Just when we thought that the spate of artiste-deaths which recently rocked Kerala has petered out, Malayalis woke up to yet another shocking news of death in Malayalam cinema. "Vettah" director Rajesh Pillai passed away at 11.45 am at private hospital at Kochi on Saturday.
With only four movies in his repertoire, this vibrant young director had already carved out a niche for himself in the Malayalam film industry with his second movie "Traffic" ushering in a new genre of fast-paced socio-thrillers.
Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan expressed his condolences on the director's unfortunate demise.
His latest movie "Vettah" starring Kunjacko Bobban, Manju Warrier and Indrajith hit the theatres on Friday. Manju had rushed to the PVS Hospital at Kochi in Ernakulam on Friday itself from the sets of her latest movie on hearing about the director's grave health condition.
The 41-year old director had to be hospitalized several times in the course of the “Vettah’ shooting and had contracted pneumonia while the movie was in the final sound mixing stage. This aggravated his already worsened liver condition with which he had been diagnosed earlier due to his reportedly poor eating habits.
Doctors had advised a liver transplant but his health condition was not conducive for the same.
In spite of the doctors’ advice to lose weight and go for a liver transplant, Rajesh preferred to wait till after "Vettah's" release. But, by then his health had deteriorated pretty badly. He was earlier hospitalized in Thiruvananthapuram and it was on his request that he was later shifted to the hospital in Kochi.
Rajesh had shot to fame with his second movie “Traffic’ released in 2011, which went on to become a blockbuster in Kerala and was remade into other South Indian languages too. Its Hindi remake was also directed by him.
His movie "Traffic" was considered a path-breaker in Malayalam cinema paving the way for a different genre of next generation movies. "Traffic" ushered in a fast-paced thriller trend with a differential treatment. "Mili" was another of his movies, which was female-oriented delving into the female mind with lot of sensitivity and empathy. His first movie "Hridayathil Sookshikyaan" somehow went unnoticed and it was only with his second directorial venture "Traffic" that he shot into the limelight.
He had also worked as an associate director with Viji Thampy and Rajeev Anchal.
Remya Nambeesan who acted in "Traffic" seemed utterly shocked at the news of the young director's sudden demise: "I cannot believe that he is no more. He did very few movies but with what dedication. While at work, he was completely oblivious to everything else including his health."
Director Kamal rued the loss of a great artist: "It has been an unexpected loss to Malayalam cinema. Recently he was subject to various health ailments all of which he overlooked in his passion for cinema. That is the biggest weakness of any great artist."
Actor Indrajith who plays a pivotal role in the just-released movie "Vettah" reminisced about Rajesh's total commitment to cinema: "His demise is a huge loss. We shared a good relationship. He was an individual who was deeply devoted to cinema. He had been ill for the past one year.During Vettah's shoot, he was really sick, yet not even once did the shooting suffer because he was that committed to seeing it through till its end. That was the kind of energy he brought in into the movie."