Balu Mahendra is the personification of brilliance in creativity.His film making formula constitutes the trinity of narration, cinematography and aesthetics . As the title of one of his Malayalam films 'Olangal' suggests,his creative process is like a calm beautiful lake with periodical occurrence of ripples. It is human aberration or the negative dimension of the human psyche that causes the ripples. But how poignantly he depicts the wrong route of life's journey is the captivating score he makes as a distinct and uncommon film maker in as many as five Indian languages.
Almost half of his creative outputs were a legacy of human lapses or transgressions that complicate an otherwise peaceful and calm course of life of individuals and their families.These tales of aberrations have been told both in humorous and serious veins. This great maker of a rare variety of films started speaking aloud, about adolescent aberrations in his very first Tamil movie 'Azhiyatha Kolangal' dealing with a taboo breaking theme.The school going teenage boys' curiosity to know the hidden material facts on sex and their zest and competitiveness to reach a physical closeness with their class teacher Indhu created an aesthetic compass for the perception of budding youth in an unseen perspective.The boys who later grew up to responsible adulthood, joyously recalled their teenage vagaries. It was a movie fit for many a recalling session.
The other main thrust of Balu Mahendra, was on male temptations to cross the marital fence and revel in infidelity.He was both ridiculous and sober in portraying such characters indulging in casual breach of trust on the conjugal side.His films like 'Rettaivaal Kuruvi' and 'Sathi Leelavathi' were humorous expositions of extramarital relationships assiduously maintained by the erring husbands betraying their trusting wives.In the movies cited, Mohan and Ramesh Arvind created hilarious scenes by their shrewdly manipulated hide and seek games.But 'Marubadium' dealt with a similar theme with seriousness and a deep sense of sorrow reflected by the betrayed wife, beautifully portrayed by Revathi. This was the story of a film director with an infatuation for an actress that caused a lot of ripples in his family life throwing his wife into frequent moments of despair and depression.Even in a clean film like Moonraampirai,the director focused on the aberrations of an old, rich man's young wife [played by Silk Smitha]with her sex starved routine, longing for moments of physical intimacy with the young hero [Kamalahasan]. Marital infidelity seems to have been one of the chosen themes of Balu Mahendra.
Psychic disorders caused by family tragedies and accidents have also played a vital part in framing themes and scripts of this veteran director's movies. His 'Moodupani' pictured differently the diseased state of mind of the hero [effectively presented by Pratap Pothan] in taking revenge against call girls, owing to the negative impact of a bitter childhood, involving a prostitute who came in between his parents. Whereas 'Moonraampirai', showcased the predicament of a young woman laid up with amnesia caused by an accident. Balu Mahendra's other film 'Julie Ganapathi' portrayed a woman with an aggressive mindset resulting from a kind of hysteria and hallucination.Besides projecting the psychological helplessness of the protagonists, all the three films also duly highlighted the agony of those who came closer to the hero or heroine, undergoing the psychic stress. The nervousness of Shoba in the hands of Pratab Pothan in 'Moodupani', the pathetic climax of 'Moonraam Pirai' showing Kamalahasan struggling to bring back the events that took place during Sridevi's spell of amnesia and the restless moments of 'Jeyaram' with the trauma -framed Saritha were all wonderful revelations of how one's abnormal psychological condition disturbs others associated with them.
The other theme that Balu Mahendra has visited now and then is the influence of circumstances on the lives of innocent individuals towards transforming their routine from good to bad. Both his 'Yathra' [Malayalam] and 'Idhu Oru Kana Kaalam' describe how the peaceful life of the heroes is put to the unforeseen ordeal of committing a crime by a sudden turn of events.Responses to provocations most unexpectedly lead to an act of crime . A night spent in police custody and the later developments force Danush to attack a fellow prisoner for self defence,causing the death of that guy who was the source of provocation. In 'Yathra' Mammootty is arrested on grounds of suspicion and the subsequent events lead to the hero unwittingly killing a cop and is made to suffer life imprisonment.In both the cases, it is the shocking, unforeseen developments that make the life of the two individuals miserable.
Thus personal or circumstantial aberrations, have mostly influenced the creative voice of Balu Mahendra and made him speak of the sufferings of characters afflicted with the consequences of such deviations from the normal track of life.There were exceptions like 'Veedu' that realistically brought out the difficulties faced by middle class families in owning a house and 'Neengal Kettavai' which was an action -cum revenge film that is not his usual creative path.But even in the action genre, he proved his capacity to entertain through a conventional formula in a different way. Balu Mahendra has also come out with a police story using the talent of the Superstar,in his 'Un Kannil Neer Vazhindaal'.
Balu Mahendra is a maker of films without exaggerations of any kind.As he has admitted in one of his interviews,he has a preference for dark tinted actors [Archana and Saritha] and ruggedness in men noticed in his choice of actors like Banu Chandar,Thiagarajan,Rajinikanth and Danush. But beyond all this, he is talent hungry and his aesthetics of film making is of an exceptional nature with an obsession for showing the ugly as beautiful and enriching the beautiful with his creative imagination, generating a self made microscopic vision programme. His unruffled and refined presentation of films as an enjoyable art experience, has made him not only deserve many kinds of awards but also retain his position as one of the most challenging film makers in Indian cinema.