Acclaimed writer Balakumaran, whose works remained a link between serious and populist writing in Tamil, died on Tuesday May 15,2018
He was 71 and is survived by two wives, a son and a daughter.
Balakumaran had taken pride in his writing style. He once told an interviewer from the now-defunct magazine Subamangala, “I have even surpassed T. Janakiraman when it comes to style.”
He created strong women characters, probably cast in the mould of his mother, whom he adored.
Balakumaran in a way also liberated women in his works. He had a strained relationship with his father.
Once when asked whether he would allow his wife to marry another man, he retorted: “Your wife will not accept the arrangement.” He had fans, especially women, who worshipped him.
“He could have matched what Ashokamitran achieved in Tamil literature. But he chose to write in popular magazine and in the process his style also assumed a transformation. We can call him the layman’s Janakiraman,” said writer Kalapriya, who has worked closely with Balakumaran since the days of the magazine Kachatathapara.
Balakumaran’s first short story Vazhimayakkam, in which the hero dies of sunstroke after meeting his writer friend, was published in the magazine.
“I used to argue with him whether such a drastic end was necessary in the story. But he strongly believed that he was right. In fact he was possessed with a great skill when it came to approaching a storyline,” said Mr Kalapriya.
It was Mercury Pookal, his first novel, dealing with the strike in the Simpsons factory and the trade union leader Gopalan, established him as a great stylist. The conversation between the characters, sex, illegitimate relationship and guilt, elevated the novel as one of the best fictions in Tamil writing.
“I vividly remember the conversation about the title of the novel during an auto rickshaw journey from the office of Saavi on Poonamallee High Road,” said writer Maalan, another friend of Balakumaran.
He could paint and designed the cover of Kachatathapara. As a writer his style was intoxicating.
Mr. Maalan said his second novel Irumbu Kuthirai had its origin in the days he worked in TAFE, the tractor manufacturing company. Balakumaran also actively involved in the union activities. Instead of tractors, he had dealt with trucks in the novel.
“We had made an experiment by opting for a space in popular magazine and there was a debate whether people were averse to serious writing or the popular magazines were denying them an opportunity to read,” said Mr. Maalan, recalling how Balakumaran made good a job as a reporter when he was assigned to cover the death of actor Shoba for the magazine Thisaikal.
Born in Pazhamaneri in Thanjavur district, he moved to Chennai and completed his schooling in the City. “Later he acquired the skills of stenographer and joined TAFE,” said Mr. Maalan.
His novel Thaymumanavan was translated into a tele-serial and he directed the film ‘Idhu Namma Aazhu’, starring Bhagyaraj in the lead role. “It evoked protests from the Brahmin community and he collected signature from me and other writers to present his case before the censor review committee,” said Mr. Maalan, explaining that there was a gap between them after he become a devotee of the Ramsurat Kumar, a sanyasis who lived in Thiruvannamalai.
He wrote the dialogues for Mani Rathnam’s award-winning film ‘Nayakan’. He was also the dialogue writer for director Shankar’s ‘Gentleman’, ‘Kaadhalan’, and ‘Jeans’. He worked as the associate director for the film ‘Punnagai Mannan’ and ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’ directed by K. Balachander.
He later vented into a challenging task of writing the story of Chola King Raja Raja and thus was born Udayar. “He delved deep into history, visited every spot even remotely associated with the Chola regime and interacted with scholars,” said Mr. Maalan.