Balan Palanisamy, the veteran executive behind Southeast Asia distribution powerhouse Suraya Filem, has died at the age of 64 following a battle with Covid-19, according to several people who worked with him.
Based in Malaysia, Palanisamy was a regular at film markets, attending every AFM, Mifed, Filmart, and Cannes since his company was founded 1983. Suraya Filem worked across Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia and more.
The company released numerous films per year, with notable recent titles from U.S. studios including A Long Walk to Freedom, Knives Out, and the upcoming Spiral, alongside big Asian pics such as Bad Genius from Thailand, Tamil title Aranmanai, and the Indonesian movies Ratu Ilmu Hitam and Pengabdi Setan.
According to distribution executive Yow Kong Tung, who heads up fellow Malaysian film outfit Golden Screen Cinema, Palanisamy clocked up the record grosses in Malaysia for titles from Thailand (Bad Genius), Indonesia (The Satan’s Slave), and Russia (The Spirit Of Evil).
“These three titles created cinematic history at the Malaysian box office,” said Yow Kong Tung, who worked with Palanisamy for more than 15 years, releasing a variety of the titles he acquired in Malaysian cinemas.
“He trusted us completely to do the marketing and distribution for him so that he can focus on his favorite past time, golf,” he added fondly. “I have lost a friend and a business associate and the industry have lost a colorful character.”
Further tributes have been made for the much liked Palanisamy, who was noted for his fondness of playing golf and eating seafood.
Sasha Manning, CM Holdings: “It was truly an honor to work with and learn from Mr. Balan. Not only was he fantastic at his job, but also extremely sincere and caring to all those who were in his life. I will deeply miss not having him at the end of the phone to give me his opinion, wisdom, and hear about his latest round of golf, an activity he thoroughly enjoyed.”
Jeffrey Greenstein, Millenium Media: “Balan was a serious man, who always had a smile on his face and yet, never took life too seriously. He’ll be missed.”
Deedee Pholthaweechai, GDH 559: “I’ve known Mr. Balan for over 16 years, and I am so grateful to have known him. He will forever be remembered as the intelligent, fun, and kindest person I knew. I am still saddened to think that I won’t have an opportunity to see him again. He was a friend to us all, and we will miss him dearly. Thank you for everything you had done for the film industry, thank you for your friendship, thank you for everything, Mr. Balan.”
Sunil Samtani, Rapi Films: “Balan will forever be missed not only in Malaysia but everywhere. He has always been a good partner and even a better friend to me. I would always remember his fondness for good scotch and seafood which he would always enjoy on his trip to Jakarta. Gone too soon, he is always generous and a wonderful soul. His laugh is contagious and his outlook to life is always positive. Rest in peace dear friend.”
Gope Samtani, Rapi Films: “Knew him for many years. Lovely gentleman. Loved wearing black specs. Always humorous. Used to meet him in film markets and Jakarta. Was always fun talking to him. Still cannot believe he is no more. May he rest in peace.”
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