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Director who gave Rajini break dead

April 02, 2019 14:49 IST

'He brought realism into Tamil cinema.'

IMAGE: A scene from Mullum Malarum.

J Mahendra, known for infusing realism in Tamil cinema and for giving superstar Rajinikanth his career breakthrough with Mullum Malarum, died in Chennai on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. He was 79.

The film-maker passed away after a brief illness at his home, a source close to the family said.

He was in the hospital for about a week for kidney-related ailments and was discharged on Monday.

He is survived by son John, who is also a film director.


Mahendran was introduced to the world of cinema as a critic while working as a sub-editor in a Tamil magazine during his student days.

He started his journey in the movies as a screenplay writer and made his directorial debut with the 1978 film Mullum Malarum with Rajinikanth.

Later, Mahendran and Rajinikanth worked on films like Kaali and Johnny.

The director's popularity peaked with Uthiri Pookkal (1979) and Nenjathai Killathey (1980).

IMAGE: Mahendran in Kamaraj.

In recent years, Mahendran switched to acting.

He played pivotal parts in Kamaraj (2004), Vijay's Theri (2016) and this year's Petta, opposite Rajinikanth.

He was last seen in the Tamil film Boomerang, which released on March 8.

Mahendran was also the founding member of the Blue Ocean Film and Television Academy in Chennai.

Speaking to PTI, the film-maker's long-time associate, Producer G Dhananjayan, said Mahendra redefined the Tamil cinema at a time when it was dominated by the trend of delivering lengthy dialogues.

"He brought the touch of realism into Tamil cinema and it made people connect more to his movies. Mahendran is the forefather of realistic Tamil cinema," Dhananjayan said.

'It is deeply saddening to hear the demise of one of the pioneer filmmaker #Mahendran sir,' film-maker A R Murugadoss tweeted. 'You and your films live forever in our hearts sir. Rest in peace.'

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