, Naanal and Ethir Neechal. In 1966, Major Chandrakanth was made in Tamil starring Jayalalithaa in the lead role. He also made a full-length comedy family drama film Bama Vijayam in 1967. The film was a hit at the box office and was also remade in Telugu by Balachander himself. With the success of both the versions the film Bama Vijayam was also remade in Hindi as Teen Bahuraniyan. Balachander, in 1969, made a family drama Iru Kodugal starring Gemini Ganesan that won a National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.
During the 1970s, Balachander started making off-beat films, mostly stories revolving around social and family issues. He made Arangetram in 1973 which dealt with poverty and prostitution. Kamal Haasan played his first major role as an adult actor in this film. After this, Kamal Haasan acted in 35 movies under Balachander. He made his directorial debut in Hindi Cinema with the movie Aaina starring Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz in 1974. His movie Sollathaan Ninaikkiren was based on a novel by Manian. Balachander directed the movie Naan Avanillai the following year starring Gemini Ganesan. The film is based on a Marathi play 'To Mee Navhech'. Although the film was a failure, Gemini Ganesan received the Best Tamil Actor Award for the film in the Filmfare Awards ceremony. Balachander made Aval Oru Thodar Kathai in 1974, his second female-centric film after Arangetram. He gave the first major break to Sridevi with the film Mondru Moodichu. Balachander’s movie Aboorva Raagangal marked the acting debut of the legendary Rajinikanth. The film won three National Film Awards and the award for the Best Feature Film in Tamil. During the 1970s, Balachander made films mostly with Kamal Haasan as the lead actor. In the year 1976 he made three films Anthuleni Katha, Manmadha Leelai and Moondru Mudichu. The movie Anthuleni Katha marked the acting debut of Jayaprada. His other major films are Varumayin Niram Sigappu (1980) and 47 Natkal (1981).
Balachander, after his directorial debut with the film Aania, re-entered the Hindi film industry with the movie Ek Duuje Ke Liye in 1981. He introduced Rati Agnihotri along with various actors from South India including Kamal Haasan, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam and Madhavi who also marked their Bollywood debut with this film. The film was a major box office success and Balachander won the Best Screenplay Award at the Filmfare for the same. He also made the movie Sindhu Bhairavi in 1985 and worked with number of music directors like A.R.Rahman, V.Kumar, Ilaiyaraja, M.S.Viswanathan, V.S.Narasimhan and Maragathamani.
During the period of 1980 to 1990, Balachander made a number of Television series like Rail Sneham, Alavu Manasu, Ramani vs Ramani, Oru Koodai Paasam, Premi, Kadhal Pagadai, Jannal and Anni. His serials like his earlier films, focused on women. In 2003, Balachander made Sahana which was the sequel of his 1985 film Sindhu Bairavi. In 2009, Balachander returned to theatre after 40-years with the play Pournami.
Ill Health and Death:
Balachander was admitted in Chennai’s private hospital on 15 December, following a neurosurgery in November 2014. As per the reports he was suffering from urinary tract infection and fever but was recovering well. He breathed his last on 23 December 2014 due to complications from the infection and age-related ailments.
Words and Wishes:
“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”.
“Rip kb sir … Such a big part of my family and my fathers life and career – thankyou for inspiring us with your great work and life”.
“Loud in pain.. Will miss u my MAN.. Love uuuu”.
“Sad to know of d demise of K Balachander. A genius storyteller, his gems Ek Duje Ke Liye & Zara Si Zindagi will keep his legacy alive. RIP.”
Ram Gopal Varma:
“Want to express my heartfelt grief for the passing away of K Balachander, the only true maverick and path breaking director of all time”.
“My deepest condolence to Legendary director sri K.BALACHANDAR GARU family. May his soul rest in peace”.
Follower : Rajnikant
Wife: Rajam Balachander
Daughter: Pushpa Kandaswamy
(FAN OF Shri KAILASAM BALACHANDER)
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