Producer Navodaya Appachan passes away

Navodaya Appachan, a veteran film producer who redefined film-making in the Malayalam film industry by infusing modern technology and production techniques, died here on Monday. He was 88.

The end came in a hospital here around 6.40 p.m. Doctors at the hospital, where he was admitted on April 18, said the death occurred from age-related illnesses. Family members said the funeral would be held in Chennai on Wednesday. The body will be taken from the hospital to his residence at Kakkanad on Tuesday morning and will be kept at the Ernakulam Town Hall from 11 a.m.

M.C. Punnoouse, a.k.a. Appachan, born on February 6, 1924 in Alappuzha, learnt the basics of film production from his brother and renowned producer, Kunchako. Appachan, known after the production house he owns, had the farsightedness to reinvent filmmaking in the Malayalam film industry by introducing pioneering technology. He has many “firsts” to his credit.

3D visionary

Appachan was the visionary behind India's first 3D movie, My Dear Kuttichathan . His Padayottam , which was inspired by Alexander Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo , was South India's first 70-mm movie. Directed by his son Jijo, the movie broke all box-office records and ran to full houses for several months. Appachan had also directed Thacholi Ambu , the first cinemascope movie in Malayalam (his other directorial works include Kadathanattu Makkam and Mamankam ).

Recalling his memories of making some of the most popular movies in Malayalam film industry, Appachan had told The Hindu in an interview that his son Jijo was keen on making a 3D project and My Dear Kuttichathan later turned into a dream come true. “Jijo, who has always been interested in physics, wrote the story and in the days when graphics were yet to come, it was a great challenge to shoot one scene, of a room moving round. He got a local man to make a contraption and the whole thing was manually done,” he said.

An expert in reading the pulse of the movie buffs, Appachan had the courage to take risks when the Malayalam film industry was hesitant to experiment with new themes and technology. Sharing his experience of making Padayottam (1982), Appachan had said that the project was met with scepticism of many people. But it turned out to be a success.

Besides introducing state-of-the-art technology in Malayalam, Appachan also enjoyed the credit of moulding the careers of some of the best talent in the Malayalam film industry. The popular names include the directors Fazil, Sibi Malayil, Priyadarsan, T.K. Rajeevkumar and Jijo; the music directors Jerry Amaldev and Mohan Sithara; and the actors Mohanlal, Sankar, Poornima ( Manjil Virinja Pookkal ) and Baby Shalini ( Ente Mammattikuttiammayku ).

Appachan, winner of the J.C. Daniel award in 2010 for his overall contribution to the Malayalam film industry, shifted from movie production after Chanakyan in which the actor Kamal Hassan played the lead role. He ventured into the field of amusement parks and went on to set up “Kishkinta” in Chennai. But the passionate movie producer could never leave the industry and was getting active again with his studio work in Kakkanad before age-related illness affected his projects in the final days of his life. Appachan is survived by his wife, two sons, and two daughters.

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