30 seconds to Nayakan – Mani Ratnam

[Pic – Vikatan.com]

This interview of Mani Ratnam on the occasion of Nayakan being selected on the All-‘Time’ list, made me jive. Indeed I felt happy for a true professional living among us. For a question on why he chooses to make movies that become threat to his life sometimes, he quotes, ” If I have to take movie just like my previous movie, I would rather stay at home doing nothing. Ironically, even to attain peace, we have to fight. And I’m doing it through a medium that I know, cinema.”

While, there could be arguments and truths, that some scenes may have a striking resemblance to the scenes from his earlier flicks, as a story teller, I personally feel, Mani Ratnam has been consistently different from his previous attempts.

On a note about Nayakan reaching the Time’s list, Mani Ratnam seems to be a happy man but is just being modest about it. Though he looks at it as a magazine screening few films and making a list of classic, he conveys that Nayakan was a movie that was perfect in every regard. He goes on to praise Kamal Hassan, Illayaraja, PC Sriram and Thotta tharani for their exemplary contribution. Nayakan’s birth seems to have taken place in thirty seconds. While asked to remake a hindi film with Kamal Hassan, Mani seems to have told a one-liner of Varadharaja Mudhaliyar and Kamal readily accepted for it.

For me the picture above is a treasure. It tells me a dozen things. On to the right with Kamal and PC, I see Mani Ratnam as a yuppie willing to learn the art. The picture to the left talks about the perfectionist in him. It could be that Mani Ratnam is a famous director, I am harping so much on a photograph which was taken then. But then as a kid I faintly remember watching this same Mani Ratnam with those geeky specs, shooting Nayakan.

I’ve heard some of friends and fellow bloggers say that Mani Ratnam never digs deeps into a subject. They say he does a ‘Nunni Pull Meithal’ and tries to get hype. While I am accepting that Mani Ratnam knows how to hype a film, I also know he doesn’t go beyond a scope to search hype. The reason why many of Mani Ratnam’s films gets hyped is because the story never gets revealed until the release. Even if it gets leaked it gets in bits and pieces. Not like the mediocre directors who sell the best scenes and songs to cable even before the movie is released. If people could see the best scene on their television sets again and again, repeatedly, why would they come to theatres. In that regard, Mani Ratnam has always had the guts to keep to himself until the movie release. Ofcourse, his marketing agency tries to create a hype during the release. Movie making is also for money making and as he declares himself to be a commercial director, he wants every single person to view his offering in theatre and make more money. Business dudes. Mani Ratnam being superficial in dealing with sensitive issues ?? Another post another day.

Thanks Prabhu V for the pointer.

38 thoughts on “30 seconds to Nayakan – Mani Ratnam

  1. Mani Rathnam is the pride of Tamil Cinema!

    Regarding the hype, I dont think he does it on purpose. I think he can’t help the film getting hyped across all directions. And based on his past records, people always expect a ‘Nayagan’ from him, just like people expect a ‘DilSe’ from ARRahman everytime.

    It is tough being a Manirathnam or a Rahman handling the pressure of expectation. Should say that they are both very good at doing what they know best, letting their work talk !


  2. I echo Mugilan’s thoughts on Mani’s films being hyped to extraordinary extents.
    I ve never seen any conscious attempt to hype it from his side. Its just that its a Mani movie and people go crazy behind it, ur truly being one such.
    He, I would still say, is a media-shy person and never talks to the media until his movie is released and event then talks very little, leave aside talk/rave about it. (a reason why a Mani interview is a treasure). The movie’s story itself is not known until a week or so, before the release (I knew Kannathil could be about Amudha and not Madhavan’ char only when I saw the huge hoarding having only Amudha in it peeping only her head!).


  3. “he conveys that Nayakan was a movie that was perfect in every regard.”

    Nayakan is a classic but there’s no sin in pointing a flaw. Kamal is shown moving into Dharavi slums at a tender age, as a young man several years later he still needs a Translator like Delhi Ganesh to converse with a Hindi speaking guy. I think that is highly incompatible with reality!


  4. Jacky, I think it is never shown that Kamal does not know Hindi. It is just that he never speaks in Hindi. He is always surrounded by tamil speaking people and so maybe he never ever got a chance to be fluent in Hindi. So he has a guy to echo his thoughts to others in Hindi. I dont remember a scene wherein Delhi Ganesh translates something to Kamal in Tamil. He IS comfortable understanding Hindi.

    Even in the hospital scene when kamal threatens the doctor, this can be noticed. So the translator I assume is more for the benefit for the non-tamil, hindi speaking people whom kamal will have to meet and not for his benefit to understand Hindi.

    Writing this from my memory. I am ready to accept if there is a scene which contradicts this.


  5. Lovely foto, the first one… God! Mani looks so different!! No grey hair etc etc… and he looks an absolute geek, with those huge round glasses!!!! Considering he wouldve only been a thirty something while he made Nayagan, its no mean achievement indeed!!!

    And yeah, its in a way very good that he keeps to himself till the release of the movie… I had first hand experience with Kannathil Muthamittal… Seeing the title, i thought it wud be a romantic flick, with Maddy and Simran paired together for the first time etc… When I got to know it was all about that little girl, not only me but all my friends whom I dragged along became wild too!!!! Was quite an experience for us… entering the theater expecting another Alaipayuthey, and watching a movie that was nowhere similar!!!


  6. “Nayakan” perfect in all senses. Agreed. I thought Mani was even more cautious, and tried to achieve superior quality in Iruvar. Of course, it is difficult to do movies with Nayakan burden.

    Jacky – wish Katz saw your comment.


  7. Mugilan,
    In fact, Delhi Ganesh is brought in by Janakaraj when Kamal says “Namma alungalla Hindi pesa therinjavanga yaru irukanga”. And He clearly acts as a translator between Kamal and the Builder.


  8. One thing that struck me when watching Nayakan a couple of days ago was that it is probably the only Tamil movie where the hero marries a girl from a brothel. In most of the movies the hero will be willing but the girl will not accept (Arangettram K.B.) or they will prove that even though the heroine was in a brothel, she was chaste (Kolangal Jairam-Kushboo movie). In this aspect Mani was quite bold about the characterisation, in fact in the movie Velu will not launch into a dialogue on why he is doing this. He just does this matter of fact.

    I am one of those who criticise Mani for superficiality (in movies like Iruvar, Dil Se), but Nayagan was Mani’s second best movie. The first of course is still Mouna Ragam


  9. I have also been annoyed a million times by the ‘Nunni Pull Meithal’accusation.

    This accusation is the illegitimate child of the communist and the “fan” who looks for a message in a movie. I do not understand when these people will actually understand that a movie is a story/portrayal of an individual.

    Those wanting explanations to life are advised to read Satre.


  10. When everyone’s praising the movie…for a change lemme point out one more possible flaw in the movie. The ‘Paapa margaiya’ guy shoots Velu Nayagan in the last scene..from where did he get the revolver?..I suppose they showed it that he gets the revolver from his dad’s(a police man) belongings. I don’t think the family of a dead policeman will be allowed to keep his gun in his memory along with his uniform etc…Just thought of this flaw…ready to accept if it’s wrong.


  11. Hey LG, how about posting just the girst of the interview or just a few selected Q&A in English for the benefit of some of us non-subscribers. Any interesting answers not previously heard from Mani?


  12. “..For a question on why he chooses to make movies that become treat to his life sometimes…”.

    You meant “threat” ?


  13. jacky,

    i have seen people upfront who have lived their whole lives in madras and don’t know how to speak tamil after 25 years only because their mother tongue is something else and/or they substitute english for it. as a youth, you tend to stick with a group that you can identify with. as shown in the movie, kamal had probably only his vaapa, his sister and janakaraj as company. he is always seen in the company of janakaraj, who is a tamilian and so there may not be a need for him to have to learn hindi because the people he interacts with are tamilians. including the tea shop owner. that is not a flaw. it is a perception issue.


    as for the gun in the box flaw, the dead policeman was not a honorable cop. it is quite capable that he had other fire arms that were not legal and this could be one of that.

    in general, my opinion on such things is it is nitpicking to find flaws and when one is on that mission, even the most basic of things can be a flaw. reminds me of the readers don’t digest section in filmfare when people point out flaws in movies, from glaring ones to insignificant ones.



  14. Jacky
    I know lots of people (Tamilians) who have lived for a *long* time in Mumbai (+30 years), but who speak HORRIBLE Hindi (and I am not referring to Mumbaiya Hindi..just the basics). So it not really that much of a stretch..


  15. I am one of those who criticise Mani for superficiality (in movies like Iruvar, Dil Se), but Nayagan was Mani’s second best movie.

    Chenthil, So you are one amonng ‘them’. Vechukiren 😉

    Muthuvel, I did write a post on your accusation sometime back, here.


  16. Katz,
    I just wanted to point the thing which struck me..that was not meant to demean the movie anyway.

    Lazy…thanks for the link..i read it now..btw abt those hearsays..i wanna add one more..one of my friend argued that the movie ‘Indian’ wasn’t given Best film National award..only because of the scene in the song ‘Pachai kiligal’ where Kamal and Kasthuri use 500 Rupee currency note for making paper boats…What to say on such silly hearsays and people who are hell bent in justifying those.


  17. Iyengarkatz,
    Velu (kamal) is shown as guy in mid 20’s, and he was not a part of his foster father’s smuggling business until his father becomes sick. So a guy who might have made his living by doing menial jobs in Bombay without knowing Hindi sounds like a pipe dream!

    I think you can survive without Hindi doing 9 to 5 jobs but not when you’re from slums and are expected to do menial jobs.


  18. Jacky, “Namma alungalla Hindi pesa therinjavanga yaru irukanga”.

    Exactly. Thats what I meant too. It was “Hindi pesa therinjavanga” and not “Hindi therinjavanga”. So it was like he was using delhi as a translator for the benefit for the other guy rather than for him 🙂


  19. jacky,

    by your logic, it would be hard for a mute to do menial jobs in any place, for they can’t speak the spoken language even if they wanted to??? for menial jobs you really don’t need fluency over any language, you just need key words to manage with. besides, why couldnt it be that the menial jobs he did was in the company of janakaraj who knew more hindi than he did and so janakaraj told him what was expected in those menial jobs??



  20. Jacky and Katz,

    I think we need not go to that depth in Hindi speaking one. Mani must have made it that way for his audiences to understand the things going onscreen. If Kamal’s character was to speak in Hindi directly to the character before him, non-hindi audience wouldn’t have got the point and any sort of translation to tamil would have looked very much silly and forced…just like ‘I believe you..naan unna nambaraen ‘ (Grrr) type of dialogues from ‘Kangalal kaidhu sei’.


  21. Nice observation on the pics, Lazy…
    I could also see the pics reeking of his involvement… Mani mimicking the character for the artist’s benefit in one… and a wet Mani in the other – clearly he must have jumped into the pool for the Andhi mazhai megam song… quite the perfectionist…


  22. Iyengarkatz,
    I’ve seen young Tamil boys doing menial jobs (room boy, table cleaners) speaking excellent Hindi. I think Ratnam kept that scene to associate Delhi Ganesh with Kamal hassan. It’d been more apt (at least to me) if Delhi Ganesh was shown as a Marathi (a popular lang in Maharastra) translator and the guy who wanted to demolish the slums could’ve spoken Marathi. That wouldn’t have compromised Velu’s identity. And it’s paradoxical when Kelkar’s widow says “Illai, Panam Vendam” when Kamal gives her some money to raise her special child.

    Muthuvel and Mugilan,
    I completely agree but his descriptive clarity led to a flaw.


  23. Katz,

    All of us are passionate about Nayakan and maybe that’s coming in the way of accepting there could have been a flaw in the movie. A mallu kid growing in Chennai learns Tamil and Malayalam parallely. So I presume everyone is coming from that premise. Atleast in this case, English never came into picture as the story was based in the slums.

    This is really not nitpicking as we are not talking about any normal movie. Nayakan is a movie of epic proportion and hence even a supposed slip could seem like a major oversight. Its like a drop of ink in a kettle of milk.

    Kamal’s interaction with the Hindi speaking community was never illustrated in the movie and so to arrive at a conclusion is difficult. It just leaves us to assume the ifs and buts. Going by your own statements, “kamal had PROBABLY only his vaapa…”. “besides WHY COULDN’T it be that menial jobs he did was”…

    The arguments (yours and everyone elses) here are purely based on assumptions and remember ? That only makes an ASS out of U and ME.

    Either way, the movies excellence is never going to be undermined.

    We still talk about the Ferrari and the Rolex watch in Ben Hur. But has it ceased to remain a historical movie because of that ?

    Flaw or not, Nayakan is a movie par excellence. Why don’t we all just bask in the glory of Nayakan rather than pointing out and defending ?



  24. I hope the next movie that Maniratnam does should not have Madhavan in it, already Madhavan has a bad name in the tamil industry for asking a lot of money for the roles that he plays. I heard somewhere that Maniratnam was in a mood to make a movie without any songs.


  25. somu,

    point taken and that is why i am saying that these are insignificant details that do not and cannot detract our attention away from the quality of the movie. like jacky says, there may be boys who speak good hindi, but i know ppl who having grown up in madras cant speak tamil because they speak hindi at home and english elsewhere? so it is not necessary that one has to learn to speak the spoken language in the city you live for existence. you can always find a way around it. that was all my point was.


  26. Guys,

    Before looking for living examples for that hindi issue, Just think about this. These kind of scenes are only Coz for the tamil audience, who don’t know hindi. Even if they go to france, There will be some french guy, who speaks hindi. We have not gone to the level of using the native language with tamil subtitles. Kamal tried it in “Hey ram”, But I don’t think people accepted it. Alright, this is just my opinion, So now do not flame me with evidences 🙂


  27. “…Even if they go to france, There will be some french guy, who speaks hindi…”. That should be “tamil” in tamil movies, i meant.


  28. Well, nayakan is a true gem of a a film. But he does have other films too. I always felt that Ayutha Ezhuthu was a pretty good film. I am pretty sure there are more.


  29. Guru, I turned the spotlight again on you this weekend but you are sharing the platform with just the two Chennai friends of yours 🙂


  30. Someone here was saying that Mani shouldn’t use Madavan too often and I agree with him. But the news is that it is going to be Madavan again in Mani’s next venture.
    After the real beating he took in Aitha Ezhuthu, he is going back to romance to bail him out.
    The one thing that annoys me about Mani(other than those heard before dialogues) is his unwillingness to experiment with different actors. Arvind Samy(very ordinary he was) and now Madavan. Please don’t tell me he is not left with many options. One of the reasons that I’ve heard people say is that these fellows act for peanuts in Mani’s movie, while other actors who Mani has approached have refused to compromise.
    A noted example is Sarath Kumar. He was initially meant to play Mohan Lal’s character in Iruvar, but he wouldn’t bring down his asking price.


  31. Mani made his mark in “Mouna Raagam” itself, remarkably well. I remember observing empty theatres for the first one week of the movie, before the reviews started pouring in. Then only, it picked up really.

    He got noticed very well then itself, which he maintained in the subsequent hits….Eventhough, some part of the audience didn’t appreciate his latest work, he has that ability still, to churn out more interesting ones….Let us wait for the same


  32. One very useful thing I got from the pics in Ananda vikatan on Mani’s interview.

    I was wondering how to go about getting a very modular bookshelf built. The bookshelf Mani has at his home is quite good – i think I will get my carpenter copy that for me.

    Oh! you want me to comment on Mani Ratnam ?hehehe


  33. Muthuvel
    “one of my friend argued that the movie ‘Indian’ wasn’t given Best film National award..only because of the scene in the song ‘Pachai kiligal’ where Kamal and Kasthuri use 500 Rupee currency note for making paper boats…What to say on such silly hearsays and people who are hell bent in justifying those”

    The best amongst them that I heard is this…. Kamal didn’t get the national award for ‘Salangai Oli’ because he didn’t shave his arm-pit hair like most of then professional Bharatanaatyam dancers does. :-))

    Semma comedy baa!!!


  34. Another one I heard in the same lines…

    Devar Magan did not get the oscar or probably was not sent to the oscars because in one particular scene Kamal walks into his field with his slippers on!!!


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