Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran , commonly known as Balu Mahendra, was a cinematographer, director, screenwriter and film editor, who worked in various Indian film industries, primarily in Tamil cinema. Born into a Sri Lankan Tamil household, Mahendra developed a passion towards photography and literature at a young age. He was drawn towards filmmaking after witnessing the shoot of David Leans The Bridge on the River Kwai in Sri Lanka. A graduate of the London University, he started his career as a draughtsman before gaining an admission to the Film and Television Institute of India to pursue a course in cinematography. Mahendra entered films as a cinematographer in the early 1970s and gradually rose to becoming a filmmaker by the end of the decade.
Mahendra was born in 1939 into a Sri Lankan Tamil family in the village Amirthakali near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Born to a professor father, he did his schooling at Methodist Central College and St. Michaels College, Batticaloa. As a teenager, he was drawn towards films by his class teacher. It was during this time he happened to see Bicycle Thieves and Battleship Potemkin . When he was at the sixth grade, he got an opportunity to witness the making of David Leans The Bridge on the River Kwai during a school field trip. Inspired by Leans personality, Mahendra determined to become a filmmaker.