Kochi, April 23 (IANS) Navodaya Appachan, known as the biggest showman of the Malayalam film industry, died at a private hospital here Monday night after battling cancer for a long time. He was 81.
Officially known as M.C. Punnoose, he was often referred to as Navodaya Appachan.
He was battling prostate cancer for a few years. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.
Family sources said the body would be taken to his own studio, Navodaya, and from there it would be taken to Chennai Tuesday for the last rites to be performed on Wednesday.
A director, producer and a film enterpruner, Appachan changed the face of the Malayalam film industry by producing the first 3D film in the country 'My dear Kuttichathan' and also the first 70mm film 'Padayottam'.
He is also credited for directing the first cinemascope film in Malayalam. Incidentally he produced the first film of Mohanlal that was released, 'Manjil Virinja Pookal' in which he introduced Poornima Jayaram, now wife of Tamil film personality Bhagyaraj.
Very active till recently, Appachan was often seen in the state secretariat paying courtesy calls to top leaders irrespective of which party ruled the state.
A very strict disciplinarian, Appachan always used to be the first person to arrive in the shooting locations and is credited with giving breaks to superstar Mammootty in the early eighties.
He also introduced ace director Fazil into the Malayalam film industry.
He partnered with his brother Kunchako in the early part of his career at the Udaya Studio and later went on to launch the Navodaya studio here.
He also founded Kishkinta, India's first theme park, in Chennai.
President of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artiste and ace comedian Innocent said that Appachan breathed cinema till his last days.
'It's an irreparable loss to the film industry in the country in general and our industry in particular,' said Innocent.
Ace character artiste Jagadeesh recalled that Appachan was always willing to experiment and that was how he, a college lecturer, got his first chance to don the grease paint in the film 'My dear Kuttichathan'.
Acclaimed singer K.J. Yesudas said: 'It was his experience that he gained since his early days that kept him in good stead, and he was one of the pillars of the film industry here.'
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that the Malayalam film industry would be poorer with the passing away of this great personality.