4 Things Every Filmmaker Can Learn From Mani Ratnam's Journey!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on December 02, 2015

It's not everyday that Mani Ratnam decides to grace people with his presence and share his filmmaking wisdom. So when such an opportunity came knocking, there was no way we could have missed it.

An event titled 'Masterclass With Mani Ratnam' held by IFTDA (Indian Film And Television Directors Association) in Mumbai, saw the veteran filmmaker engage in a conversation on his films and filmmaking journey with filmmaker Tighmanshu Dhulia. Incidentally Dhulia had written the dialogues & was the casting director for Mani Ratnam's Dil Se. 

Did you know that Ratnam did an MBA from the prestigious Xavier's institute in Mumbai and was all set to go the corporate route. Luckily for us, the filmmaking bug bit him and there was no looking back.

O-Kadhal-Kanmani-Movie-Stills-8                                                                               A Still From OKK Kanmani

His films have strong & remarkably well-written female characters. The filmmaker attributes this to the influence of Tamil movies, that always had strong female characters. Mani Ratnam is also known for the exemplary song picturisation in his films, probably second only to say, Vijay Anand. When prodded on this, he said that he largely uses songs to take the narrative forward, although he did admit that he finds it tough to make the transition from shooting scenes to songs.

In the course of the conversation, he also spoke about making a conscious attempt to avoid repeating himself. He also spoke about his equation with his cinematographers, including Santosh Sivan and P C Sreeram.

Mani Ratnam also spoke about the lessons he learnt during his filmmaking journey.

It Is Possible To Make Sensible Films Within The Mainstream Space

Throughout his career, Mani Ratnam has made films that have found the right balance of commercial and artistic sensibilities.

Be it depicting the relationship between a younger man and an older woman (Pallavi Anu Pallavi), the Kashmir issue (Roja), the Bombay Riots (Bombay) or the LTTE issue (Kannathil Muthamittal), Mani Ratnam has never shied from talking about issues that are relevant and concern the society. And more than often, he has made his point successfully through his films which are entertaining yet give the audiences some food for thought.

And with this diverse repertoire of films, he has proved that it is possible to make mainstream films that are entertaining yet sensible with a voice of their own.

Embrace Technology And Change With The Times

In order to be relevant to the changing tastes of audiences, it is necessary for filmmakers to adapt and embrace the technological changes that are taking place. It is also necessary to change with times and gives audiences fresh & unique content.

Ratnam himself has proven this by opting to make the same film in different languages (Yuva/Aayutha Ezhuthu, Raavan/Raavanan) in the latter half of his career. Moreover, as time progressed he made a smooth transition to using multiple stories, non-linear narratives and other modern techniques in his films.

vikram (1)                                                                                 Vikram In Raavanan

Perhaps, his ability to embrace changing technology is what makes him one of the most enduring filmmakers of our time.

Learn To Take Failure In Your Stride

Everyone has to face failure in his journey and Mani Ratnam is no exception to this. In fact, quite a few of his earliest films failed, till he hit paydirt with the Tamil film, Mouna Raagam. 

A few years ago, two of his most anticipated films Raavan and Kadal bombed commercially. By his own admission, Ratnam's failures have made him more determined to bounce back. Perhaps, this explains the success of his latest film Ok Kanmani, with which he staged an impressive comeback.

Accept Responsibility For A Bad Film

During the conversation, when asked about Raavan, he admitted to it being a bad film and willingly accepted its failure. He admitted that it is tough for a filmmaker to cope with failure and a film that's gone awry. But one must be brave and courageous enough to accept it and move ahead. Only then, will you be able to do a better job with your next venture.


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