Did Malayalam actor Kalabhavan Mani die of poisoning from beer?

Mar 08, 2016, 08:40 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

More questions have been raised after the hospital report stated that Kalabhavan Mani may have died from poisoning, although his manager insists he only drank beer

The sudden death of popular Malayalam film actor Kalabhavan Mani could result in more shockwaves — not only have the Kerala police registered a case of unnatural death on suspicion of poisoning, it’s possible there was foul play involved.

Also read: Thousands bid goodbye to Kalabhavan Mani, police probe death

The police intimation report from the hospital pointed out the possibility of poisoning
The police intimation report from the hospital pointed out the possibility of poisoning

Here are the facts: after the 45-year-old passed away on Sunday evening at Amrita Institute of Medical Science and Research Centre, Kochi, the hospital issued a police intimation report that said the lab reports had shown ‘suspicion of poisoning’. ACP (Ernakulam) Vijayan K V revealed that ‘methanol had been detected in the urine and blood samples’.

Also read: Kamal Haasan condoles Kalabhavan Mani's death

Close aides of the actor said he and his friends had consumed alcohol at his outhouse at Chalakudy in Thrissur on Friday evening. The next morning, he began to vomit blood and he was eventually admitted on Saturday evening. However, it is unclear how the toxic methanol entered his system, as the actor’s manger Shobi, informed the police that he would only consume beer. As experts confirmed to mid-day, methanol poisoning from beer is unheard of.

There are several other questions that need answering, such as why Mani was taken to the hospital so late and why the doctors delayed informing the police about the matter. The police intimation note — signed by clinical assistant professor Dr Ramakrishnan UK — states that Mani began to suffer the symptoms between 5 and 6 am on Saturday morning, but he was only brought to the hospital at 5 pm, nearly 12 hours later. He was conscious at the time but was bleeding internally and his blood pressure was falling. In the next few hours, he was put on ventilator support.

Poisoning incidents are medico-legal cases and have to be reported to the police, but the force was only informed about it a day after Mani had been admitted. “The local police had no clue about the actor’s admission to the hospital prior to receiving the hospital note. Subsequently, a police team visited the hospital to make further enquiries on Sunday. However, by then his condition had deteriorated. He was declared dead by 8 pm and his statement could not be recorded,” said ACP Vijayan.

Kochi city DCP (Law and Order) Arul RB Krishna said, “As the doctors could not certify the cause of death, and as the death was suspicious, the case was transferred to the Chalakudy police under the Thrissur (Rural) Police, who registered a case under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

On Monday morning, a team from the department of forensic medicine and toxicology of Thrissur Medical College conducted the autopsy but could not ascertain the cause of death. The viscera have now been sent to Kerala FSL at Kakkanad.

Also read: Popular Malayalam actor Kalabhavan Mani dead

“The forensic surgeons preserved the viscera for chemical analysis to rule out poisoning, though his liver was bad, indicating that he indeed had a liver ailment. We have formed special teams to carry out an in-depth probe,” said K Karthick, DCP, Thrissur (Rural) police, who also confirmed they had inspected the actor’s outhouse and recovered liquor bottles from there.

Remembering Kalabhavan Mani
Mani Raman adopted the stage name Kalabhavan Mani, after the Kalabhavan mimicry troupe with which he began his career. He began his film career playing an auto driver in the Malayalam film Aksharam.

Kalabhavan Mani

He has starred in over 200 films and won the National Film Award in 1999 for Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Njaanum. His mortal remains were laid to rest in his hometown, as politicians, celebrities and fans thronged to get a last glimpse of the actor.

Expert speak
Rukmini Krishnamurthy, former director of the Maharashtra forensic lab, said, “Beer usually does not have methanol content in it, unlike country liquor, in which spurious materials are added for an extra kick. Poisoning occurs only when methanol exceeds the lethal dose, which if found in beer, only raises suspicion.” Mumbai-based liver specialist Dr Geeta Billa said, “Methanol poisoning from beer is unheard of.” She added that Mani’s death could have been from a complication of his liver ailment.

Liver ailment
The actor was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis a few years ago and was undergoing treatment at Amrita hospital. Deputy SP K Sudarsanan, Thrissur (administration), said, “We have to record the statements of all the treating doctors and only then can we come to any conclusion.” Amrita Hospital’s medical director, Dr Prem Nair said it was a holiday and he couldn’t access the case files to answer mid-day’s query.

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