Earlier this week, veteran Malayalam actor Balachandra Menon made news by appearing for the All India Bar Exam, to gain a professional degree in law. The actor, director and scriptwriter was spotted, waiting to attempt the 3 hour exam at the School of Legal Studies in Aluva, on Sunday, along with young candidates who had arrived to take the exam.
Now in his 60s, Menon, when asked why he sought to become an advocate, tells TNM that law was always a field which fascinated him.
"It's not a career switch or anything," he says with a laugh. "But if I hadn't entered the movies, I would have probably pursued a legal profession," he quickly adds.
The actor began his tryst with law in the mid 90s, when he enrolled for evening classes at a school in Thiruvananthapuram during the peak of his career.
The enrolment came a few years after films such as Vilambaram (1987) where he plays a goofy lawyer. A character never before seen in Malayalam cinema which usually tended to stereotype lawyers as serious, clever and emphatic young heroes. Menon wrote and directed the film which went on to rock the box office back then. After this, he made up his mind to study law, he says.
"I would go of shoots in the day and attend classes in the evening. On completing my course, I had a moot court in college (a practical exam for law) where you have to argue before a team of professors. I argued a divorce case and my professor was impressed with me," he says
Menon then took 20 years to write 24 papers for his LLB degree - an inevitable consequence of a successful film career. He wrote his final paper on Sunday (December 23, 2018) - a 3 hour open book objective exam in Kochi. On passing this, the actor will be able to appeal in court himself. Narrating how he went about preparing for this make or break test, Menon said that a 4 day crash course with a lawyer friend was all the studying he had done before taking the exam.
"It is a difficult paper. There are 100 questions in total and the cut off is 40. I hope to get the 40 marks and pass the test as there is no negative marking," he adds with a laugh. Another interesting experience, he said, was having to write the exam with candidates who were a few decades younger than him
"The girl who sat next to me on the bench was younger than my daughter," he adds.
Currently awaiting his results after attempting the exam, Menon says that he is excited as he has always cherished a distant dream of appearing in court for a social cause.
"I never thought it would be possible in this life time. But now it looks like it isn't too far," he says.