Being Mani Ratnam

This man is a maestro for a reason.

The shots, the screenplays, the actors, the characters, the sequence, the leads, the  cinematography, the background chords, the songs, the story … Mani Ratnam ‘sir’ settles for nothing less than awesome. He is the man who revolutionized Tamil cinema and took it to the next level. He never shied away from portraying the facts that had to be conveyed. One can simply not resist falling in love with his works. Be it a classic love story or a national concern, he never fails to surprise his fans.

Pallavi Anupallavi

Pallavi Anupallavi marks his directorial debut. The plot is a little overdosed considering the time it got released (1983). But then, don`t we all know all that his films are well ahead of time. The story unfolds a love triangle between Vijay – a confused young man, Madu – his lady love and Anu – a divorcee. Well, for a first time director breaking stereotypes about marriage should have been a difficult task, but he sure handled it with grace.



Unaroo, a Malayalam film featuring the Malayalam super star Mohanlal. The film brings about the trade union problems that prevailed in Kerala during the 80`s. Immediately after the release of Pallavi Anupallavi, which won the Karnataka state awards, Mani sir started working on Divya (Mouna Ragam). Unaroo happened in between just like Pagal Nilavu and Idayakoyil. Ramu, the protagonist, joins a community who were currently fighting for their employment. They then form a union for themselves to voice their needs but end up selecting a leader who turns narcissistic. Though the movie is not his best, there are a few Mani Ratnam moments it like the scene where Mohanlal enacts the protest to the kids. This scene has an uncanny resemblance to the way Aadi (OK Kanmani) narrates his game to his boss. Well, yes because the man behind is none other than the legend himself.

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Pagal Nilavu

Divya would have replaced Pagal Nilavu, if only the producer had not insisted on an action-packed film. This story happened to be another traditional strike of the time. But, only Mani Ratnam`s signature can make even a cliche, interesting. It is a conventional story where the hero Selvam, (Murali) joins the local bigshot (Sathyaraj) and on the other hand there is this cop who has just moved in with his daughter and sister Jyothi (Revathy). Selvam falls in love with the Jyothi , while Jyothi`s brother despises Selvam`s boss.

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How can we not remember ‘Naan padum mouna raagam kekavilaya‘ or ‘Idayam oru koyil‘? Well, not many directors will risk a tragic ending (especially when it is his second movie in tamil) but Mani Ratnam is no ordinary director. The pain of  love and the loss of innocent is captured throughout the movie. Honestly, by far this is the most depressing romantic movie that I have seen.


Mouna Raagam

“Mr. Chadramouli, Mr. Chandramouli”. Finally, Mani Ratnam got to release his film ‘Divya’, which also happened to be his first commercial hit. In his interview with Rangan, he mentioned that the film was first named as Divya (the name of the lead character). Also, the initial plot did not contain Manohar`s part. The story was about a carefree girl, who did not want to settle for a conventional marriage. Considering the fact that it was the time many women longed a happily married life, the character of Manohar (Karthick) was introduced to add some substance to the story. This also happened to be the first film that united Mani Ratnam with his childhood friend P.C Sreeram.



The story is loosely based on a true life of Varadarajan Mudaliyar, an underground mob who ruled Mumbai for all most 2 decades. This movie like Mouna Raagam was written and directed by Mani Ratnam. The movie allied many members of the crew ‘Mouna Raagam’. The story like said is about a don Velu Nayakan (renamed) who witnessed his father’s death and later killed those in charge. He then escapes to Mumbai and the incidents that follows makes him a gangster or to be most accurate a Mafia Leader. He falls in love with a deprived school-girl-turned-prostitute and marries her. Velu`s son, determined to follow his father`s footsteps gets killed in attempt. Despised by this Velu`s daughter decides to leave the house. The dialogue ‘Neenga Nalavara ketavara ?’ , which has its own versions now was originated from this movie. The movie fetched its cast many awards like the best actor etc.. But for Nayagan, the man behind the screen and the script is its award.

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Agni Natchatiram

Though the industry has produced many half brother stories, this always remains to be a classic. The story revolves around two half-brothers who decide to handle every conflict between them by duelling but finally join hands when their father`s life is at stake. The depth and importance of family is the crux of the story. This movie happened to be a commercial blockbuster. No wonder.



After successive hits, Mani Ratnam made his detour and directed a Telugu film. Geetanjali in short is a 1989 TFIOS (The fault in our stars) with Mani Ratnam’s essence. Time and again aren`t we not reminded how advanced his thoughts were! The movie celebrates the sheer joy of life and the fact how we get to live it only once.  Before Geetanjali, he had in mind another script (for a Telugu film) which failed to hit the road.



Anjali is all about embracing childhood. Most of the scenes in the movie is from a child`s perspective. The movie is about a dying child and the emotional trauma experienced by her family. Anjali, a girl with special needs is reunited with her family after 2 years. Her siblings are first reluctant to accept her as their sister and later grow very fond of her. The scene where the whole colony is against having Anjali at the house and Prabhu (I really don`t remember his name) stands up aginst them is my personal favourite.



Thalapathy is my favourite among Rajinikanth’s films. The film demands and is worthy of all the praises one can give. The story is a contemporary remake of the epic ‘Mahabaratham’. The tale is about Surya (Karna) and his bond with Deva (Dhuriyodhana).  Karna is, as in the epic, the son of Surya bagavan. Therefore the character is given that name and there are various references to this element in the movie. The train route (the train in which Kalyani leaves Surya) was selected and shot in such a way that it looks like a river flowing. The movie is as such awesome, the cinematography and background score takes it to the next level.



It was time Rahman made it. The song ‘Pudhu velai mazhai‘ still hasn`t found a replacement. The character Roja in this movie just like Divya from Mouna Raagam reflects a little bit of Mani Ratnam himself. This movie changed the whole ideology of a FILM and one can simply not stop patronizing Mani Ratnam for that. Rishi is a common man, like you and me, and that is one fact that makes his character stand out. The story was an inspiration from a real-life incident, where an engineer was kidnapped. The open letter that his wife wrote to the terrorist was transformed as dialogues between Roja and Wasim.


Thiruda Thiruda

After Thalapathy and Roja, Mani Ratnam wanted to do a caper film (based on the Harshad Mehta scam) and that`s how Thiruda Thiruda happened. The movie is more of a musical treat. Well, it is a known fact that Rahman saves his best for Mani Ratnam and Thiruda Thiruda is no exception. Mani Ratnam in an interview says that this movie taught him not to pick scams that are currently live.



Bombay happened to be the first Mani Ratnam film that I saw. I was around 9 and I saw it on the small screen. My mom, a die-hard of Mani Ratnam was all praises for him. I really didn’t understand the movie much then. I still feel a little ashamed that I mocked the movie because of my inability to understand it. Well 5 years later, if someone had asked me to write an essay on my favourite director I would have, without a second thought penned his name. The movie focuses on the religious tensions that prevailed in Bombay during 1992. In the movie Shekar, a journalist and Shaila, a school girl fall in love, their parents disapprove them getting married because of the difference in their religion and so the couple is forced to get married without their consent, very soon they are blessed with twins. They decide to raise the kids in both religions. After some time, the couple starts re-establishing  their relationship with their respective families. Their life was nothing but a fairy tale until one day a group of religion hungry volunteers decided to demolish Babri Masjid.

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Another classic master piece of Mani sir. This movie leaves me in awe every time I see it. It is something that I fail to fathom. Iruvar is a fictionalized tale of the MGR-Karunanidi duo. Every time you watch the movie there is a new dimension that is waiting to be discovered, sometimes rediscovered.


Dil Se

An all time movie – Dil se, reveals how far someone can go for the one they love. It is one of his movies that hits you hard the first time you see it. A gallantry tale about how an All India Radio reporter falls in love with a suicide bomber. To me, the movie is more about seeking what you love, than accepting what you have.

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Well, it is a painting. 16 years and there is not a single movie, which can be claimed as a better love story than this. ‘Shakti naan unna virumbala, un maela aasai padla, nee azhagaa irukkannu nenakkala, aana, adhudhaan nadandhudumonnu bayama irukku!’  sends waves of a feel-good romance in a subtle way.  After the warmth of Bombay, Dil Se and Iruvar, the movie came in as a bundle of surprise.


Kanathil Muthamital

Kanathil Muthamital is my most favourite amongst all Mani Ratnam’s films. The story has a prologue where a pregnant woman, younger than what I am today, is forced to flee from her country that she loves more than anything else for the sake of her unborn child. That one scene where they show the rough see with the refugees battling their way through the waves with a heavy heart and then someone finally breaks it to her that her husband was shot in the war field jolts a lot of unexplainable emotions. She leaves back to her country as soon as she gives birth. The story gradually portrays a girl around 7-8 years old. The story is weaved with multiple beautiful relationships: between Amuda and Indra, Amuda and her brothers, Thiru and Amuda, Amuda and her grandfather, Thiru and his father in law. “nee dhaan enna modha modhala ezhudha veccha, nee dhaan enakku Indrava kondu vandhu kuduttha, nee dhaan enakku ellaame is my favourite dialogue. Indira and Thiru share a very cute but matured relationship. When Thiru confesses his interest to Indira she childishly comes back and asks him “enakaha Amuda va thathu eduthikirangala ella Amudha kaha ena kalyanum katikiringala” for which he escapes by saying “enaku inda kanum venum anda kanum venum“. The love Indira and Thiru shower on Amuda is impeccable. Everyone has that one film, one book, one song that means so much to them and that’s what Kanathil Muthamital is for me.


Aayidha Ezhuthu/Yuva

Aayidha Ezhuthu and Yuva were shot simultaneously with a different cast. Well, was it from a different director, I would have finished the sentence with an exclamatory mark, but isn`t it Mani Ratnam. For he is a director who pushes the bar higher with each of his upcoming film. But, it is certainly amazing how the same story, shot in two different places (or is it made to believe) with a totally different cast can still give you the same feel!



From the Guru, is a movie that painted the city red with its success story. The movie is loosely based on the founder of Reliance. The story is about a man who rises from the ashes and decides to become a business tycoon of India. The movie is nothing but a number of great parts weaved together seamlessly.



A magic. Like Yuva, this was also shot in two different languages at the same time. Ravana is a mythical antagonist in the epic Ramayana. This character was brought to life by Vikram and Abhishek. I wouldn’t be doing justice if I fail to mention Aishwarya`s beauty that complements the backdrop in every way possible. The best part about the movie is its cinematography. Every word of appreciation to the cinematographer will still be an understatement. The eye-popping scene is the one in which Aishwarya falls down from the tree with the branch collapsing slowly. The cinematography overshadows every other aspect of the movie.



Kadal is the first movie (of Ratnam) that I watched on the big screen. Unlike many, I was truly mesmerized by the movie. It is really queer how people find it boring, yes, the movie is not another Roja or Bombay, but it is beautiful in its own way. It is a movie that grows on you with time. Aravind Swamy, with his dynamic comeback, owned the show. The fight scene on the ship in the middle of the sea will push you to the edge of the seat. Kadal is a tide of virtue and vendetta.


O Kadal Kanmani

O Kadal Kanmani is a promise of a smile on the lips of many.  A Mumbai-based story portraying Aadi, a video game designer and Tara, an aspiring architect. The couple  does not believe in restricting each other in the name of marriage and decide to have a live-in relation and they live under the shadow of an elderly couple – Ganapathy and Bhavani who suffers from Alzheimer. It is a movie that will make you want to fall in love. The bond Ganapathy and Bhavani share will make you sit agape with admiration. Most of the scenes in OKK reminds us of Alaipayuthe, perhaps a little better than Alaipayuthe, maybe because Mani Ratnam can only be overpowered by Mani Ratnam. If Alaipayuthey rejoices love, then OK kanamani celebrates it.


8 thoughts on “Being Mani Ratnam

Add yours

  1. >>Mani Ratnam
    I simply loved the way you intertwined yourself w/ his characters where ever possible. You are a true Mani(ac) !

    >>One film , one book, one song.
    Kanathil Muthamital, Harry Potter, ???


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