J. Mahendran was an Indian filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor in the Tamil Film industry. He is regarded as the greatest filmmakers of Tamil Cinema. Starting his career as a screenwriter, he established himself as prominent filmmakers in Tamil film industry. He is known for infusing realism in Tamil cinema.
Mahendran was born on 25 July 1939 (age 79 years at the time of death) in Ilayangudi town of Tamil Nadu, India. He did his schooling in Ilayangudi and completed his intermediate in American College, Madurai. He did his B.A. in Economics from Alagappa Government Arts College, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. After completing his degree, he went to Madras to study law but discontinued due to the financial crisis. He went back to Ilayangud, and upon the insistence of Karaikudi Kannappa Valliappan, he joined a periodical named “Inamuzhakkam” as a journalist.
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family, Caste & Wife
He was born to Joseph Chelliah, who was a teacher and Manonmani. He got married to Jasmine Mahendran. He has a son named John Mahendran who is also a director. He has two daughters named Dimple and Anurita.
He started his career as a scriptwriter for the film “Naam Moovar” in 1966.
The film was a huge success and got him several offers. He has written dialogues for the classics like Thangappadhakkam (1974) and Aadu Puli Aatam (1977). He made his directorial debut with the movie “Mullum Malarum” in 1978.
He has directed in 12 films, Saasanam (2006) being the last when he took a break from Tamil cinema for almost a decade. He made his comeback in cinema as an actor and his debut movie as an actor was “Theri” in 2016.
He has acted in several big-ticket movies like Seethakaathi (2018), Nimir (2018), and Boomerang (2018).
- National Film Award for the Best Feature Film Tamil for the film “Nenjathai Killathe” in 1981
- Filmfare Awards South for the Best Director for the film “Uthiripookkal” in 1978
- Tamil Nadu State Film Awards for the film “Mullum Malarum” in 1978
- Lifetime Achievement Award at News 18’s Magudam Awards in 2018
- Actor: Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth
- Musician: Ilaiyaraaja
- Poet: Rabindranath Tagore
- Filmmakers: Satyajit Ray, B.N. Reddy
He died on 2 April 2019. He was critically ill and was admitted to Apollo Hospitals in Chennai. He was rushed to the ICU, a week before his death after his dialysis session.
- During his school days, Mahendran was very active in stage plays.
- M. G. Ramachandran (M.G.R), the veteran Indian actor and filmmaker and politician was invited to Mahendran’s college as a Chief Guest. Mahendran gave a speech that directly criticised the commercial element existing in the Tamil cinema. M.G.R was impressed with Mahendran’s speech and said that he could be a good critic.
- M.G.R met Mahendran again when he was working as a journalist in a periodical, and he asked Mahendran to make the screenplay of the historical novel “Ponniyin Selvan” for his film. However, the idea was delayed.
- Mahendran wrote a play titled “Anaadhaigal.” M.G.R decided to make the play into a film, and he named the film as “Vaazhve Vaa” in which, he acted alongside Savitri. The project got shelved after three days of shooting.
- M.G.R acted in a film called Kaanchi Thalaivan (1966), and he recommended Mahendran as an assistant director to the director of the movie.
- Ilaiyaraaja, the veteran music composer and Mahendran shared a great bond. They worked together in many films. Mahendran once said that he narrated his story first to him and then to the others and it was like a ritual. Ilaiyaraaja also suggested him a suitable title for the story after listening to it.
- Priyan, the noted Indian cinematographer once said that he approached the veteran director Mahendran to take him as his assistant director, which he never did. Casting Mahendran as an actor in his movie “Nimir (2018)” was his sweet revenge on him.
- He was also the founder of the Blue Ocean Film and Television Academy(BOFTA) in Chennai where he headed the filmmaking and direction course.
- Mahendran is credited for mentoring Rajnikanth during his initial days in the industry. During several occasions, Rajnikanth has credited Mahendran for his success.
- He has inspired many film directors including Mani Ratnam and Shankar.
- He was given Lifetime Achievement Award at News 18’s Magudam Awards, which he dedicated to Rajnikanth.
- Talking about Cinema, Mahendran once said,
It is a forced marriage for me, but even in that, I have to live my life. It has become an act of sex or like a prayer to me.”
- Mahendran claimed to be an average student, who always craved attention.
- Mahendran says that he used spent hours in the library reading Tamil and English literature.
- Back in his school days, he published a Tamil magazine for children titled “Ladoo.”
- He participated in almost all the elocution, essay writing, and drawing competitions.
- When he was in class VI, he wrote a play based on Pisiranthayar’s work and performed it as a mono act. It won him Tagore’s ‘Geetanjali‘ too.
- Recounting his journey in his autobiography “Cinemavum Naanum (TV program)” Mahendran says,
It is my anger towards Tamil films that motivated me to make films that are real, where people smiled and spoke normally. I made films for pleasure and not for commercial success.” He dislikes the term ‘trend’ and says that is just a gimmick of filmmakers.”
- Talking about his classic “Nenjaththai Killadhey (1981)” Mahendran recalls an incident when he looked out of his hotel window in Mumbai and saw women jogging, he said,
Her concern was just fitness. Would it be the same once she gets married? I wondered. That is how the screenplay took shape”
- He was introduced to good cinema through his uncle. He said that he watched two Hollywood movies and noticed that there were no loud dialogues or larger-than-action sequences. Later, he was introduced to Satyajit Ray and “Teen Kanya (1961)” through the veteran filmmaker B.N. Reddy, which turned to be an eye-opener for him.