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A bee in my bonnet 5

Mani Rathnam

What's all this talk about Mani Rathnam being India's best director and so on? Honestly, when was the man's last good movie? Nayagan? Mouna Ragam? I admit, I liked Alaipayuthe in parts but then you don't look at a child and say how gorgeous are the toes while determinedly ignoring the warts on the face. I could barely sit through Dil Se. And as for Guru, let's not go there, shall we? Like the kind and like-minded husband pointed out, two hits and fifteen flops don't make a master. They only serve to make the good ones seem like anomalies in an otherwise extraordinarily dull career. And yet the man enjoys much popularity and a haloed status among movie goers. He is beyond criticism and his movies are analysed within a breadth of their rather flimsy life. How did he get there? How did he come to enjoy a status that sees stars queueing outside his door for a reportedly pittance of a fee despite his string of flops? How come he commands such a long leash from his audience who don't accord other film-makers the same privilege?

Mani has been clever in shrouding his projects in secrecy and staying away from the media glare. These have always added to a sense of intrigue that precedes the release of his movies. But none of that hype can take away from an otherwise mediocre product. I feel somewhere along the way Mani started believing in all the hoopla surrounding him and succumbed to it. He started taking himself too seriously and began sketching a canvas that was way beyond what his limited talents could handle. He offers such simplistic solutions to end communal riots and ethnic conflicts that beggar belief. And as for his attempts at biopics, he doesn't have the balls to go all the way and seems to find curious comfort in elaborate disclaimers at the start of the movie. This is the point in my rant when I say that I'm not a movie critic or an expert and just a regular enthusiast. But why bother? You probably know that already.


S m i t h a said…
in the land of the blind, one-eyed man is a king. he is mediocre no doubt, but he got taste & talent for cinema.
he is no bergman or kurosawa, but at least he is not SLB or a third-rate copy-cat director :)
Karthik Sriram said…
You forgot Kannathil Muthamittal - except for the flashback bet M and S, the movie was top class.

Madura said…
I think his movie try to entertain both men and women (making it half unlikable for the other half!). He always has an item number with a sizzling hot persona, which is for ... :) ... and there is often one song for the kids - making some claim he is a family entertainer. Definitely flavors of hollywood movies show up in his scenes, tastefully re-decorated. One could find faults with any of these or many of these.

I still adore him. I believe his heroines are more likable than other tamil movie heroines. The dialogues they speak are more realistic and the emotions too - the marital mess and bliss that a tamil woman goes through is often well captured by him and almost absent in other tamil movies.

I believe one could grow out of him quite easily if distanced by space or time. Another person at another space and time can argue that is not what is realistic about a tamil woman after all! :) ... So ...
Kalps said…
There are very few directors in Tamil who can feel and also convey emotions in a sensitive manner. Mani Rathnam is one of them. And that is why he appealed to that segment of the society that needs more than masala stuff for their taste buds. He did have a lot of flops...but his hits still are a delight to watch. We need more sensitive directors like him for tamil cinema to attain a different class.
Tangent said…
Your first line by itself is a fallacy.
Hence the rest of it is redundance and the reasons are pure sophistry.

We need not go as far as Kurosawa, as much as Satyajit Ray or a Guru Dutt inhouse. Maniratnam is more a master at marketing a saleable product,rather than creation of an unique piece of art.
Jeeves said…
From one word short stories to lashing out on reading, travelling, photography and now Maniratnam, the bees in the bonnet seem restless :)

Few points from someone who likes Maniratnam's movies

First- You dont need ten hits to prove you are a good director. If hits were indeed a criteria,David Dhawan with his double entendres is indeed the best director around.

Second - You dont need to cry hoarse about your movies pre and post release. The intriguing silence will probably ensure one show and not beyond that. Personal characteristics need not be attributed always to commercial sense!!!!

Third - Probably there are very few directors who have presented cinema in such wonderful canvas like him.

Fourth- Even books come with disclaimers. Its director's liberty to do so.

PS :- I think he has given more hits than two.
The Kid said…
Please refer:

should I remind you of Geethanjali, Dhalapathi, roja and agninatachram?
I admire Maniratnam from introducing subtlety and sophistication to Tamil cinema. Sensible costumes, underplayed emotions, elegant sets, beautifully shot songs – Tamil cinema was badly in need of these during the ‘80s and Mani brought them in.

However, the man has several flaws. He’s unbelievably repetitive. Heroines shimmering in yellow chiffon saris, key scenes shot in the rain, climax at a railway station, hero lifting up a fossilized grandmother in a song shot in slow motion – these are just some examples. Some of his comedy tracks stink.

His biggest flaw are his climaxes, me thinks. They are invariably weak and unconvincing and fall flat.
Anonymous said…
The reason Mani is a class apart, in my view, is because of the attention he pays to detail. Character sketching, screenplay and the narration styles are unique and totally different from the run-of-the-mill products churned day in and day out.
I also believe he has the ability to make actors perform better.
He may not have the balls to treat biopics in their entireity, but how many directors have the balls to even take up biopics as against a beaten-to-death "boy loves girl, bad papa" or a "good cop psycho sex maniac" story?
End of the day, Mani gives the audience, to a large extent, food for thought. He definitely has his bad spells, but who does'nt? The bouts of sheer brilliance in certain movies make up for these minor stumbles.

Vivek Seshadri
chockalingam said…
When I purchased my first tantex jatti, it was made of very soft cotton fibers brushing against my privates providing intense soothing relief. Since then I have washed it many many times in Ariel soap and one by one the fibers have started to come apart. The elastic has forgotten its youngs's modulus. Thus weakened, I can feel the jatti creeping down towards my knees beneath my vellai veshti especially during the sandhyavandanam procedure which requires utterance of religious rites from deep underneath my tummy thus producing pressure points on my udder and nether regions. After about five six years of nonstop usage, the tantex jatti has become a tantex komanam. I have to hold it up using my aranakayir, otherwise it will convert my public appearances into pubic apearances.

Thus did Rathnam Saar descend into dismal depravity from the tremendous heights he scaled in Mouna Ragam. Gradually his soft sensitivity was washed away by the coarse soap of kumudam, kalki and tughlaq. He ran away to indi ulagam but the northie people's sensibilities are even coarser. His neat jatti was torn to tatters and now he is left holding onto his komanam for the sake of his rasigars, who continue to pretend their emperor is wearing new clothes when the rest of the world can see his ass crack. Ofcourse people who have never worn a jatti, such as rustic Bharatiraaja , Bagyaraj etc who left their respective villages in their komanams, mock Mani Saar for his tattered jatti. What they forget is that atleast Mani Saar sports a jatti, whereas they were always children of komanam since their conception. Then there are bigamists like Balu Magendra Saar who takes potshots at Mani while his own jatti is being mended at frantic pace by his three wives sewing away to glory.

What we learn from all these events is that all jattis have a very interesting but very short transient solution, and a very boring but very long steady state solution. When you get to that steady state, better to invest in a new jatti. This is what the tantex hoarding at Vyasarpadi is trying to tell you. But because you are so busy, you are speeding by that hoarding so it is all a blur. Next time, come to a full stop and buy that jatti.
avataram said…
Iruvar is india/tamil nadu´s Citizen Kane. what more do you expect the man to make?
Poppins said…
I like Mani's movies, but I just can't stop laughing at this Chockalingam's jatti remark. Came here via Boo (I think?) Or was it Visitor. Not sure. But my first time here.
Blur said…
Chockalingam Baby ... U ROCK !!! that was hillarious.
Manirathanm is the director of the 'pseudos' if you ask me (U didnt .. well !)
All his movies are 'metro' centric, actually chennai-centric actually Besant Nagar centric. No one in North Madras likes his movies i am sure.
While all his movies are generously crappy, there are always these flashes of brilliance and that makes me uphold a tiny bit of faith in him . eg.

The interlude between Pyramid Natarajan (Madhavan's dad) and Shalini's dad was cutting edge. The underlying icy sarcasm shrouded in forced politeness.

same for Bharathiraja's role in Ayudha yezhuthu. I dont think any other director would have hit that bull's eye with characterization.

so yeah... he's ok and all but is a pseudo-whore!
Deepa said…
First of all, he is Mani Saar. And he is the best director in the whole world much like AB, the best actor. He is not popular because he intro'ed ARR to the world but he made great movies like Thiruda thiruda.
ethanaiyo murai tantex hoarding thaandi ponavan said…
me and better half lol over chockalingam's comment- man you made our day!!! :-)
Anonymous said…
Last Good Movie of MR: Iruvar. Kannathil Was stictly ok in parts.

The man was good. Now I think he is overhyped. He lost it somewhere in between.

rambhai said…
ya. mani ratnam is kinda dull. guru was ok i was expectin something better. have u seen "yuva" thats a weird film i mix of different time zone . you dont really get when is the flash back and when is the current scene
J said…
Agree with all that you've said on MR. What made me comment here was Chokalingam's comments..Simply hilarious :)

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