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A tribute to Balu Mahendra

The legend that was Balu Mahendra

Feb 13, 2014
Balu Mahendra, born as Balanathan Benjamin Mahendra in 1939 in Sri Lanka, left behind an army of his fans and disciples in deep sorrow when he chose to reside with the Almighty this morning.
A career spanning more than four decades in the creative industry in different portfolios as cinematographer, editor, director and finally an actor in Thalaimuraigal, Balu Mahendra created a new lexicon for film making.
Drawn into the world of celluloid with a casual viewing of David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, Balu Mahendra pursued his passion and passed out of the Film Institute in Pune with a gold medal.
He started with a bang as a cinematographer in the Malayalam film Nellu and for the Tamil audience, he made his entry as cinematographer in Mahendran’s Mullum Malarum and from then on, it’s no looking back for this prolific creator.
He has worked in all the south Indian languages in different capacities and his directorial ventures were always a class apart that stood out for its unusual grammar and lighting style which he maintained till the end.
In a recent interview, the doyen had said “Good cinema is a tricky area. When a director who has absolute command of his craft narrates a story in a simple and honest manner, there is a possibility of good cinema”. He says ‘possible’ because, “A magic MUST happen to make it a good cinema”, he adds. And he remained a skillful magician who waved his wand and drowned his audience in a spellbinding magical experience through his films which were one of its kinds.
His maiden directorial outing in Tamil, Azhiyaadha Kolangal dealt with adolescents and gave a totally different viewing experience. And the immortal tracks of Raja in his films augment the feel even now after many many years. His liaison with the music maestro remains the most beautiful aspect of his films, transcending the time barrier. While Moodu Pani was a thriller of sorts, Moondram Pirai introduced the Tamil audience to a condition called amnesia and the audience witnessed a mind-blowing performance from Sridevi and Kamal Haasan.
Veedu very interestingly talked about the middle class aspirations to own a house and Sathi Leelavathi was a hilarious take on a man attempting to take few excursions from his marital life.
It was Balu Mahendra who discovered talents like Shoba, Archana and Chokkalinga Bagavathar and told the gen-next populace what it is all about to stay connected with your roots in his last film Thalaimuraigal. It was in this screening that the septuagenarian got highly emotional talking about Tamil language and its culture.
It would not have been enough if a creative genius such as Balu Mahendra got stopped just with him. And that’s why his Cinema Pattarai is churning out talents after talents in the form of Bala, Seenu Ramasamy, Ram, Vetri Maaran, Naa Muthukumar and many more.
To borrow few lines from his film
"கிழக்கினில் தினம்தோறும் கதிரானது!
மறைவதும் பின்பு உதிப்பதும் மரபானது!"
And the legend will continue to rise in his prodigy's works and remain immortal for ever!
Long live Balu Mahendra!

By Jyothsna Bhavanishankar 


A tribute to Balu Mahendra

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