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Balu Mahendra - Indian Cinema's Influential Filmmaker (Obituary)

Prolific filmmaker Balu Mahendra was a craftsman who narrated emotional dramas with minimum characters and effective visuals for over three decades, won five National Awards and influenced a whole generation of filmmakers with his work.

"He had a knack of letting his visuals speak several emotions. His visuals could create more impact than any lines and words in a film," Veteran filmmaker K Vishwanath, who roped in Balu as a cinematographer for Sankarabharanam, told IANS.

Balu died following a heart attack at a private hospital here on Thursday, leaving behind a visually rich filmography and an era of realistic cinema. He was 74. He is survived by his wife and son.

Born in a Sri Lankan Tamil Christian family as Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran, his passion for images started at a young age. He plunged into the world of films as a cinematographer and went on to become one of the finest filmmaker, screenwriter and editor known for his distinct style of visual storytelling.

After completing his schooling in Sri Lanka, Mahendra enrolled into a cinematography course at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. In 1974, he started his career as a cinematographer in award winning Malayalam film Nellu.

His work as a cinematographer will also be remembered in films such as Sankarabharanam, Prayanam and Mullum Malarum. In 1977, Balu called the shots for his directorial debut Kokila (Kannada), which featured Kamal Hassan and Mohan in the lead roles. A runaway success, the film cemented the auteur's career as a director.

But it was National Award winning Tamil film Moondram Pirai, later remade as Sadma in Hindi, that catapulted Mahendra as one of the influential filmmakers of the country. The film's story was inspired by Balu's own relationship with late actress Shoba, whom he married for a brief time before she committed suicide. IANS

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