Award winning cinematographer and director, Balu Mahendra who has films such as ‘Azhiyatha Kolangal’, ‘Moontram Pirai’, ‘Veedu’, ‘Santhiya Ragam’ and ‘Vanna Vanna Pookal’ to his credit, died due to a heart attack in a Chennai hospital today. This 75 year old legendary filmmaker who has left a mark on the Indian film industry is survived by his wife and son.

 Thursday morning Mahendra was admitted to Vijaya hospital in Chennai after he reported of chest pain. According to one of his assistants at the hospitals, he was pronounced dead past 11 a.m.

This veteran director and cinematographer’s body will be kept at ‘Cinema Pattarai’, his film school in Dasarathapuram, Saligramam for his well-wishers and fans to pay homage.

The legend that Balu Mahendra was:

Mahendra was a native of Amirthakali in Sri Lanka who came to India to study at the Film Institute in Pune. He studied cinematography from the institute and finished the course with a gold medal in 1969. He got his first break as a cinematographer in the malyalam film ‘Nellu’directed by Ramu Kariat.His first directorial venture was ‘Kokila’ in Kannada and ‘Azhiyatha Kolangal’ was his first Tamil film.

“He has worked as a cinematographer for the first film of many outstanding directors. He was with Bharathan when he directed ‘Prayanam’. Again he joined hands with Manirathan for his first film ‘Pallavi Anupallavi’ in Kannada. Director Mahendran’s debut ‘Mullum Malarum’ had Balu Mahendra as the cinematographer,” said Suka, film director and Balu Mahendra’s student.

Balu Mahendra used to say it was Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ that made a permanent impact on him. “The impact was terrific and I could not concentrate on anything for days. It was as if I was possessed by a ghost,” he used to say.

Mahendra had a unique style of cinematography- making use of ambient lights as much as possible and it became the trademark style of Tamil Cinema in the 80’s. ‘Moondram Pirai’ (1983) got him his first National awards as a director. It also fetched Kamal Haasan his first National Award for acting.

Balu Mahendra was not just a director or a cinematographer; he was a great teacher, whose students went on to acquire praise for their work as well. His students include directors Bala, Seenu Ramasamy and Vetrimaran. He was an avid reader who always encouraged his students to read about one’s culture through literature.

Balu Mahendra has left his mark not just on the entire film industry but on the hearts of many who loved and admired his work. His work and talent will never be forgotten.