Balasubramanya Iyer, affectionately called Balu, was an exceedingly handsome young man who broke many a heart while he was a medical student. We were thick pals right from school days when we used to go for movies much to the discomfiture of our parents. Most of the times, Balu bought me the tickets as I got meagre pocket money from my stingy father.
Balu never bothered about the quality of the movies he watched and preferred Sivaji Ganeshan and Gemini Ganeshan while I was looking for the beauty queen of yesteryears, T R Rajakumari. The movies were all in Tamil those days and very few Malayalam producers ventured into the film world for lack of funds. The Malayalam movies we watched together were Nirmala produced by artist P J Cherian and Sasidharan. Tamil or Malayalam, we enjoyed each and every movie as it was an “escape” from our homes!
Time passed and Balu graduated with a degree in medicine. He specialised in gynaecology and soon became popular among expectant mothers and anxious young husbands. They all made a beeline for Dr Balu who at that time was working in the CMC Hospital, Vellore.
Balu could never leave behind his old pastime of watching movies even at this stage of life as a busy surgeon. His beloved wife was advising him to cut down on the number of films he watching every other day. To make things worse there was a small theatre right in front of his residence.
After admitting the expectant mothers in hospital under the care of Dr Balu, the young husbands would naturally make anxious enquiries about the health of their wives. And the movie-goer which Balu was, had an uncanny technique of evading the enquiries. He had instructed his wife (a home maker) to answer the calls with a curt response—“the doctor is in the theatre”. The anxious callers would feel the duty-bound (which Balu certainly was) doc was busy in the OT and would be back in the ward within two hours!
And the doctor would be back in the ward after a good two hours after enjoying his Sivaji movie, attending his many patients and saving them from a possible surgery. And they never suspected the “theatre” aspect of the “sincere” surgeon and were very happy with him.
The “doctor in the theatre” is no more. He passed away two years ago after a massive cardiac arrest.
But I could never forget his “doctor in the theatre” technique which worked harmless with his scores of patients. Balu perhaps loved movies more than his patients.