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Chennai: Acclaimed filmmaker K Balachander, who brought in a new wave of filmmaking in Tamil cinema with bold themes and mentored talented actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Sridevi, died here on Tuesday.

The 84-year-old Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, who carved out a niche for himself on the national stage with memorable films like 'Arangetram', 'Aval Oru Thodarkadhai', Rajini and Haasan-starrer 'Apoorva Raagangal', 'Avargal', 'Ek Duje Ke Liye' and 'Aaina', died of heart attack following a brief illness.

Popularly known as KB, Kailasam Balachander broke away from the staple Tamil films of that time in the early '70s by championing bold themes and the cause of women and downtrodden in his films and was a trend-setter.

He often courted controversies, the early one of which was portrayal of a Brahmin girl as a prostitute that shook the community to which he belonged.

Hailed as "Iyakunar Sigaram" (peak among directors), Balachander stood out for experimenting with new faces like Saritha, Sujatha, Mohan, Prakash Raj, comedian Vivek and character artiste Nazar. A tough taskmaster, he brought out the best from his actors.

Balachander, who was hospitalised following age related ailments on December 3, breathed his last at 7.02 pm today, hospital authorities said.

"He suffered a heart attack by 6.45 pm and he succumbed to it. His infection too had intensified. Though the fever was under control there was little that we could do given his age," a hospital spokesperson said.

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