Iconic Director Mahendran Dies At 79, Tamil Film Industry Pays Tribute

Mahendran made his directorial debut with the 1978 film 'Mullum Malarum', featuring Rajinikanth in the lead.

CHENNAI — Veteran filmmaker J Mahendran, known for infusing realism in Tamil cinema and for giving superstar Rajinikanth his career breakthrough with Mullum Malarum, died here on Tuesday at the age of 79.

The filmmaker passed away after a brief illness at his residence, 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.

His last rites will be held on later in the day at his suburban residence.

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, 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).

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 here.

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.

Many from the Tamil film industry paid homage to the director.

Filmmaker AR Murugadoss said: