When TNM first contacted KC Unni on June 3, he whispered over the phone, “The Crime Branch is here to take my statements. You can come over to our house tomorrow.” It has been eight months, since his son and celebrity violinist, Balabhaskar passed away. From being seen as an unfortunate accident that claimed the life of Balabhaskar and his daughter, the entire incident has now become a huge mystery for the people of Kerala as more elements keep tumbling out each day. Life has changed for Unni and his wife, Shantakumari, ever since their son’s untimely death and things have become difficult with two gold smugglers known to Balabhaskar being questioned in the case of his death.
“When people tell us that our son still lives in this world through his music and that they still listen to it, they don’t understand how difficult and painful it is for us parents to listen to the music our late son,” Balabhaskar’s mother Shantakumari says as she walked into the living room of their house to give Unni his evening tea.
The 40-year-old singer-musician and his family were involved in a road accident at Pallipuram, near his hometown of Thiruvananthapuram, in September 2018. Balabhaskar, along with his wife Lekshmi and their two-year-old daughter Tejasvini, were on their way back from a temple trip in Thrissur when their car crashed into a tree. While they were rushed to a nearby hospital, Tejasvini, unfortunately, could not be saved. Balabhaskar passed away on October 2, 2018 after battling for his life in a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram for a week.
Crime Branch probe and gold smuggling
“I’m 100 percent sure that it was not merely an accident and that someone had purposely done something,” says Unni.
Post Balabhaskar’s death, his father, a retired postmaster had requested a Crime Branch Investigation into the accident. Earlier, when Lekshmi, Balabhaskar’s wife alleged that the former’s friend, Arjun was driving the car at the time of the accident, Arjun went on to deny this and said that Balabhaskar himself was driving the car when they met with the accident. These conflicting statements was the beginning of a series of incidents that would go on to open a can of worms.
A major twist occured in the case, when a man who was arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) from the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in May this year, for smuggling gold, revealed that he was a close associate of Balabhaskar. The arrested man, identified as Prakash Thampi, revealed during his interrogation that he used to organise events for Balabhaskar and was close to him. Following this revelation, Crime Branch, which was investigating Balabhaskar’s accident had taken Prakash into custody for questioning.
Unni admitted to TNM that Prakash used to work with Balabhaskar and that they have known each other for a fairly long time. “We have seen him along with Balu a few times. From what I know, Prakash has worked with Balu for almost 5 to 6 years. But even before that, they have known each other,” recalls Balabhaskar’s father.
Prakash Thampi and Balabhaskar. (Source: Facebook/ Prakash Thampi)
Reacting to Prakash’s arrest in a gold smuggling case, Unni says that he was not aware of this side of the man. “I’m sure even Balu would not have known that Prakash was into such illegal activities. But Balu’s accident case has nothing to do with the gold smuggling business of Prakash.”
‘It was an engineered accident’
Unni, who was lying down on a cot all this while, sat up to emphasise on the fact that his son’s death was a murder and not an accident.
“We think it’s a murder. The road, in which, the accident took place - it has no scope for an accident. Even if you say that the driver fell asleep while driving, the accident would not have happened the way it did.”
Following the arrest of Prakash Thampi, Soby George, a sound recordist at the Cochin Kalabhavan revealed that he had seen two unidentified men near the accident spot in mysterious circumstances, within minutes after the accident took place. He claimed that he saw one man running away while the other was attempting to push a bike near the accident site. Soby further claimed that he had immediately informed Prakash Thampi regarding the incident, as the latter was a close associate of Balabhaskar but Prakash allegedly did not show any interest or curiosity.
Unni said that Soby had informed Unni about this incident before he revealed this to the media. “I believe Soby. And I have said this before also. This is an engineered accident. And I want to find out the people behind this,” he said.
With great disappointment on his face, Unni alleges that there was a failure from the police during the early stages of their investigation.
“I’m not talking about the investigation alone. But I mean, when an accident takes place, the police have to follow certain basic procedures right? That was not followed.”
By stating that the initial procedure was not followed by the police, Unni also goes on to allege that the police also did not bother to check for forensic reports after the accident.
‘Balu never told us anything’
Balabhaskar’s parents say that they never got to interact with their son as much as they would have wanted to, after he got married to Lekshmi while he was still studying in college.
When all these revelations came out in the media, there were a lot of talk about Balabhaskar’s financial dealings. However, Unni and Shanthakumari say that they are not aware of this.
“He never used to speak to us about his personal matters. It appeared to us that he had nothing else in his life apart from music,” said his mother. Unni interrupts and adds with a sad smile, “Sometimes, I have even wondered if he knows how much he is earning.”
When news broke out that the arrested gold smuggler was associated with Balabhaskar, a post had been put up on Balabhaskar's Facebook page signed by Lekshmi. The post denied that her late husband had any links with the arrested person. She had said that Prakash was associated with Balabhaskar only for the coordination of a few programs, for which they were paid for and that they had no other further association. Later, a few media houses reported that Lekshmi had distanced herself from the statement and that she was not running the late singer's FB page.
When asked about Lekshmi’s denial, Unni responded by saying that even if his daughter-in-law had done that, it must have been because of fear. “She is already going through a difficult phase now. On top of that, she is scared whether the police and media will come after her regarding this. Maybe that’s why she denied it,” said Unni.
It’s just Unni and Shanthakumari in their house and they say that their life post their son’s death has been all about tackling the media and giving statements to the police.