Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran was a filmmaker, screenwriter, editor and cinematographer who was born and brought up in Sri Lanka. Mahendra developed an early interest in photography, after his father bought him with a camera.
After completing an honours degree at London University, he enrolled himself in a cinematography course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. He passed out with a gold medal from the institute and started his film career as a cameraman for the Malayalam film 'Nellu' in 1971.
The film earned him the best cinematographer award from the Government of Kerala.
Making his directional debut in 1977 through the Kannada film Kokila, he went on to make over 20 films in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi. He is widely regarded as part of the first in a wave of directors and screenwriters from the Chennai film industry who revitalised Tamil cinema.
As of 2013, Mahendra has won five National Film Awards—two for cinematography, three Filmfare Awards South and numerous state awards from the governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Mahendra usually writes the script for his films, handles the camera and edits the film himself, thus retaining a firm control over his creative output.
Balu Mahendra directed Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the brilliant Hindi film, Sadma, for which he was nominated for Best Story.
National Film Awards
1978 – Best Cinematography (Black–and–white) for Kokila
1983 – Best Cinematography (colour) for Moondram Pirai
1988 – Best Feature Film in Tamil for Veedu
1990 – Best Film on Family Welfare for Sandhya Raagam
1992 – Best Feature Film in Tamil for Vanna Vanna Pookkal
Filmfare Awards South
1983 – Best Director – Tamil for Moondram Pirai
1983 – Best Director – Malayalam for Olangal
1988 – Best Director – Tamil for Veedu
Fans shared their shock and grief on Twitter:
RIP Balu Mahendra… One of the first true visionary directors from the South. Better known here for the heart breaking Sadma.
— Sanjay Gupta (@_SanjayGupta) February 13, 2014
RIP - An Outstanding Creator Director Balumahendra Sir..An Icon to all Passionate Filmmakers & Aspiring Cinematographers... Irreplaceable..
— ArunVijay (@arunvijayno1) February 13, 2014
Dear balumahendra sir. Thank you for enriching us with lovely movies.We Will always cherish your moments of creation. Thank you chief. RIP
— Prakash Raj (@prakashraaj) February 13, 2014
Sad to hear the Demise of Master of Innovative Camera Style ,Natural Lighting, maker of my favourite hindi film SADMA. Balu Mahendra, RIP .
— Madhur Bhandarkar (@mbhandarkar268) February 13, 2014