Celebrating the magician called Mani Ratnam


After a day’s work, we would rehearse the scenes to be shot the next morning, costumes et al, before we dispersed. If I get a point of anything, I wouldn’t hesitate to come out. Suppose, I’m in a room with four great musicians and I sit with my headphones to compose… My whole attitude will be like ‘Oh, they are watching me’. I am always asked when Mani and I will work together again. He would also accept ideas. He’s constantly experimenting.”

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Aditi Rao Hydari: “He is a disciplinarian and an ideal teacher for any actor. In the late 80s, his Mouna Ragam, Nayagan, Agni Natchathiram and Anjali emerged one after the other, creating great expectations. My dad and Mani Ratnam sir have met several times even after Thalapathi and discussed several films. In return, you gain more confidence in your craft. I have done many mistakes, I learned from my mistakes when he pointed out.”

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Comment(s) He pays attention to minute details, and that’s his strength. Not many can use songs like him with such visual splendour. And his energy is unbelievable. Now there’s too much pressure. He would mull over them all night and be ready with the changes he wants.”

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Siddharth: “When I joined him at 21, He said ‘When you speak on anything, I wouldn’t say shut up. I was looking at him in total awe because I never thought this could happen pretty early in my career.”
Madhavan: “Working with Mani sir is very frightening. Advertising

The best thing about Mani Ratnam is that when we recall his films, we find standout moments filled with stunning poetry and superbly crafted dialogues. I don’t know if we can summon up that same feeling of doing a film for the pleasure. He didn’t ask me to serve tea for five years. I never thought I would take it up as a career. You can speak on discussions, shooting up to the release, but I also have the right to decide about your view’. Why Mani Ratnam matters? He is a passionate filmmaker, who is keen on improvisations. He doesn’t talk at all, so there was a moment in between the shots and I was sitting next to him and I am like ‘Say something, anything, come up with something clever’, and there is a deafening silence. I have just seen Mani Sir around my house a lot and his office is literally very close to my house in Chennai.”
Santosh Sivan: “The thing with Mani Ratnam is that he pushes his peers to give their best.”
Vikram: “Mani Ratnam is open to your inputs. I never thought I would sit and write and actually direct films.”

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Here’s what celebrities have to say about the iconic filmmaker:
Kamal Haasan: “There were no egos on the set. He is such a big director and this is what he had to say for a youngster. He knows the kind of environment that I perform best in. You start doing different things. I thought it would change after the first film. Because we know each other so well, he doesn’t want what he sees in real life. He has accepted many of my ideas and rejected many too. Without me knowing, he makes sure that he creates that atmosphere for me.”
Karthi: “When Mani sir directs you, he lets you explore. He’s been so tormented by producers that now he wants to make films exactly the way he wants. In Conversations with Mani Ratnam by award-winning writer-journalist Baradwaj Rangan, the director had mentioned how filmmaking happened by “accident”, despite finishing an MBA from a top B-school. The big thing about him is he listens even though he might be very busy at that point in time. Mani would shoot down ideas. During every film, I thought I would get over the fear after the next one, but it’s getting even tougher. The same way, when you are working with a director like Mani Ratnam who has such a legacy, you come up with some great ideas just to get his appreciation.”
Arvind Swami: “Mani Ratnam has never stayed in the ‘safe zone’ with his eye only on the box office. You have the right to speak. He pushes me to give something different. He gives his actors space and time to learn. While writing, Mani Ratnam treads into every character’s psyche. I feel the aura of them looking at me, their musicality… Even at a concert, we play better when we have an audience who are greatly educated in music. He made me do everything that I thought I wasn’t really capable of.”

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Dulquer Salmaan: “With Mani sir, you kind of have to have things to talk about or get really silent. But when we are on the sets, I can’t bring myself to call him Mani: it is always Mani sir, said with reverence. And I don’t blame Mani. You become stronger when you are made to pursue a tough or challenging task. Because we are golf course buddies and on back-slapping terms. Mani Ratnam was quoted saying, “I was interested in cinema only as a viewer. He left me on my own. And yet, in Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, he has moved away from that mould in the way he has used songs. And if I would be an impediment, he would be right in removing me.”
AR Rahman: “I think it’s his aura that forces me to push myself further. He is one of those rare filmmakers, who has done 25 films in 35 years and still remains relevant to the audience, mainly youth. When I get to work with such a director, what more can I ask for?”
Shraddha Srinath: “When I met him, I was half curious and half anxious.