An actor's tryst with destiny

Adversities were his life companions. And M. R. Balachandran painfully knew that misfortunes waited for him at every turn. He had gradually reconciled himself to such a life when he was struck a debilitating blow; one that was too severe for him to take. This stage and screen actor now suffers from chronic renal failure demanding immediate renal transplantation.

For nearly 13 years Balachandran, 48, was a part of the Malayalam film industry. ``I was part of Paul Vengola's drama troupe for nearly three years during which time I got the chance to portray many characters including a double role. For a while I was also part of the Song and Drama Division. For a play `Swathanthryam Thanne Jeevitham' produced by them and directed by Soorya Krishnamurthy, I played seven historical characters. It was then that I got a call from P.G. Viswambaran for a role in his film `Ethile Eniyum Varu.' I played a customs officer in this Mammootty-starrer,'' says Balachandran, who hails from Kavasserry, near Palakkad.

This talented actor went to act in more than 25 Malayalam films that included many box-office hits like `Mazhavil Kavadi,' `Yodha,' `New Delhi,' `Ayushkalam,' and `Chambakulam Thachan.' He was closely associated with eminent film-makers like Joshy, Kamal, Sangeeth Sivan and K. Madhu.

The meagre remuneration he got from his acting stints and from his part-time job as a waiter was not enough to keep the wolf from the door. ``I had huge family responsibilities. I lost my father when I was hardly 15 and the burden shifted to my shoulders. I had to get my sisters married and this I did with what little I could save. In the meantime, I got married. That was when I got an opportunity to go to the Gulf.''

The first few years in Sharjah were a nightmare. ``Instead of a waiter's job I was asked to work as a labourer in a construction site. I started developing health problems. By this time I had managed to get a waiter's job. That was when I met with a road accident that brought my life to a standstill. The ribs close to the spine were crushed and the doctors wanted an immediate operation done. They then diagnosed that I was suffering from autosomal polycystic kidney disease. I could not afford the luxury of rest, did not have the money for regular medication. I decided to return home."

Back home Balachandran was put on dialysis and also underwent a back surgery. The doctors at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences have advised renal transplantation and medication for a year, which would cost something around Rs.3 lakhs. ``I am shattered. There were moments when I contemplated suicide. But I know I have to survive, at least for the sake of my three little daughters. My sister has agreed to be a donor but I do not know how to raise the money. I have knocked the doors of Malayalam actors who politely refused help. And AMMA said that no help could be given since I was not a member,'' says Balachandran.

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