Millennium Post

J Mahendran: A legend who redefined Tamil cinema

Chennai: It was Mahendran who truly ushered in a new era in Tamil cinema, infusing realism and taking the audience connect quotient several notches higher that resulted in a whole new experience for film goers.

Screenwriter, film director, critic and playwright, he wore many hats in his life and sharp dialogues flowed from his pen like "Romba kettavan sir intha Kaali," (by Rajinikanth) in Mullum Malarum (1978) which was his directorial debut.

The 79-year old veteran director passed away here following a brief illness.

Born as Alexander in 1939 at Ilayankudi in Tamil Nadu, he assumed the name of Mahendran later in his life.

He began writing plays in the early 1960's. The 1966 film "Naam Moovar," was his story and he went on to write many more for several other movies.

Mahendran had also been a film critic in a Tamil magazine.

One example of his craft was seen in the 1974 blockbuster 'Thanga Padhakkam', essayed by top star Sivaji Ganesan, where he does not utter a single word after the death of his wife, which was something new for audiences used to hyperbole in Tamil cinema.

"That is the way he started his brand of cinema. Truly, he redefined Tamil cinema," Mahendran's long time associate and film maker G Dhananjayan told PTI and cited the scene from the 1974 movie.

Story, screenplay and dialogues for Thanga Padhakkam was written by Mahendran and it was directed by P Madhavan.

An understatement of emotive ambience, consequences, and body language of the characters did all the talking.

Shining light on myriad human emotions always does not need the crutch of words was Mahendran's mantra in an era when the filmdom heavily depended on catchy lines and lengthy dialogues.

No wonder then that top star Rajinikanth said "Mahendran sir taught me a new phenomenon in acting. After watching 'Mullum Malarum', director K Balachander wrote to me saying he was proud to have launched my film career."

"It was Mahendran sir who showed another Rajinikanth in me," the actor said.

Heaping praise on his mentor, the top actor, after paying homage and placing a wreath on Mahendran's body here said: "His death is a huge loss for the Tamil film world. He will have a placed etched for himself for all time to come in the realm of cinema."

Whether in cinema or in his personal life Mahendran never compromised on his self-respect and he was a model to up and coming film makers, Rajinikanth said.

Mahendran's 'Mullum Malarum' launched Rajinikanth on a new pedestal of acting and their partnership resulted in memorable movies like Johnny (1980) and Kai Kodukkum Kai (1984).

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