Thiruvananthapuram: N.L. Balakrishnan, the state’s most celebrated epicurean and diligent chronicler of Malayalam cinema in both photographs and words, died in the Medical College here on Thursday after prolonged illness.
He was 72. Diabetes had debilitated both his legs, he was bedridden for over a month. In November he was also diagnosed with cancer on the left cheek. He is survived by his wife Nalini, a son and two daughters.
Balakrishnan, better known as ‘Balannan’, has worked as still photographer in over 170 films, most notably in the films of Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, Padmarajan, K G George and Bharathan.
Later, when digital photography took over and admittedly to tide over financial troubles, he started doing bit but significant roles in mainstream cinema, more than 180 of them.
Filmmakers used his curious size, which resembled the iconic figure of Obelisk in Asterix stories, to comic effect. In films he was always the giant with a heart of a child, and as his friends say, in life too.
His career as a still photographer began with P Bhaskaran's 'Kallichellamma' in 1967, his last Bhadran's 'Sphadikam' in 1995. His acting stint began in 1986 with the Rajeev Anchal film 'Ammanam Kili' and ended with the Mammootty-starrer 'Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus' (2013).
Noted film critic C S Venkiteswaran said that Balakrishnan was much more than a still photographer. He was a historian in a photographer’s garb.
“He travelled with the most important filmmakers of Malayalam, captured their moods, the moments during the making of films and also the cultural and social ambience of the periods in which these films were made,” Venkiteswaran said.
Balakrishnan also had been obsessively making diary entries for more than half a century. “He is constantly jotting down things incidents, conversations, sights which I realised he would unfailingly transfer to his dairy later in the day,” said actor Indrans.
Documentary filmmaker Sasikumar said that these diaries, if published, would reveal the untold history of Malayalam cinema.
He was also a man who had given his life to sensual pleasures, especially liquor. While doing the last rites of his father, Balakrishnan had poured Gangajal mixed with rum over the dry lips of his father.
But he was also a conscientious epicurean. “I loved all the good things in life; liquor, food, friends. But never have I nor ever will use women for pleasure,” he had once told DC....