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The Best Films of Balu Mahendra

February 13, 2014 19:23 IST

Image: A scene from Kokila
S Saraswathi in Chennai

Balu Mahendra passed away into the ages on February 13. We look back at his best works.

Legendary filmmaker and ace cinematographer Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran was a five-time National Award winner and recipient of numerous state awards from the governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

He started his career as a cinematographer and is considered to be one of the few filmmakers in the industry who believes in telling a story visually. His penchant for shooting in natural light was also widely appreciated.

Known for writing his own script, handling the camera and editing, Balu Mahendra was well versed with every aspect of filmmaking. He has mentored several contemporary film directors like Bala and Ram.

Balu Mahendra has directed over 20 films and most of them have won awards and received rave reviews. Ilayaraja has composed the music for all his films since Moodu Pani in 1980.

We take a look at his best works.

Kokila (1977)

Balu Mahendra made his directorial debut with Kannada film, Kokila starring Kamal Haasan, Shobha, Roja Ramani and Mohan.

A triangular love story with a lot of comedy, the film was a huge success and became the first Kannada film to be screened for over 150 days in Madras.

Kokila was later was remade into Hindi as Aur Ek Prem Kahani by Mahendra himself in 1996. The film earned Balu Mahendra the Best Cinematography Award at the 25th National Film Awards.


Moodu Pani (1980)

Image: A scene from Moodu Pani

A psychological thriller inspired from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Balu Mahendra’s Moodu Pani (The Mist) is a film about a man's hatred for prostitutes.

This Tamil film featured Shobha and Prathap Pothan in the lead roles.

Music by Ilayaraja became a huge hit, especially the song Yen Iniya Pon Nilavae.

The film was not only a huge commercial success, but also received much critical acclaim.

Moondram Pirai (1982)

Image: A scene from Moondram Pirai

A huge blockbuster that ran for over 300 days, Moondram Pirai won Balu Mahendra another National Award for Best Cinematography.

The film also won Kamal Haasan a National Award for his brilliant portrayal of a compassionate man in a beautiful relationship with a childlike woman suffering from amnesia, played by Sridevi.

The film was dubbed in Telugu as Vasantha Kokila, and later remade in Hindi as Sadma.

Olangal (1982)

Image: A scene from Olangal

Balu Mahendra made his directorial debut in Malayalam with Olangal.

This critically acclaimed film, featuring Amol Palekar and Poornima, was inspired from the Erich Segal novel titled Man, Woman and Child.

A family drama with an unusual storyline, Olangal had some beautiful songs and excellent cinematography.

Veedu (1988)

Image: A scene from Veedu

One of Balu Mahendra’s finest works, Veedu -- starring Archana -- is a realistic portrayal of the struggles of a lower middle-class family trying to build their own house.

Archana is the sole bread-winner of the family, who takes on this enormous responsibility.

Besides directing, Balu Mahendra is also credited with writing the script, editing and handling the camera.

Veedu secured two National Film Awards, the award for Best Film in Tamil and the Best Actress Award.

Sandhya Raagam (1989)

Image: A scene from Sandhya Raagam

Sandhya Raagam (Tune of Twilight) won Balu Mahendra yet another National Award, this time for Best Film on Family Welfare.

The film deals with the emotional upheaval in the life of an 84-year-old, who is uprooted from his village after the death of his wife.

Balu Mahendra brilliantly highlights the hardship of a helpless old man, who has outlived his usefulness and is struggling to adapt to his new life in the city.

Vanna Vanna Pookkal (1992)

Image: A scene from Vanna Vanna Pookkal

Balu Mahendra’s Vanna Vanna Pookal is a poignant love story starring Prashanth, Mounica and Vinodhini.

The film won the National Film award for Best Film in Tamil at the 39th National Film awards.

Known for its melodious songs and spectacular visuals, the film was critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful.

Thalaimuraigal (2013)

Image: A scene from Thalaimuraigal

After more than four decades in the industry, Balu Mahendra added yet another feather to his already illustrious cap.

In Thalaimuraigal, the 74-year-old Balu Mahendra faced the camera for the first time and played the protagonist.

A heartwarming story that depicted the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and his grandson, the film opened to rave reviews.

This is also the first time that a film has been shot in the digital format with a still camera -- Balu Mahendra used the Canon 5D DSLR to shoot the entire film.