- The filmmaker died after a brief illness at his residence
- J Mahendran's last rites will be held on Tuesday evening in Chennai
- He began his career as a a screenplay writer
Veteran filmmaker J Mahendran, known for infusing realism in Tamil cinema and for giving superstar Rajinikanth his career breakthrough with Mullum Malarum, died in Chennai on Tuesday at the age of 79, report news agencies PTI and IANS. He had been critically ill and was undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospital for over a week, Mahendran's publicist told IANS. On Monday night, he was brought back home. "He died early this morning at his residence. He was brought home from the hospital last evening after being treated for a week. The cremation services will take place this evening," the publicist told IANS.
J Mahendran's last rites will be held on later in the day at his suburban residence. 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.
Born in 1939, Mahendran began his career as a scriptwriter and made his debut with the 1966 Tamil film Naam Moovar. He went on to write a few more films before taking the directorial plunge with the critically-acclaimed 1978 film Mullum Mallarum, featuring Rajinikanth in the lead. Later, Mahendran and Rajinikanth worked on films like Kaali and Johnny.
The director's popularity peaked with his movies Uthiri Pookkal (1979) and Nenjathai Killathey (1980). Uthiri Pookal, starring Vijayan, Ashwini and Madhu Malini, is still considered one of the best Tamil films to be made.
Mahendran had directed just 12 films in his illustrious career with Arvind Swamy starrer 2004 film Saasanam being his last.
In the past few years, Mahendran had switched to acting. He played pivotal parts in Kamaraj(2004), Petta opposite Rajinikanth and Vijay's Theri. He was last seen in Tamil film Boomerang, which released on March 8.
Mahendran was also the founding member of Blue Ocean Film and Television Academy in Chennai. Speaking to PTI, the filmmaker's long-time associate and 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 added.
Filmmakers such as A R Murugadoss, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan and Pa Ranjith mourned Mahendran's death. They took to Twitter to express their condolences. "It is deeply saddening to hear the demise of one of the pioneer filmmakers Mahendran sir. You and your films live forever in our hearts sir. Rest in peace," Murugadoss tweeted.
It is deeply saddening to hear the demise of one of the pioneer filmmaker #Mahendran sir. You and your films live forever in our hearts sir. Rest in peace.— A.R.Murugadoss (@ARMurugadoss) April 2, 2019
Cinematographer PC Sreeram wrote: "He spoke less and his films spoke more. To me his films were of great inspiration How can I forget the sleepless night I had after watching 'Uthiri Pookal May his soul rest on peace."
#Mahendran— pcsreeram (@pcsreeram) April 2, 2019
He spoke less and his films spoke more.
To me his films were of great inspiration
How can I forget the sleepless night I had after watching "uthripookal"
May his soul rest on peace.
"Prayers and Salute to one of the greatest film makers of our times, Mahendran sir," Lakshmy Ramakrishnan tweeted.
Prayers and Salute to one of the greatest film makers of our times , #Mahendran sir— Lakshmy Ramakrishnan (@LakshmyRamki) April 2, 2019
He is survived by son John who is also a film director.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)
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