Renowned film director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra, who died on Thursday, had a close connection with the Kannada film industry.

He made his directorial debut in 1977 with Kannada film Kokila . He worked as cinematographer for Mani Rathnam’s debut film Pallavi Anu Pallavi in 1983.

Kokila, a black and white film starring Kamal Hassan, Shobha, Roja Ramani and Mohan, got the National Award for best cinematography and the Karnataka State award for best screenplay. Kokila was remade in Hindi as Aur Ek Prem Kahani by Mr. Mahendra in 1996. Theatre artiste Mohan rose to stardom through Kokila. He was recognised as ‘Kokila’ Mohan following the film’s success. Mr. Mohan, while speaking to presspersons here recently, recalled his first meeting with Mr. Mahendra. “Balu sir spotted me when I was rehearsing for a play. He was in search of a new face for his debut film. He asked me to get in touch with him after growing a beard. Subsequently, I was given the role of Kamal Hassan’s friend in Kokila . It turned out to be a significant moment in my life,” he said.

The late G.V. Shivanand assisted Mr. Mahendra and wrote the dialogues for Kokila . Umesh Kulkarni, who edited Kokila, said, “Mr. Mahendra shot a few sequences at Hotel Parag, one of his favourite spots in Bangalore. Similarly, a huge rock in Cubbon Park was a favourite. He shot the rock in various angles and used it in the film. Never did he compromise with quality.”

Mr. Mahendra had turned down the offer to direct Malaya Maruta. He also had plans to direct a documentary on Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary, but this project could not be realised, Mr. Kulkarni said.

‘Kokila’, directed by him in 1977, won National and State awards