Prolific filmmaker Balu Mahendra, known for inspiring the audience with his visually uplifting films for over three decades, passed away following a heart attack here Thursday. He was 74.
Pathbreaking: Sridevi's portrayal in Sadma (1978) is one of her best performances ever. The actress plays a woman who loses her memory and has an intelligence of a 7-year-old.
Balu breathed his last at the Vijaya Hospital.
Born as Benjamin Mahendran on May 20, 1939, in Sri Lanka, Balu Mahendra had a fascination for photography since he was very young.
With a flair for capturing images, Balu started his career as a cinematographer and landed his big break in 1974 Malayalam film Nellu.
He went on to work as cinematographer in several award winning films such as Prayanam, Mullum Malarum and Sankarabharanam.
He also won two National Awards for cinematography.
In 1977, Balu wielded the megaphone for the Kannada romantic-drama Kokila, which was also written by him. The film won the Karnataka State Award for the best screenplay.
He directed films in all the four southern languages - Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu.
In the Tamil film world, Balu was regarded for Moondram Pirai, which he later directed in Hindi as Sadma with Kamal Haasan and Sridevi. His other Hindi directorial was Aur Ek Prem Kahani.
He directed one film each in Kannada and Telugu Kokila and Nireekshana, respectively.
His Malayalam directorial films include Olangal, which was later adapted to Hindi as Masoom by Shekhar Kapur, Oomakkuyil and Yathra.
As a director, Balu Mahendra pocketed three National Awards.
Balu Mahendra was one of the finest cinematographers of Indian cinema. Many years ago, Subrata Mitra, cinematographer of Satyajit Ray's films, presented a viewfinder to Balu Mahendra for his talent.
His legacy continues in Tamil cinema in the form of his pupils. Incidentally, most of his filmmaker students such as Bala Pazhanisaamy, Vetrimaaran, and Ameer Sultan had won the National Awards for their films.
Balu Mahendra's last Tamil directorial Thalaimuraigal was a befitting farewell to his illustrious career. The film was not a box office winner but was lauded by critics.
Balu Mahendra's unfulfilled wish was the archiving of Tamil films.
In a casual interaction with IANS during the premiere of his last film, he said: "So many rare Tamil films couldn't be restored. You can't make such films again. I wish to see that we take up archiving seriously and restore as many films as possible."