Walking down the normally uncluttered Arunachalam Road on Saturday, it would have been a miracle if one had managed to avoid bumping into a cinematographer, director, associate, producer or a film personality of some sort.
Such was the crowd that arrived to pay their last respects to filmmaker Balu Mahendra, that the Saligramam Police had to shut down traffic off Arunachalam road - where Mahendra’s acting school ‘Cinema Pattarai’ is located.
“There were too many people and vehicles and most of them are VIPs it seems, so we thought it better to stop them 500 metres away and ask them to walk,” said a police official on duty.
As a result, Audis were parked on pavements where it is more common to see the odd TVS 50s or M80s.
Mahendra, who passed away on Thursday morning after a massive heart attack, had a huge legion of students and friends from the film fraternity - to which he devoted the last 4 decades of his life.
Though not uncommon, the sheer number of people who came back on Friday for the cremation and remained part of the procession after the funeral ran into thousands.
“As the unions have declared that no shooting will be done on Friday as a mark of respect to ayya (Mahendra), almost every single person connected to cinema was here,” said Malan, an associate who worked for Mahendra years ago.
The unions - notably the Tamil Film Directors Association and the Cinematographers Guild - had brought huge trucks decked with tribute posters to Mahendra.
The funeral began at 11 am and the procession moved to Porur, where he was laid to rest. It was almost 4 pm, before the crowd thinned.