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Top 25 Tamil Directors: Director Balu Mahendra 

Director Balu Mahendra

Director Balu Mahendra

Balu Mahendra, (Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran) was born in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka on 20 May 1939. He happens to be one of the foremost directors from the Chennai Film Industry who revived Tamil Cinema. Balu Mahendra was a Sri Lankan Tamil by birth & was passionate about photography ever since his father gifted him a camera.

During his school days he got an opportunity to watch David Lean’s ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai’ on a field trip from his school, by which he was impressed. Thus a passion for direction started budding in him. Having completed his honors degree from London University, he enrolled himself in a cinematography course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Although his heart laid in Direction, he was forced to opt for Cinematography. Yet he managed to pass out with a gold medal from the institute.

Ramu Kariat’s “Nellu” (Malayalam-1974) was Balu Mahendra’s first film as a cinematographer. Initially when he started working for the film, his co-workers made fun of him with sarcastic comments, and to their astonishment Balu Mahendra gave his best shot winning the “Best Cinematographer award” from the Government of Kerala. Since then he happened to be the best Cinematographer for various Indian Films. Balu Mahendra was known for his innovative camera style (for color) in South India. He continued to work as a cameraman for 21 films till 1976. The directors (Malayalam) with whom he worked during the period were K. S. Sethumadhavan, Bharathan and P. N. Menon.

His first directorial venture happened to be in the year 1977 being a Kannada film “Kokila”. This film earned him the National Award for Best Cinematography (Black & White). Surprisingly this was the first Kannada film for having crossed 150 days in Madras.

Mahendra takes the sole responsibility of writing scripts and handling the cameras for his films. He also does the editing work all by himself. Thus he retains a firm hold on the creative output. When it comes to music Mahendra holds on to Ilayaraja in almost all his films. Mahendra has the habit of attending all the composing sessions even if he works as a cinematographer for a film. In one such composition he happened to meet Ilayaraja who was working as an assistant to G.K.Venkatesh & M.S.Vishwanathan. Ilayaraja and Mahendra happened to be good friends from then onwards. Balu Mahendra wanted to cast Ilayaraja as the composer right from his first film, but unfortunately it did not happen. Later from his third venture “Moodupani”, Ilayaraja happened to be the composer for all his films till date.

Balu Mahendra as a Cinematographer:

Nellu (1974), Chuvanna Sandyakal (1975), Prayanam (1975), Ponni (1976), Tharam Marindi (1977), Ulkatal (1978), Lambadolla Ramadasu (1978), Mullum Malarum (1978), Sommokadidhi Sokokadidhi (1979), Sankarabharanam (1980), Seethakoka Chiluka (1981), Manavoori Pandavulu (1978), Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983)

Balu Mahendra as a Director:

Kokila (1977-Kannada), Azhiyadha Kolangal (1979-Tamil), Moodupani (1980-Tamil), Olangal (1982- Malayalam), Nireekshana (1982-Telugu), Moondram Pirai (1982-Tamil), Oomakkuyil (1983-Malayalam), Sadma (1983-Hindi), Neengal Kettavai (1984-Tamil)Un Kannil Neer Vazhindal (1985-Tamil), Yathra (1985-Malayalam), Rettai Vaal Kuruvi (1987-Tamil), Veedu (1988-Tamil), Sandhya Raagam (1989-Tamil), Vanna Vanna Pookkal (1992-Tamil), Marupadiyum (1993-Tamil), Sathi Leelavathi (1995- Tamil), Aur Ek Prem Kahani (1996-Hindi) remake of Kokila, Raman Abdullah (1997-Tamil), Julie Ganapathi(2003-Tamil),  Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam(2005-Tamil), Thalaimuraigal (2013-Tamil) Filming.

Awards and Honours:

National Film Awards

National Film Award for Best Cinematography for Kokila (1978)

National Film Award for Best Cinematography for Moondram Pirai (1983)

National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil for Veedu (1988)

National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare for Sandhya Raagam (1990)

National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil for Vanna Vanna Pookkal (1992)

Balu Mahendra’s movies have not clicked the box office of late.

Let us wish him success for his upcoming films.

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