Mani Ratnam (Tamil: மணி ரத்னம்) is a renowned Indian filmmaker, screenwriter and producer. Mani Ratnam's directorial debut was through the Anil Kapoor starring Kannada film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983).
Directing landmark films such as Mouna Raagam (1986), Nayagan (1987), Anjali (1990), Thalapathi (1991), Iruvar (1997), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Yuva (2004), Guru (2007), and his "terrorism trilogy" consisting of Roja (1992), Bombay (1995) and Dil Se (1998), Ratnam is widely attributed with having revolutionised the Chennai film industry and altering the profile of Indian cinema.
Ratnam has won five Filmfare Awards (South), four Filmfare Awards (Hindi), and twelve international film festival awards. His Tamil movie Nayagan and Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy are the only Indian films to have appeared in TIME Magazine's All-Time 100 Greatest Movies.. His film Roja was the only Indian film to feature in TIME Magazine's "10 Best Soundtracks" of all time.
Personal life and education
Mani Ratnam was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India to Tamil Brahmin parents. His actual name is Gopala Ratnam Subramaniam.He did his schooling at Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School.
After graduating with a degree in Commerce from Vivekananda College, University of Madras and an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, he embarked on a career as a management consultant before becoming a filmmaker.
He got into film direction with the help of his late brother, film producer G. Venkateswaran. Ratnam married actress Suhasini in 1988. They have a son by name Nandhan Mani Ratnam. Ratnam lives in Alwarpet, Chennai, where he runs his production company Madras Talkies.
Ratnam is particularly known for his eye for technical detail in the art of film making, having worked with and also introduced some of the best music directors, cinematographers, art directors, dialogue writers and editors in India. Several international papers and books have been published on his critically acclaimed movies.
Mani Ratnam's directorial debut was in 1983, through the Anil Kapoor starring Kannada film Pallavi Anu Pallavi. Mani Ratnam made significant headways in his first film, and also managing to persuade acclaimed director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra to serve as his cinematographer.
The film boldly explored the nature of a relationship between young man and an elder woman.
Mani's career after that remained on a low as he failed to attain box office success. His following efforts were the Malayalam film Unaru (1984), which starred Mohanlal and then two Tamil films, the first being Pagal Nilavu followed by Idaya Kovil.
Finally in 1986, Mani attained commercial success in Tamil Nadu through the Tamil language romantic drama Mouna Ragam with Revathi and Mohan.
The film told the story of friction between a newly-wed couple, and remains famous to date as a relevant and realistic portrayal of romance among urban Tamils. Its score by Ilaiyaraaja became a huge success upon release.
Mani's status was elevated further a year later writing Nayagan, directing an already versatile actor of Tamil cinema, Kamal Hassan for the film, which went on to become a legendary success in the industry.
The film, which tells the story of an orphaned slum dweller and his rise to top of the Mumbai underworld hierarchy, was included in TIME Magazine's All-Time 100 Greatest Movies.The story was inspired by the real life story of underworld king Varadarajan Mudaliar.
With commercial success coming back to back, Ratnam wrote and directed Agni Natchathiram. The film was notable for use of new techniques in terms of camera framework, especially during the shoot of songs in the film.
The film had a successful run in the box office. Mani later returned to familiar territory of winning critical acclaim through his next film made in Telugu, named Geethanjali.
The film which starred Nagarjuna in the lead role told the story of an ill-fated couple who are both suffering from terminal diseases. Ratnam maintained a momentum of making emotional stories of undeserved people through the Raghuvaran starring Chennai release Anjali in 1990. The film told the story of an autistic child and how she changed the lives of people in colony.
Mani later made another underworld-themed Tamil film with Thalapathi in 1991 starring Rajnikanth and Mammooty. With a theme of friendship between a local don and a slum king, Thalapathi earned both critical acclaim and commercial success upon release.
Thalapathi is unique in a sense that it is of the rare films with 2 climaxes. The Tamil and Telugu versions end with Mamooty's death where Rajinikanth is considered a matinee-idol. The Malayalam version ends with Rajini's death where Mamootty is based.
With Thalapathi, Mani ended his association with music director Ilaiyaraaja, bringing in debutant music director A. R. Rahman to score his Tamil epic Roja. It turned out to be Mani's greatest findings as Rahman would go on to become a musical legend on his own right in the annals of Indian cinema.
Roja, a romantic film, tackled themes of terrorism in the regions of Kashmir. The film – starring Arvind Swamy and Madhoo – was released in 1992 and nominated for the Golden St. George Award at the Moscow International Film Festival and became so popular that it was dubbed into other languages and met similar success in other regions.
Mani then took a more light-hearted approach with his next film – Thiruda Thiruda. Scripted by Ram Gopal Varma, the film saw the exploration of comedy action, a departure from the norm for Ratnam, and fared less well at the box office. In 1994, a retrospective of his Tamil films was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In 1995, Ratnam returned to Tamil language drama. Bombay starring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala told the story of a Hindu-Muslim couple in the midst of the 1993 religious Bombay riots and bombings. The film was met with controversy and censorship upon release.
However Bombay was financially very successful and well appreciated by the critics. It won the Special Award from the Political Film Society, the Wim Van Leer In Spirit of Freedom Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival and the Gala Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Again in 1995, Ratnam co-wrote and co-produced his wife Suhasini Mani Ratnam's directorial debut Indira. The film is a woman-centralized story, with Suhasini's cousin Anu Haasan playing the lead role. But failed to succeed at the box office.
Ratnam returned to direction the following year with Iruvar, starring Mohanlal & Prakash Raj, a film that Ratnam himself considers to be his finest effort to date.
Inspired by the real life story of iconic Tamil film star and politician MG Ramachandran and also current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, it was hailed critically as a fine effort in film-making, winning Best Film at the Festival of the Auteur Films in Belgrade.
Ratnam decided to charter new territories in with his next film, making his debut in Hindi language films with Dil Se. The film starred the Mumbai star Shahrukh Khan with Manisha Koirala.
Ratnam used the conflict in the north eastern states as a backdrop to tell a love story between an Indian journalist and a north eastern woman. The film was particularly famous for the song Chaiyya Chaiyya which was shot atop a moving train.
Ratnam returned to Tamil films after that and directed the romance drama Alaipayuthey (which has been remade in Hindi as "Saathiya") in 2000, starring R. Madhavan and Shalini.
Alaipayuthey was a huge success both commercially and critically, as it explored post-marital problems between a young Chennai couple who married beyond their parents' consent, and also returned Ratnam's position as a box office factor.
Ratnam's following effort, Kannathil Muthamittal saw him tackling adoption through the eyes of a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka searching for her biological mother. The film was a critically lauded commercial success, winning six National Film Awards, Ratnam's second Filmfare Award South for directing, his second In Spirit for Freedom Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival and an award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
In 2004, Mani made his second Hindi language effort with Yuva. The film, which tells the story of three different youths and how one incident sends their three lives on a collision course, received positive reviews and was a hit in the box office.
Ratnam also made the film simultaneously in Tamil as Aayutha Ezhuthu. The film was an average at the Tamil box office, but critics favored the Tamil version to the Hindi version. Ratnam also had his first heart attack during shooting for Yuva.
2007 saw Ratnam direct the Madras Talkies production Guru starring Abhishek Bachchan. It became one of 2007's biggest hits. Currently, Ratnam is working on a bilingual magnum opus film being made in both Tamil and Hindi. The film has been titled Raavanan in Tamil and Raavan in Hindi and will be released on June 18, 2010.
The film is loosely based on the Hindu epic "Ramayana" and happened over a period of 14 days where the character Beera kidnaps the wife of a cop to avenge his sister's death. The Tamil version received better reviews than the Hindi version, based mainly on the lead's performance.
The Hindi version of the film received mostly negative reviews and was a failure at the box office. Reviewer Taran Adarsh said 'On the whole, RAAVAN is a king-sized disappointment, in terms of content' and Rajiv Masand said '...is a crushing bore of a film, a disappointment on virtually every count' while another reviewer Raja Sen commented 'It's profoundly sad to see a filmmaker of Ratnam's calibre reduced to this'.
The Tamil version did a reasonable business. Despite the box office performance, some reviewers (National Award Winning Baradwaj Rangan) found this to be Mani's best work thus far.