His real name is J. Alexander born in the year 1939 in Ilaiyangudi, Madras Presidency. His parents are Joseph Chelliah, a teacher and Manonmani. He completed his schooling at his native village and later took intermediate from American College, Madurai. He took degree in economics from Alagappa Government Arts College. He was active in theatre work during his college days. Once MGR was invited as the chief guest of college function, and Alexander openly criticized the commercial elements that existed in cinema. MGR was deeply impressed by his speech and commented that he can become a film critic in future. Though he joined law at Chennai, he discontinued studies due to financial troubles. Then he joined Inamuzhakkam, a periodical as a journalist.
He debut with Mullum Malarum in 1978 followed by Uthiri pookkal. Nenjathai Killathe is one of his finest works which won three National Film Awards. Mogam Muppadhu Varusham, Mullum Malarum, nandu, Nenjathai Killathe and Uthiripookkal are his best screenplay works. Uthiripookkal won him the first Filmfare awards in the year 1979 for best Tamil director. He has been most active in the industry during the 1970s and 1980s. He met MGR again during this time and gave him the work to write screenplay of Ponniyin Selvan. In 1966, he wrote his first screenplay, Naam Moovar followed by abaash Thambi, Nirakudam and Panakkara Pillai. Throughout his career Mahendra scripted 26 films. His second film theri in the year 2016. This film successful hit in the box office.
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