Mediaperson Baiju Chandran goes back to the day when Prem Nazir passed away
That January 15, 25 years ago was a Sunday. I was at home, enjoying my weekly off. Around 5 p.m., a car came with a message from K. Kunhikrishnan, the then director, of Doordarshan Kendra: ‘Prem Nazir is critical. Prepare a story immediately’.
I was a news producer then. I couldn’t believe it because nearly a month ago he had participated in an advisory committee meeting of Doordarshan held at Kanakakkunnu.
We got down to work immediately. His last interview, scenes from important movies, visuals of songs, a few reels of his movie Dhwani, which was then playing in the theatres… all were copied to tapes.
A camera crew was sent to Chirayankeezhu where they captured visuals of his home and neighbourhood. But none of them there knew about his condition then. Meanwhile, we started working on the programme, that too without a script. All of us, including Devan and Krishnakumaran Thampi who worked with me in the programme, kept hoping and praying that we would not have to air this programme. After all, he was the favourite hero of our generation.
At 12 midnight, we got the agency flash, saying ‘Prem Nazir no more’. Just then, the teleprinter buzzed, ‘Nazir still critical…’. When we were about to leave for home by the early hours of the next day, we got the message confirming his demise.
Doordarshan aired a special bulletin at 7 a.m., which had visuals of his body being taken to his home at Chennai and bytes of prominent figures. It was through the bulletin that a majority of Malayalis came to know about his demise. It was followed by the 30-minute documentary that we had compiled.
Later I was given the responsibility of covering his last journey from the airport to VJT Hall where it was kept for the public to pay homage and from there to his home at Chirayankeezhu.
Many of those who came to pay their last respects had seen the documentary in the morning. Mammootty even asked us whether we had some inside information about his demise when we had made that documentary!
I have done many such programmes before and after. But that was an unforgettable day in my career. Yet another similar moment came two years later, again in the month of January, when P. Padmarajan passed away.
(The author is Assistant Director (Programmes), Doordarshan Kendra, Thiruvananthapuram)