CHENNAI: Veteran director-producer-script-writer Panchu Arunachalam passed away on Tuesday morning following a cardiac arrest. He was 76. He has written scripts for about 100 films, including Apoorva Sagodharargal, Dharmathin Thalaivan, Murattu Kaalai, Manithan and Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri. Most Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth-starrers for which he penned stories were hits. He introduced music director Ilaiyaraaja to Tamil cinema through his film Annakkili.
Born on June 18 in Sirukoodalpatti near Karaikudi, Panchu was the nephew of acclaimed lyricist Kannadasan. He worked with Kannadasan for many years. It was he who re-invented the format of commercial Tamil cinema with a tinge of realism, when MGR and Sivaji Ganesan films dominated the box-office.
Not many know that he is also a lyricist — he penned over 150 songs for films like Ullasa Paravaigal and Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai. Panchu’s PA Arts was one of the leading production houses in the ’70s and ’80s, and were behind many blockbusters. Though K Balachander launched Rajinikanth, Panchu moulded Superstar, and was responsible for taking his films to the masses.
Early this year, UTV’s G Dhananjayan made a documentary — A Creator with Midas Touch on Panchu Arunachalam. He said, “Panchu sir’s contribution to Tamil cinema was phenomenal as a writer and producer. He did more than Salim Javed, but was recognised less. He penned stories for 90 films, of which 70 were successful. My documentary covers everything about him.
“He holds the credit of shaping the careers of Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Khushbu, Goundamani and Vivekh. His film Veera with Rajinikanth collected `1 crore in Chengalpettu alone. We were supposed to release it by July. But both Rajinikanth and Ilaiyaraaja were busy then. We will release this month as a tribute to Panchu sir.”
Dhananjayan added, “He was a wonderful person, but a bad businessman. He never went after money or fame. He would worry about everyone except himself”
Panchu is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. His son Subbu Panchu is a well-known voice artiste and actor. Sources said the last rites would be performed once his son and daughter return from abroad.
Rajinikanth recently held a special screening of Kabali for Panchu, who was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award at SIIMA 2016 in Singapore.
Dance queen bids adieu
Yesteryear actor Jyothi Lakshmi, best known for dance numbers like Kokku Saiva Kokku from the Rajinikanth-starrer Muthu and Kaana Karunkuyile from Vikram’s Sethu, passed away here at 63. According to sources, she was diagonosed with blood cancer three months ago. She worked on over 300 Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam movies. A trained dancer, directors would rope in her for item numbers in the ’70s, penned especially for her. Films like the hugely-successful Nageswara Rao-starrer, Prem Nagar, made her what she was then. Though starting as a child artiste, she never had inhibitions doing only belly dance numbers. She also donned heroine roles and negative characters in some films, besides women-centric roles.
Jaya condoles death of film personalities
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday condoled the death of film director Panchu Arunachalam and actor Jyothi Lakshmi. In her condolence message, Jaya said that Jyothi Lakshmi had acted in more than 300 films in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. She also recalled that the actor had been a part of films like Adimaippen, Neerum Neruppum and Thedi Vandha Maappillai in which she too had acted. “Jyothi Lakshmi had carved out a niche for herself in the film industry of southern India. Her death is a big loss to the film industry,” she added. In her condolence message on Panchu Arunachalam, Jaya said Arunachalam had penned lyrics for more than 200 films including the MGR starrer Kalankarai Vilakkam and Avan Thaan Manithan in which she had acted. “Arunachalam was a simple, down-to-earth person. His demise is a big loss to Tamil film industry,” the Chief Minister added.