The ace filmmaker’s last film, ‘Thalaimuraigal’, won the award for national integration while his student Ram’s ‘Thanga Meengal’ won the best Tamil film award

Master filmmaker Balu Mahendra, who died recently, left his indelible mark on the 61 National Film Awards.

Not only did his last film, Thalaimuraigal, win the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, his student Ram’s second feature film, Thanga Meengal, was named the Best Tamil film. The movie also won the best child artist award for Sadhana and the best lyricist award for Na. Muthukumar.

An emotional Ram, in his interaction with the media, said he was overjoyed to receive the national award when his mentor Balu Mahendra’s film was also being recognised.

The director, who also acted in Thanga Meengal as a father separated from his daughter for the sake of a well-paying job, said the national award was further recognition for the film that had touched a chord with school-going children and their parents. He said he was already very touched with instances of several schoolchildren asking their parents to opt out of schools that demanded high fees.

It is the second national award for M. Sasikumar whose Company Productions produced Mr. Mahendra’s Thalaimuraigal. His previous award was for the film Pasanga that was named the best Tamil film.

Speaking about the Nargis Dutt award, Mr. Sasikumar said his only regret was that Mr. Mahendra was not alive to receive the award. “With this award, he has proved that true artists are truly beyond age. It is a matter of great pride for me that he made his acting debut in a film I produced,” he said.

Thalaimuraigal had several universal themes, said Mr. Sasikumar. “It is not just the story of a grandfather understanding his grandson. It also talks of the clash between two generations, the need for hospitals in rural areas, how real affection can overcome religion and so on. It was my privilege to produce the film. It was my way of giving back to Tamil cinema,” he said.

Mr. Muthukumar, who won the national award for Thanga Meengal, dedicated the award to his daughter, director Ram’s daughter and to Balu Mahendra, who was his mentor too. Referring to the song Anadha Yaazhai Meetugiraal, which proved to be one of the biggest hits last year, the lyricist said it was a rare song that spoke of the love a father has for his daughter.

V.J. Sabu Joseph who won the national award for editing for the film Vallinam said it was a great honour to win the prestigious award for just the third film of his career.

Thanking the crew and producers of the film, he said he had been vindicated for backing the vision of the film’s director, Arivazhagan Venkatachalam, in making an off-beat sports film, about a basketball player.

Child artist Sadhana, who won the national award for playing the dyslexic girl in Thanga Meengal, in an email message, thanked ‘Ram Appa’ and the crew of the film for the award.

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