Sivakumaran Raman Biography & Facts
Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran (19 May 1939 – 13 February 2014), commonly known as Balu Mahendra, was a Sri Lankan-born Indian cinematographer, director, screenwriter and film editor who worked predominantly in Tamil cinema. Widely regarded as an auteur, Mahendra usually scripted and edited his films apart from shooting them. He was the recipient of six National Film Awards (including two for Best Cinematography), five Filmfare Awards South and several state government awards.
Mahendran developed a passion for photography and literature at a young age. After witnessing the shoot of David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) during a school trip in Sri Lanka, he was drawn towards filmmaking. He graduated from London University and started his career as a draughtsman with the Sri Lankan Government. In 1966, he moved to India and gained admission to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to pursue a course in motion picture photography. Upon completion of his diploma, he entered Malayalam cinema as a cinematographer in the early 1970s.
After working in over 20 films as a cinematographer, Mahendra made his directorial debut in 1977 with the Kannada film Kokila. Since then, he directed over 20 films in a span of 36 years. Along with Bharathiraja and Mahendran, he is regarded as a trendsetter in Tamil cinema. During the tail end of his career, he established a film school in Chennai, which offers courses in cinematography, direction and acting. Following a brief phase of poor health, Mahendra died of cardiac arrest in February 2014.
Mahendra was born on 19 May 1939 into a Eelam Tamil family in the village Amirthakali near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Born to a professor father, he did his schooling at Methodist Central College and St. Michael's College National School. As a teenager, he was drawn towards films by his class teacher. It was during this time he happened to see Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Battleship Potemkin (1925). 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 (shot in Sri Lanka) during a school field trip. Inspired by Lean's personality, Mahendra determined to become a film-maker.
Right from his childhood, Mahendra was interested in fine arts and literature. Upon completion of school, he joined the London University and graduated with a bachelor's degree (honours) in science. After his graduation, he returned to Sri Lanka and worked in Colombo as a draughtsman in the survey department for a brief period during which he edited a Tamil literary magazine titled Thyen Aruvi. In Colombo, he worked as an amateur drama artist with Radio Ceylon and got acquainted with the Sinhala theatre groups.Mahendra's passion for cinema prompted him to leave for India and join the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1966. He had to take up cinematography as he could not gain admissions to other disciplines. At the institute he was exposed to world cinema as he got an opportunity to watch films made by François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, both associated with the French New Wave movement. In 1969, Mahendra graduated from the institute with a gold medal.
Debut as cinematographer
As a fresh graduate from the FTII, Mahendra's early attempts to enter Sri Lankan Tamil cinema were unsuccessful. He got his first break as a cinematographer in 1971 in the Malayalam film Nellu. Ramu Kariat, the director of Nellu, was impressed by A View from the Fort, Mahendra's diploma film at the FTII. Though the filming of Nellu began in 1971, production delays postponed its release for three years. Meanwhile, Kariat signed up Mahendra for another film titled Maaya which released in 1972. However, P. N. Menon's Panimudakku (1972) got released before Maaya, thus becoming Mahendra's first release. He continued to work in Malayalam films such as Sasthram Jayichu Manushyan Thottu (1973), Kaliyugam (1973) and Chattakari (1974).Nellu, shot in colour, won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Cinematography after it was released in 1974. Mahendra had continued successes with films such as Prayanam (1975) and Chuvanna Sandhyakal (1975), both fetching the state award for best photography 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 directorial debut with Kokila. Made in Kannada, the film was a "triangular love story". In addition to a Best Screenplay award from the Karnataka government, Mahendra won his first National Film Award for Best Cinematography for the film. The film was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. It was equally successful in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu and has the distinction of being the only Kannada film to complete 150 days in Madras (now Chennai) as of 2014.
Entry into Tamil films
Despite being a Tamil, it was not until 1978 he worked in a Tamil film when he signed up as the cinematographer for Mahendran's directorial debut Mullum Malarum (1978). Apart from handling the cinematography, Mahendra involved himself in other aspects such as screenwriting, casting, editing and direction in the film. After completing Mullum Malarum, Mahendra decided to work on his second directorial venture, this time in Tamil. He named the film Azhiyadha Kolangal (1979), which according to him was "partly autobiographical". Inspired from the 1971 American film Summer of '42, Azhiyadha Kolangal was a coming-of-age film that dealt with the story of three adolescent boys who are in the awakening of sexuality. Although it was controversial for its theme, it was a box-office success. During this time he did the cinematography of K. Vishwanath's Telugu film Sankarabharanam (1979) which turned out to be a major critical and commercial success.Mahendra's third film as director Moodu Pani (1980) was loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho. Moodu Pani saw Mahendra collaborating with Ilaiyaraaja for the first time; Ilaiyaraaja was Mahendra's regular composer since then. In 1982, Mahendra made Moondram Pirai which had Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead. The film told the story of a school teacher who looks after a girl suffering from amnesia. It had a 300-day run in the theatres and was labelled a "blockbuster". The film fetched two National Film Awards including an award for cinematography for Mahendra. The same year he made Olangal (1982) which marked his directorial 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.In 1983, Mahendra entered Hindi cinema with Sadma, a remake of Moondram Pirai, with Kamal Hasan and Sridevi reprising their roles. Mahendra received a Filmfare nomination for Best Story and became a well-known director with the Hindi audience with the film. The.... Discover the Sivakumaran Raman popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Sivakumaran Raman books.