Recalling Mani Ratnam’s five finest films on his birthday
Moun Ragam (1986), film that inspired Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s elegiac Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam is Mani Ratnam’s most intense and passionate film to date,
Moun Ragam (1986): The film that inspired Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s elegiac Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam is Mani Ratnam’s most intense and passionate film to date, a genuine version of the ersatz emotions Mani Ratnam’s actors displayed in 2017’s Kaatru Veliyidai where Karthi hammed and Aditya Rao hawed. In Moun Ragam Revathi played the newly-married stubborn woman who won’t consummate her marriage with the kind patient empathetic husband. The film is a waltz of walled-down emotions hammering against the boundaries to emerge as a strong voice clamouring to break-free of conventional emotions.
Roja (1992): One of the earliest films to define the codes of terrorism in cinematic language, Roja mixed the romance of Rahman’s melodies with the booming of the guns in the Kashmir valley when honeymooner Madhoo finds her husband kidnapped by a terrorist. The film was a huge success on release. There is a lyricism, an opposite of Anurag Kashyap’s rawness, that defines Mani Ratnam’s view on terrorism. This is more David Lean than Quentin Tarantino. Mani Ratnam’s 1992 film was about a honeymooning couple Arvind Swamy and Madhoo’s bliss being rudely interrupted when the husband is taken hostage by a Kashmiri militant, played by Pankaj Kapoor. Fascinating fusion of drama and politics, best remembered for A R Rahman’s Hindi debut.The real star of the show is Rahman’s music.A masterly music score in a film about terrorism is a bit of an irony.
Nayakan: Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan Nayagan, the 1987 Tamil film written and directed by Mani Ratnam (who turned a year older on June 2) and starring Kamal Haasan. The cult classic based on the life of gangster Varadarajan Mudaliar was given pride of place in Time Magazine’s ‘All time 100 Best Films' for 2005. It boasts of one of the most accomplished performances by an Indian actor.Kamal Haasan’s portrayal of the gangster in Nayakan is comparable with Brando’s The Godfather. Vinod Khanna in this disastrous remake was, in one word, avoidable. after Nayakan’s runaway success, both actor and director became too big in stature to be accommodated in one film despite being family. Mani is married to Kamal’s elder brother Charu Haasan’s daughter Suhasini.
Thalapathi (1991): The only film that saw Mani Ratnam get together with the mighty Rajinikanth. A brutal, violent, kinetic take on the Mahabharat. Rajini played the quasi-Karn and Mammoothy as the quasi-Duryodhan. The conflict was staged amidst bouts of bloodied vendetta and flamboyant singing and dancing. Larger-than-life is a term that seems to be invented for this. No Mani Ratnam film has achieved the spiralling scale of this paean to mythologized mayhem that even Vyasa would find hard to identify.This is the last film in whicj Ilaiyaraja composed music for Mani. I wonder why he switched to Rahman! Ilaiyaraja was at his inspired untouchable best with Mani.
Bombay (1995): It was Shekhar Kapoorwho once said, “Never director a Hindu-Muslim love story.”Mani broke that cardinal law, courted controversies and emerged a winner with this tumultuous epic saga set in Mumbai during the 1992 communal riots. Manisha Koirala in one of her career’s finest performances, played Shaila Bano who marries Arvind Swami a conversative Brahmin. The plot separates their twin sons during the Mumbai riots as a symbolical split between the two communities.This epic fillm is a lusty lustrous lyrical ode to love during a time of strife. It has the panoramic epic-ness of a Mughal-e-Azam and the emotional intensity of Masaan.