K Ravindranathan Nair hates the word charity, he likes “corporate social responsibility” better. And his hometown Kollam bears enough evidence of the 75-year-old cashew baron’s philanthropy.
So this town, 65 km north of Thiruvananthapuram, has the Quilon Public Library and Research Centre — the biggest library of south India with 38,000 members and over 1 lakh books — which Nair built using the profits of his Malayalam film Achhani in 1979.
Whether it is film promotion, a charity drive, a library, or health awareness campaign, Nair, who is also the maternal uncle of the late biscuit baron Rajan Pillai, is always leading from the front.
His Vijayalakshmi Cashew Company, a Rs 600-crore business, has never witnessed labour unrest. The employees see in him a friend, a guide and a father figure. Everyday at his house there is a steady flow of visitors. And from the muthalali’s durbar nobody goes unhappy.
“In any profession you need some ethics and principles. If you hold on to them it will be a smooth run. Benefits should percolate down to all,” he said. “Since I have wealth, it is my duty to help others. It gives me immense pleasure to share.”
Writer and artist MV Devan, who designed the Quilon library, said: “He’s the man who really imbibed Gandhiji’s trusteeship theory in letter and spirit. People like Ravi give us some hope.”
Nair has also been known as a “patron of good cinema.” He has produced most of the award-winning movies of directors Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishan. Kanchana Sita, Kummatty, Elipathayam, Anantharam and Vidheyan are some of the 14 films produced by his General Pictures.
“It (films) was my passion since childhood. I really cherish the moments I shared with some of the best directors and actors.”
But when his films got national and global recognition, Nair stayed away from the limelight. “He is committed to good cinema. Unlike the present-day producers, he never went after returns,” said Jnanpeeth laureate MT Vasudeven Nair.