This Essay Proves Why Directors Should Have An Attitude Like Mani Ratnam
The work should speak not the mouth. That’s how legends are made through their work, not through opinions and statements. Mani Ratnam, one of the greatest legendary directors not only in Indian cinema but in world cinema has always been troubled by producers in the way how he makes films. Mani Ratnam has endured so much while making films but never he spoke a word against anyone or about the business aspect of cinema. He calmly did his work and kept silent like silent. This is the attitude that every filmmaker should adapt to. You speak only through your work, that’s the only way anyone can make a change.
The following essay was spoken by Kamal Haasan about Mani Ratnam, it’s about the days of making Nayagan. Read this, and you’ll understand how one should adapt to life and move on…
. The way Kelkar’s death was filmed (and later, the death of Velu Nayakan’s son), I knew Mani was making a really good movie. And also the kind of movie that we all dreamt of making. During the Holi sequence, I told Mani that Velu Nayakan should not dance. And Mani agreed. No director at that time would have agreed to this. Earlier in my career, I told Bharathiraja that the psychopathic killer in Sigappu Rojakkal should not be singing and dancing. But he deflected my objections saying that the song ( Ninaivo oru paravai ) was a dream song, shot from the heroine’s point of view. At least that made sense. But other times, people simply wouldn’t listen to me, and here Mani simply said, “Of course, Velu Nayakan doesn’t dance.”
. We stumbled a lot while making this film. But Mani just got up and dusted himself off and went on to the next thing. He kept his cool. He was tethered throughout the shoot. He withstood storms. And he was not afraid to surround himself with strong contributors like the writer Balakumaran, whose ease with the local syntax and dialect helped to compensate for Mani’s urbanity. There were no egos on the set. Mani would shoot down ideas. He would also accept ideas. When Velu is taken to a brothel in a song sequence, I expressed my exasperation by rolling my eyes. Mani told me that this was a very Western thing, and asked if I could give a more Indian expression. That was a very happy day for me. Suddenly I had someone who noticed these small things that make up a performance.
. Nayakan was one of the films — along with the films I’ve done with Balu Mahendra, K. Vishwanath, and, of course, my guru K. Balachander — that made me decide that I should not be doing short-lived masala movies anymore. Except for nostalgia, they added nothing to my career. I was fed up. I was nearing middle age. I thought, “If I don’t do this now, then when will I do it?” After wrapping the film, I was so happy that I took Sarika and went for a walk around the empty set. I remember just sitting there with a satisfied sigh.
. There was a screening of the film at the Savera hotel. One of the viewers was so moved that he fell at the producer’s feet. I urged Mani to go and talk to people but he just walked away saying that there was no glory in this. He was right. I told the producer that he was going to get awards. He said he hadn’t made the film to get awards, merely to make profits. And he was nervous about the film’s dark lighting and so on. He complained that I had spoilt his chances of making a profit, which is when I offered to buy the film from him. Later, GV bought the film. And after the film came out, what the producer feared became a fashion. Every Tamil film began to have underlit sequences. And the heroes began to gel their hair.
. When it was time for the film’s silver-jubilee celebrations, Mr. Srinivasan’s brother passed away. We canceled our celebration after all had gathered at the venue. The entire crew took garlands and went to his home and paid homage to the departed soul. So there was no rancor with Mr. Srinivasan. We were all like family. There was just frustration.
. Had the producer been more cooperative and had he had more vision, Mani would have ensured that the film came out better. He would have also been a healthier man. His heart attack might have happened at a later stage. Mani was worn out by all the extracurricular activities, which are not part of filmmaking. I am always asked when Mani and I will work together again. I don’t know if we can summon up that same feeling of doing a film for pleasure. Now there’s too much pressure. And I don’t blame Mani. He’s been so tormented by producers that now he wants to make films exactly the way he wants. And if I would be an impediment, he would be right in removing me.
~ Kamal HaasanA