An ace cinematographer-cum filmmaker, Balu Mahendra is credited with introducing a new style of story narration through his camera by blending natural light with his character’s expressions.
The style became a hit with his audience who instantly connected with the plot of some of his gripping tales like ‘Veedu’ and ‘Moondram Pirai‘ (‘Sadma’ in Hindi) and helped the 75-year old filmmaker, who passed away today, to carve a niche for himself in south cinema.
Balu Mahendra leaves behind a rich legacy of films that will be cherished and discussed for long for both the treatment of the plot and the technical finesse. His trademark cap and thick moustache, displaying masterclass all over, Mahendra, an avid photographer, made his cinema entry as a cinematographer for Malayalam movie ‘Nellu’.
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He infused a sense of calmness in his films, with the pioneering use of natural light and dealt with subjects of day-to-day affairs that appealed to the masses.
The story of a mentally unstable girl (Sridevi) and her relationship with a small town hero Kamal Haasan in ‘Moondram Pirai’ left many a viewer choked with emotions while the plot set in the picturesque Ooty provided the perfect backdrop.
The Haasan-Mahendra duo also came up with a comic caper years later, when the director sensitively dealt with adultery in ‘Sathi Leelavathi,’ counted as one of the best Tamil films in the humour genre.
‘Veedu’ (Home), apparently inspired from his mother’s personal difficulties in building a house, earned him critical acclaim and a national award for the film.
His last film, ‘Thalaimuraigal’ was released recently, with the plot revolving around the relationship between an old man, played by himself, and his grandson.
The film received rave reviews, especially for Mahendra who had made probably his one and only on-screen appearance.
Tinseltown condoled the death of Mahendra with musician A R Rahman paying rich tributes hailing him as an ‘inspiring visual poet’. “Dear Balu Mahendra Sir Thank you for being an inspiring visual poet, for directing such life changing Tamil movies… You have certainly been an inspiring stepping stone of creativity for many others who came later… May God bless your soul!,” the Oscar-winning musician said in a tweet.
Director Venkat Prabu, actors Radhika Sarathkumar, Jeyam Ravi and Simbu were among those who condoled Mahendra’s death.