Balu Mahendra is a film director from South India. He was born in Eealam of Eealam Tamil descent as Benjamin Mahendra in Mattakkalappu, and developed an early interest in photography. He is 65 years old
He graduated from the University of London, a cinematography graduate and a gold medalist from the FTII in Pune. He started his film career as a cameraman for the Malayalam film Nellu in 1974, which earned him the best cinematographer award from the Government of India. He has been chosen as the best cinematographer for as many as ten films. He pioneered innovative camera style for colour in South India.
His first film as a director was Kokila (Kannada,1976), which earned him a National Award. Azhiyatha Kolanagl (1979) was his first directorial venture in Tamil. He is one of the few film makers in Tamil who can tell a story visually. He writes the script for his films, handles the camera and edits the film himself, thus retaining a firm control over his creative output.
He worked mainly in Malayalam for directors like K. S. Sethumadhavan and P. N. Menon, before making his first film in Kannada, and then moving on to direct films in Malayalam and the Tamil language. He regards his Malayalam films, made with greater freedom in a less demanding economic system as his best movies.
He made his first Hindi Film Sadma,which is a remake of his own Tamil film Moondram Pirai with Kamal Hasan and Sridevi. This film is supposed to be one of the finest films made by him. The film superbly captures the emotions involved in the relationship between the two main characters. He made another Hindi film, Aur Ek Prem Kahani which was about the love affair between a young man and his maid told in a realistic and simple manner.
The film director Mani Ratnam approached Mahendra to work on the cinematography of his first Kannada film, Pallavi Anu Pallavi. It has been reported that he almost refused to work with Ratnam whom he perceived as a novice at that time. He has since been quoted as admiring Ratnam for his 'infectious enthusiasm'.He never hesitated to work with Ratnam when Ratnam approached him. Instead he agreed to do the film enthusiastically when Ratnam met him and narrated the story to him.
Mahendra's strength as a cinematographer has helped him use visuals as an effective vehicle to carry the story forward.he has revolunised cinematography in tamil cinema, He has handled social issues like red tapism, corruption and old age in films like Sandhya Raagam. The women in his films come out strongly as can be seen in Veedu (Tamilzh).