Tamil filmmaker and screenwriter J Mahendran died in Chennai on Tuesday morning, days after he was hospitalised following complications after a dialysis session. His son, John Mahendran, confirmed the news on social media.
Mahendran has several classics to his credit, including the Rajinikanth-starrer Mullum Malarum (1978), Uthiripookkal (1979) and Nenjathai Killathe (1980). Critical of the over-the-top elements of commercial Tamil cinema, Mahendran wanted to make films that were understated and true to life. But before he became on of Tamil cinema’s most influential filmmakers, Mahendran was a screenwriter.
Born J Alexander in Ilayangudi in Tamil Nadu on July 25, 1939, Mahendran made his writing debut in 1966 with Jambulingam’s comedy Naam Moovar, which featured Jaishankar, Nagesh and Pandari Bai.
More writing projects followed in films including Jambulingam’s Sabash Thambi (1967), J Jayalalithaa-starrer Panakkara Pillai (1968) and P Madhavan’s Thangapathakkam (1974), starring Sivaji Ganesan, Cho Ramaswamy, KR Vijaya and Major Sundarrajan.
In later years, the filmmaker also appeared in front of the camera in numerous films. Mahendran made his acting debut in Kamaraj (2004), A Balakrishnan’s biopic of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Kamaraj. Mahendran played Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam politician K Rajaram in the film. In Atlee’s Theri (2016), the filmmaker appeared as a ruthless politician, who goes head-to-head with Vijay’s police officer to avenge his son’s death.
He was last seen in Karthik Subbaraj’s Rajinikanth-starrer Petta (2019), where he played a village strongman who is betrayed by his sons.