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Thursday, November 2, 2023

Junior Balaiah is no more !!

Way back in 1948 was released Tamil movie ‘Mohini” directed by Lanka Sathiyam - it had VN Janaki, Madhuri Devi, MG Ramachandran, MN Nambiar – the hero was different !!

For regular Tamil movie buffs, “Thillana Mohanambal” is a landmark movie – released in 1968, this  musical drama film was written, directed and produced by A. P. Nagarajan. The lead role was  Sivaji Ganesan& Padmini narrating  the story of Shanmugasundaram, a nadaswaramplayer who falls in love with Mohanambal, a Bharatanatyam dancer.  The film was an adaptation of   Kothamangalam Subbu's novel of the same name, which was serialised in the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan in 1957–58. The film was mostly shot in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Madurai. Its original soundtrack was composed by K. V. Mahadevan, and songs like "Nalandhana", "Maraindhirundhu"  are  immensely popular still.

A pivotal role in that film was Muthurakku, the Thavil accompaniment – portrayed by TS Balaiah.  Tiruvidaimarudur Venkatesan played the instrument thavil off-screen for Balaiah.

Thirunelveli Subramaniyan Balaiah (1914-1972) was a popular actor doing  supporting roles in Tamil films. Born in Sundankottai, near Udankudi in Thoothukudi, Balaiah was introduced to the cine field by director Ellis R. Dungan in Sathi Leelavathi (1936), along with M. G. Ramachandran, N. S. Krishnan and M. K. Radha. He was one of the very few actors who excelled as a villain, as well as in character roles and comic roles.

Being Part of various drama troupes, his career in films started with 'Madurai Original Boys' drama company which had several talented youngsters who created history in Tamil cinema.  Balaiah played first lead role in Mohini paired opposite Madhuri Devi, where he played an elder brother to V. N. Janaki and supporting role by M.G.R .  Among his villain roles, Ambikapathy, Andhaman Kaithi, Madurai Veeran, Thaikkupin Tharam, Hello Mister Zamindar and Thiruvilaiyadal were critically acclaimed. Balaiah also excelled in comedy roles in movies such as Kavalai Illaadha Manithan, Kadhalikka Neramillai, Bama Vijayam and Thillana Mohanambal.

His son Raghu Balaiah, popularly  Junior Balaiah died of illness aged 70 today.  Junior Balaiah primarily featured in supporting roles throughout his 40 odd years career.

As you travel from Velachery MRTS via Kaiveli towards Madipakkam bus stand, there is an area known as ‘Balaiah Garden’ – understand that the actor owned hundreds of acre there – the area and some streets are named after him.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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