Mani Ratnam opens his heart to Jyothi Venkatesh on the eve of the release of his latest film Raavan. He says that when he makes two different versions in two different languages, he cannot go with the same instinct. He says that the tempo of the movie changes and he has to recreate his film in a different language altogether.
Is Raavan inspired by Ramayan, like Prakash Jha"s Raajneeti was inspired by Mahabharat?
Raavan is not a take on Ramayan. Raavan is a story that is set in today"s times. Abhishek is playing the character of Beera. You and I could have shades of the character of Beera. You can look at the character from any perspective and feel that there is something new in it. What is it that makes a villain, my story is about a villian? In fact the Telugu version of Raavan has been titled Villain whereas the Tamil version has been titled Raavanan.
Abhishek has gone on record that you have brought out the best in him as an actor with three films- Yuva, Guru and now Raavan. What do you feel?
I am selfish as a filmmaker. I do not think I am doing any favor to any actor by casting him in a film that I set out to make. If I think Abhishek can do a role well and if Abhishek is interested in doing the role, I will certainly cast him in the film. In Raavan, Abhishek has played a drastically different character from any other character that he had played in my earlier films like Yuva or Guru. Abhishek is growing with every film of his.
How would you rate Abhishek"s performance in Raavan?
As far as his role as Beera in Raavan is concerned, all I can say is that Abhishek has got the gist of the character with ease. I would say that the character that he has played in Raavan is larger than life and hence needed a bigger portrayal and flamboyance.
Though you make films with a political touch, why have you abandoned politics in Raavan?
It is a wrong notion, just because I had made films like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se and Yuva it does not mean that I make every film with an accent on politics. . You make a film with an idea. I wanted to make Raavan because it was an idea that was with me for two to three years. The story should take you on its journey and flow effortlessly.
You wanted to cast Abhishek in the Tamil version in the role which Prithviraj has now essayed?
It is true that I wanted Abhishek to also play the role of Dev in the Tamil version, besides playing the role of Raavan in the Hindi version but ultimately decided to cast Prithviraj. On hindsight, I now feel that it was wise on my part not to have cast Abhishek in the Tamil version after his confession that he cannot learn Tamil in such a short notice and prepare himself for the part. If I had casted him in the Tamil version, the film still wouldn't have been complete.
Has Ash, who is playing the role of Ragini in both the Hindi and Tamil versions, learnt Tamil?
My Hindi is as good as Ash"s Tamil. I remember Aishwarya delivering lengthy dialogues and shooting in single take in Tamil when she made her debut as an actress with me in my Tamil film Iruvar. Now Ash can do anything. Would you believe it, I text Ash Neenga Eppadi irukkeenga (How are you?) in Tamil and she replies Naan Nalla Irukken (I am fine) in Tamil.
Why did you cast Vikram in different roles in both the versions?
I cast Vikram in Raavan because I had a role which a new actor could do. It is good if you infuse fresh blood in a film. Vikram may be a new face to the Hindi film audiences but down in South he is known not only as a star but also a very good actor and was ready to rise up to the challenge of playing both the roles in both the versions.
How tough was it to make Raavan in two different versions?
The task of making two versions of the same film, in Hindi and Tamil simultaneously was quiet huge, especially because I am not what you"d call a pre-set film maker. I have to see to it that I bring the actor and cast him in the right role and make the film work on an instinct. When you set out to make two different versions in two different languages, you cannot go with the same instinct because the tempo changes and you have got to recreate in a different language altogether.