Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Conversations With Mani Ratnam' is a delightful read

Mani Ratnam's movies are the ones I have grown up watching. They were for real, urbane and intelligent. So when I got a chance to read film critic Baradwaj Rangan's newly released book 'Conversations With Mani Ratnam', I leaped on it. Considering the many questions I had and the many details I would have loved to know about all those delightful movies he churned out over the years, it is not practical for me to get satisfied with the book. But then, getting the reticent filmmaker to talk itself is a huge achievement. This is a delightful read, but is found wanting in the end. More about my opinion later, possibly in another post.

However, here are some gems from the filmmaker (Quote unquote from the book) I wanted to share with you. They show his wit and razor sharp insight and of course the high standards he set for himself and his movies. These are a series of delightful quotes and responses from him. For some, I paired them with Rangan's question to get the context.
  • "But during the first public screening, you understand everything that you did not understand during the making of the film."
  • "Watching the film with the audience was unadulterated torture. You want the film to move faster and arrive at the best shot and dialogues (at least, as per your judgement) and the humorous parts as quickly as possible. You want to run to the projection room and turn the reels faster. There was always a second's delay before the reaction could be heard or felt. That second was quite unbearable." 
  • RANGAN: When was the last time you saw Nayakan?
  • RATNAM: "Probably at the time of release. I've seen bits and pieces of its   afterwards, but I see only the flaws in it. Why go through that? I don't see any of my films after they are released. I can't bear them for more than five minutes. Honestly, I can't. For those five minutes, I'll think, 'Hey, this isn't too bad.' But the sixth minute, I'll see something that will make it turn it off. At the Venice film festival, I was trapped into watching Raavan. Otherwise, I watch my films so many times while making them that I don't want anything to do with them afterwards. That's why I sometimes can't remember the things that you are talking about..." 
  • "When you saw jaws for the first time, you just saw the tail fin. You never saw the shark till the end. What gave you a high while watching were the music and the shark's fin, and with just these elements, a director could create a pop sensational cross the world. The more he held back, the better it would have had much less impact if they'd been fighting throughout the film. Action is just gratification. The promise of action is much more potent...
  • "Right or wrong, we all get influenced not only by life but by other actors. Something that Brando did or Sivaji Ganesan or Kamal Haasan did will stick around somewhere in the mind and influence you. But kids are without burdens. They are just themselves. If they are angry, they're angry like they would be angry."
  • "Anjali is about your own resistance to seeing something that's happening around you. I don't know if i'd like this revealed in a book, but I had a close neighbor who had a child with a small problem. for years, I could not look the child in the eye. It's something that bother you. You don't do it, and the fact that you are trying to avoid it is always there at the back of your mind. I think those feelings came together in this story, trying to understand why we try to hide from such a person and then, when we cross that mental barrier, how we build a rapport with that person."
  • RANGAN: Your movies never have expletives though. I can't recall any offhand. 
  • RATNAM: Perhaps I save them for real life. 
  • "They said Mouna Raagam had to be given an 'A' certificate because this girl is asking for a divorce. It came out of the blue. A lady on the board asked me how a housewife could ask for a divorce. After that I stopped being surprised by anything the censor committee would throw at me." 
  • "When we did Alaipaayuthey, we had a song at the beginning of the film, with the hero and his headphones. We shot it using a bit of a Backstreet Boys song, and we used the song while editing. We asked for permission to use that bit...they quoted a fancy figure of 1 crore rupees. We said, 'Forget it!' We composed a new piece and it worked absolutely fine. Much later, they asked us permission to use Chaiyya chaiyya. Till then, none of them had ever paid anything to an Indian film unit. So we quoted exactly the same figure. The music company was ready to give it to them for nothing, but we said no. If they can charge us this much, then we'll charge them as much. And we got it." 


Sandeep Naredla said...

I preordered this one from flipkart for 130/- but I lost it in office and no one bothered to give me back also LOL and now it is 550/-

Unknown said...

Looks like flipkart's price is discounted compared to others - thats where I got my copy from.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read,loved the structure of the interview,also the fact that there was no mention of his artists in detail, just the movies, except maybe for Kamal.