Balu Mahendra in 2013
|Born||Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran
20 May 1939
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
|Died||13 February 2014
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Other names||Mahendra, Balu|
|Occupation||Cinematographer, film director, writer, producer, film editor|
Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran (20 May 1939 – 13 February 2014), commonly known as Balu Mahendra, was a Sri Lankan cinematographer, filmmaker, screenwriter and editor. Born into a Sri Lankan Tamil household, Mahendra developed a passion for photography at a tender age. He was drawn towards film-making after witnessing the shoot of David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai in Sri Lanka. Hailed as one of the greatest cinematographers in Indian cinema, he worked as a cameraman for about 20 films before making his debut as a director. He is widely regarded as part of the first in a wave of directors and screenwriters who re-vitalised Tamil cinema.
An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Mahendra started his career as a cinematographer in the early 1970s and gradually rose to becoming a film-maker at the end of the decade. Since his directional debut Kokila, he made over 20 films in all South Indian languages apart from two in Hindi. Mahendra had directed 22 feature films and won five National Film Awards—two for cinematography, three Filmfare Awards South apart from a few state awards from the governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Widely regarded as an auteur, Mahendra wrote the script for his films, handled the camera and edited the film himself apart from directing.
Mahendra was born in 1939 into a Sri Lankan Tamil family in a village called Amirthakali near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Born to a professor father, he did his schooling at St. Michael's College, Batticaloa. While in the school, he was largely drawn towards films by his class teacher. It was during this time, he got an opportunity to watch Bicycle Thieves and Battleship Potemkin through a 16 mm projector arranged by the teacher. When he was at the sixth grade, he got an opportunity to witness the making of David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai during a school field trip in Sri Lanka. Inspired by Lean's personality, Mahendra determined to become a film-maker.
Right from his childhood, he was more interested in literature and arts. Upon completion of his school, Mahendra joined the London University and completed a Bachelor of science (honours) degree. Mahendra worked in Colombo for a brief period of time during which he started a Tamil literary magazine titled Thyen Aruvi. During his stay in Colombo, he worked as an amateur drama artist with Radio Ceylon and involved himself with the Sinhala theatre groups. Apart from literature, his passion towards cinema prompted him to leave for India and join the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1966. As he could not gain admissions to other disciplines, he ended up studying cinematography. At the institute he was exposed to World cinema and got the opportunity to watch the films of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, both associated with the French New Wave movement. In 1969, he passed out the institute with a gold medal.
Debut as cinematographer
After passing out from the Film and Television Institute of India, Mahendra made an attempt to enter Tamil cinema which proved to be unsuccessful. He got his first break in films when he was approached by Malayalam film director Ramu Kariat for the latter's film Nellu in 1971. Kariat was impressed with Mahendra after watching his diploma film at the institute. Though the filming of Nellu began in 1971, the production was delayed which made the film release only after three years. In the meanwhile, Kariat signed up Mahendra for another film titled Maaya which released in 1972. However, P. N. Menon's Panimudakku got release before Maaya thus becoming Mahendra's first release. He continued to work in films such as Sasthram Jayichu Manushyan Thottu, Kaliyugam and Chattakari. Nellu, shot in colour, won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Cinematography when it was released in 1974. He had continued successes with films such as Prayanam and Chuvanna Sandhyakkal fetching the award to him for the second consecutive time. Between 1971 and 1976, he worked in about 20 films—mostly in Malayalam—as a cinematographer. The following year he made his directional debut through Kokila, a Kannada film, which secured his first National Film Award for Best Cinematography Award. The film was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful and went on to win further accolades such as the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Screenplay. The film has the distinction of being the only Kannada film to complete 150 days in Madras.
Entry into Tamil films
Despite being a Tamil, it was not until 1978 he worked in a Tamil film; he was approached by J. Mahendran to shoot his directional debut Mullum Malarum (1978). Apart from handling the cinematography, Mahendra also supervised script-writing, casting, editing and direction in the film. After completing Mullum Malarum, Mahendra decided to work on his second directional venture, this time in Tamil. He named the film Azhiyadha Kolangal (1979), which according to him was "partly autobiographical".
His third film Moodu Pani released in 1980 was loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho. Moodu Pani saw Mahendra collaborating with Ilaiyaraaja for the first time; the duo went on to work together till the last film of the former. After the death of Shobha, Mahendra made Moondram Pirai which had Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead. The film dealt with the story of a school teacher who looks after a girl suffering from amnesia. The film ran for more than 300 days in the theatres and was labelled a "blockuster". The film secured two National Film Awards which includes an award for cinematography. The same year he made Olangal (1982) which marked his directional debut in Malayalam. Inspired from Erich Segal's novel Man, Woman and Child, the film was a critical success. At the end of the year, Mahendra won two Filmfare trophies for directing Olangal and Moondram Pirai.
The following year, he made his first Hindi film Sadma, a remake of Moondram Pirai with Kamal Hasan and Sridevi reprising their roles. He received a Filmfare nomination for Best Story and became a well-known director with the Hindi audience with the film. In 1982, Mani Ratnam approached Mahendra to work on the cinematography of his debut film, Pallavi Anu Pallavi. In 1996, he made his second Hindi film Aur Ek Prem Kahani which was a remake of his Kannada film Kokila.
Raman Abdullah released in 1997 deals with a friendship between two friends belonging to different religions. The film received negative reviews and failed at the box-office. The film's shoot became the epicentre of a dispute that arose between the Tamil Film Producers Council and Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI). It was reported that members of FEFSI had stopped the filming of Raman Abdullah as Mahendra was engaging outside cast members in the film. This led FEFSI to go for an indefinite strike which affected to the delaying of several Tamil films. Following a five-year break, he returned with Julie Ganapathi (2003). The film was based on the psychological thriller novel Misery by Stephen King. According to Mahendra, Julie Ganapathi was made on the lines of his earlier film Moondram Pirai. A review from Rediff.com stated, "Balu Mahendra has kept the flag of sensible cinema within the commercial format once again in his latest offering Julie Ganapathy" and rated the film as one of the best thrillers ever made. Inspite of being a critical success, the film turned out to be a commercial failure.
For his next film Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam, he decided to cast Dhanush in the lead role. Initially he stated that the film to be an extension of his 1979 film Azhiyatha Kolangal. However, he ended up in a different story. The film was loosely based on his own Malayalam film Yathra released in 1985. When asked about the difference between the two films, he said "Yatra was the love story of two adults, this is the love story of two adolescents." Shobha Warrier of Rediff.com wrote that the film was "extremely disappointing". After a brief hiatus, he made a comeback through Thalaimuraigal, a film which also marked his acting debut. Apart from acting, he also directed, edited and photographed the film. The film was shot with Canon 5D DSLR, essentially a still camera. The film was about the relationship between an ageing man and his grandson. The film received positive response while Mahendra's acting was well acclaimed. Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu stated, "If Mahendra's aim was to make a film that can compete on a global level, Thalaimuraigal is a concrete step in that direction." The film failed at the box-office.
Marriages and relationships
Mahendra had three wives; he was first married to Akileshwari with whom he had a son. His relationship with actress Shoba ended in 1980 after she committed suicide following their marriage. Upon her death, reports suggested it was not a suicide and a case was filed against Mahendra stating that he should be sent back to Sri Lanka. However, the court dismissed the appeal stating that, he has made significant contributions to Tamil cinema and Tamil Nadu. Following that, Mahendra wrote a series of "sentimental musings" in the Tamil magazine Kumudam under the title Shobavum Naanum (Shoba and me). Their relationship was later explored in the 1983 Malayalam film Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback. In 1998, he married another actress Mounika and declared their marriage publicly in 2004.
Following a cardiac arrest on 13 February 2014, Balu Mahendra was admitted to Vijaya Hospital in Chennai where he was declared dead after six hours. Shortly after the news of his death, members of the Indian film industry posted their condolences in Twitter and Facebook. The Tamil film fraternity mourned the death and payed homage at his "film school" in Saligramam, Chennai, and decided not to work on the following day as a sign of respect to Mahendra. The last rites of Mahendra were performed at Porur crematorium on the same day.
Mahendra was equally praised for his cinematography and directional finesse. Described by the media as "one of the finest cinematographers of Indian cinema", he was among the first to pioneer innovative colour in South India. Subrata Mitra, the cinematographer of Satyajit Ray, presented a viewfinder to Mahendra acknowledging his talent. Lauded for his use of "natural lighting", he was considered to be "one of the few filmmakers in Tamil who believes in telling a story visually". Kamal Haasan described that he was one of the few directors who balanced between art and popular cinema. As a film-maker, he inspired contemporary actors and film-makers such as Mani Ratnam, Kamal Haasan and Sripriya, He has mentored next generation film-makers including Bala, Ameer, Vetrimaaran, Ram and Seenu Ramasamy. Cinematographers like Madhu Ambat, Santosh Sivan, Ravi K. Chandran, Natarajan Subramaniam, K. V. Anand have taken inspirations from him.
Awards and nominations
|1974||Kerala State Film Award||Best Cinematography (Colour)||Nellu||Won|
|1975||Kerala State Film Award||Best Cinematography (black-and-white)||Prayanam, Chuvanna Sandhyakkal (Black-and-white)||Won|
|1977||National Film Awards||Best Cinematography (Black-and-white)||Kokila||Won|
|Karnataka State Film Awards||Best Screenplay||Won|
|1978||Nandi Awards||Best Cinematographer||Manavoori Pandavulu||Won|
|1982||National Film Awards||Best Cinematography (Colour)||Moondram Pirai||Won|
|Filmfare Awards South||Best Director (Tamil)||Won|
|Best Director (Malayalam)||Olangal||Won|
|1983||Filmfare Awards||Best Story||Sadma||Nominated|
|1986||Nandi Awards||Best Cinematography||Nireekshana||Won|
|1987||National Film Awards||Best Feature Film in Tamil||Veedu||Won|
|1989||National Film Awards||Best Film on Family Welfare||Sandhya Raagam||Won|
|1991||National Film Awards||Best Feature Film in Tamil||Vanna Vanna Pookkal||Won|
- Kokila (1977; Kannada film)
- Azhiyadha Kolangal (1979)
- Moodupani (1980)
- Moondram Pirai (1982)
- Olangal (1982; Malayalam film)
- Oomakkuyil (1983; Malayalam film)
- Sadma (1983; Hindi film)
- Neengal Kettavai (1984)
- Un Kannil Neer Vazhindal (1985)
- Yathra (1985; Malayalam film)
- Nireekshana (1982; Telugu film)
- Rettai Vaal Kuruvi (1987)
- Veedu (1988)
- Sandhya Raagam (1989)
- Vanna Vanna Pookkal (1992)
- Marupadiyum (1993)
- Sathi Leelavathi (1993)
- Aur Ek Prem Kahani (1996; Hindi film)
- Raman Abdullah (1997)
- Julie Ganapathi (2003)
- Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam (2005)
- Thalaimuraigal (2013)
As cinematographer only
- Panimudakku (1972; Malayalam film)
- Maaya (1972; Malayalam film)
- Sasthram Jayichu Manushyan Thottu (1973; Malayalam film)
- Kaliyugam (1973; Malayalam film)
- Nellu (1974; Malayalam film)
- Raajahamsam (1974; Malayalam film)
- Chattakari (1974; Malayalam film)
- Jeevikkan Marannu Poya Sthree (1974; Malayalam film)
- Makkal (1974; Malayalam film)
- Raagam (1975; Malayalam film)
- Prayanam (1975; Malayalam film)
- Tourist Bungalow (1975; Malayalam film)
- Chuvanna Sandyakal (1975; Malayalam film)
- Cheenavala (1975; Malayalam film)
- Missi (1976; Malayalam film)
- Ponni (1976; Malayalam film)
- Chennaaya Valarthiya Kutty (1976; Malayalam film)
- Tharam Marindi (1977; Telugu film)
- Ulkatal (1979; Malayalam film)
- Lambadolla Ramadasu (1978; Telugu film)
- Mullum Malarum (1978; Tamil film)
- Manavoori Pandavulu (1978; Telugu film)
- Sommokadidhi Sokokadidhi (1979; Telugu film)
- Sankarabharanam (1980; Telugu film)
- Kaliyuga Ravanasurudu (1980; Telugu film)
- Seethakoka Chiluka (1981; Telugu film)
- Echil Iravugal (1982; Tamil film)
- Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983; Kannada film)
- Urangatha Ninaivugal (1983; Tamil film)
- "Sadma director Balu Mahendra dies at 74". The Hindustan Times. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- S.R. Ashok Kumar (24 February 2007). "Filmmaker Balu Mahendra to start film institute". The Hindu (Chennai). Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Rangan, Baradwaj (14 February 2014). "Naturalism was his signature". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Tamil cinema's auteur Balu Mahendra dead". Business Standard. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Prasad, Shiva (20 May 2013). "Balu Mahendra turns a year older!". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- Raghu, Sunita (17 September 2013). "I genuinely feel I can act: Balu Mahendra". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Celluloid exploration of Tamil-Sri Lankan bond". The Hindu. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (26 June 1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. p. 141. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- K.S, Sivakumaran (21 March 2012). "Indian Tamil Cinema: Balu Mahendra". Daily News. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "சினிமாவும் நானும்...." (in Tamil). filmmakerbalumahendra.blogspot.in. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Balu Mahendra: True to the spirit of '60s,'70s, his stories were simple and visuals evocative". The Indian Express. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Cinematography has changed, so also the way films are made". Frontline. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Dey, Ajoy Kumar; Society, Indian Film (1982*). IFSON, special issue, Filmotsav, '82. Federation of Film Societies of India. p. 45. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "Balu Mahendra was also a literary figure". Ceylon Today. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- B. Kolappan; Karthik Subramanian (13 February 2014). "Veteran filmmaker Balu Mahendra passes away". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "True to the spirit of ’60s,’70s, his stories were simple, camera reflective and visuals evocative". The Indian Express. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "Kamal Haasan: “Balu Mahendra and I shared a very close relationship”". Desimartini.com. HT Media. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
- N Venkateswaran (14 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra, who made his visuals speak, dies at 74". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Viswanath, Chandrakanth (14 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra — a Deft Director Who Wielded Candid Camera". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Balu Mahendra: The method, the madness". Rediff.com. 7 January 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "The Best Films of Balu Mahendra". Rediff.com. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- Kolappan, B.; Subramanian, Karthik (13 February 2014). "Veteran filmmaker Balu Mahendra passes away". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- Mahendra, Balu (21 April 2013). "முள்ளும் மலரும் படத்தில் நான்" (in Tamil). Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Warrier, Shobha (18 August 2003). "Sex and teenage fantasies". Rediff.com. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Ajith Kumar, P.K. (26 August 2010). "A life in cinema". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "The Music Messiah' arrives for connoisseurs". The Hindu. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Kolappan, B. (14 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra passes away". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Ajith Kumar, P.K. (15 February 2014). "A fascinating journey in filmdom". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
- Reed 1984, pp. 234–235.
- "Sadma Director Balu Mahendra Dead". Outlook. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : Balu Mahendra to start film institute". The Hindu. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- "Kokila was Balu’s first as director". The Hindu. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Madras film strike: Producers demand their pound of flesh". Rediff.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Warrier, Shobha (4 March 2003). "Julie Ganapathy was a big risk". Rediff.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- "Julie Ganapathy". Rediff.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Warrier, Shobha. "Sex and teenage fantasies". Rediff.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- "Athu Oru Kana Kaalam disappoints". Rediff.com. 8 November 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- "The Best Films of Balu Mahendra: Thalaimuraigal (2013)". Rediff.com. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "'Thalaimuraigal' Review Roundup: Balu Mahendra's Film Gets Positive Response". International Business Times. 22 December 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- Suganth, M (27 December 2013). "Thalaimuraigal". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Saraswathi, S (23 December 2013). "Review: Thalaimuraigal is brilliant". Rediff.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Rangarajan, Malathi (21 December 2013). "Thalaimuraigal: For generations to come". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Mathai, Kamini (14 February 2014). "To Balu sir with love". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "Silk Route". Mint. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Joy, Prathibha (13 February 2014). "Veteran director Balu Mahendra no more". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Shankar (14 February 2014). "கணவர் பாலு மகேந்திரா உடலைப் பார்க்க மௌனிகாவுக்கு 'ஒருவழியாக' அனுமதி" (in Tamil). Oneindia.in. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "Veteran director Balu Mahendra dead!". 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "Balu Mahendra: Indian filmmaker dead". BBC News. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "Celebrities mourn legendary Balu Mahendra's death". The Hindustan Times. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Seshagiri, Sangeetha (14 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra Cremated: Suriya, Vijay, Kamal and Other Film Personalities Paid Last Respects to Acclaimed Director". Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "Farewell, Balu". Oman Tribune. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Krishnan, Rukmini (18 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra: A legend that lives on". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "Style meets substance". The Hindu. 28 January 2006. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- Haasan, Kamal (14 February 2014). "Kamal Haasan's tribute to Balu Mahendra". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Sampath, Janani (15 January 2014). "Eighties Flavour Keen to Leave Imprint". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "ബാലു ഛായാഗ്രാഹകര്ക്ക് മേല്വിലാസം നല്കി -മധു അമ്പാട്ട്". Mathrubhumi (in Malayalam). 14 February 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "Awesome Few". Frontline. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- "Cinematographer who said no to Kamal five times". Behindwoods.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Cineswami (13 February 2014). "The legacy of Balu Mahendra". India Webportal Private Limited. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Venkateswaran, N (14 February 2014). "Balu Mahendra, who made his visuals speak, dies at 74". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- "State Film Awards 1969 – 2011". Department of Information and Public Relations (Kerala). Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- "Balu Mahendra Is No More". cinejosh.com. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- "The Nominations – 1983". Indiatimes. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- "Balu Mahendra: Camera". Malayalam Music Movie Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- Garga, Bhagwan Das (1996). So many cinemas: the motion picture in India. Eminence Designs. p. 292. ISBN 978-81-900602-1-9.
- "Director Balu Mahendra passes away". Telugucinema.com. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- Ramachandran, T.M. (1982). Film World 19. p. 96.
- "Urangatha Ninaivugal". Upperstall.com. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- Reed, Sir Stanley (1984). The Times of India Directory and Year Book Including Who's who. The Times Group.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Balu Mahendra.|