Tamil industry bids tearful farewell to movie mogul Balaji

May 3rd, 2009 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh Bachchan Chennai, May 3 (IANS) The Tamil film industry bid a tearful farewell to “remake-king” K. Balaji as he was cremated Sunday. Superstar Rajnikant along with other big names like Prabhu and Manorama paid their respects to the eminent filmmaker.
Balaji, who died Saturday, was cremated at the Besant Nagar electric crematorium here by his son Suresh. He was 74.

Former chief minister and AIADMK head Jayalalitha air-dashed to Chennai from Coimbatore Saturday soon after she heard of his demise.

“For me, it is a personal loss, as he was like an elder brother to me,” Jayalalitha, who had starred in a few films produced by Balaji, told reporters.

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who is in hospital following a stomach upset and fever, also sent a wreath.

Since the sixties, all the top Hindi blockbusters like Rajesh Khanna starrer “Dushman”, Amitabh Bachchan’s “Deewar” and “Namak haram” were remade into Tamil by Balaji who always used top stars as his male leads like late Sivaji Ganeshan and thespians Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan.

Very few in the Tamil film industry know that Balaji was born in a prominent Tamil Brahmin (Iyengar) family and was the grandson of a very prominent colonial era advocate T. Rangachari.

Balaji wandered into films after developing a taste for acting by performing the odd school play and amateur theatre shows.

His quest for a space in showbiz led Balaji to the office of S.S. Vasan, then owner of Gemini Studios in 1951. Vasan was not very keen to work with a newcomer but gave him a minor role in “Avvaiyar”, in which he played Hindu god Muruga.

Slowly he managed to land meatier roles and was featured as a male lead in a few films.

Balaji soon understood he was better off playing a bad man or the hero’s understudy with a negative angle. Some of those include films like “Padithaal Mattum Podhumaa”, “Bale Pandiyaa” and “Thillaana Mohanambaal”.

Even as the career was taking shape, he was hired as a manager in Narasu Studios in the southwest suburbs here.

In that capacity, he discovered his true calling in the sixties after coming in contact with top Hindi actors like Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar and Tamil stars Sivaji and Gemini Ganeshan and actress Savitri who advised him to remake Hindi hits into Tamil with leading actors.

Despite being one of the most successful film producers, unlike most in showbiz, Balaji never flaunted his wealth and always spoke softly.

“My mild-manners are looked down upon by most braggarts in the industry. But then, I do not care,” Balaji had told this writer.

Survived by his daughters Suchitra and Sujatha and a son Suresh, Balaji was a sad, lonely man since the nineties after his wife Anandavalli passed away.

His daughter Suchitra is married to Malayalam superstar Mohanlal.

Balaji passed away Saturday evening due to multiple organ and renal failure. He had been hospitalised for over a month.

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