Mani Ratnam — ‘Mani Sir’ to the film trade and followers — turns 65 at present. What higher solution to have a good time his birthday than to plug into the prodigious music and dream-like tune conditions that his movies have given us during the last three many years? With most filmmakers, the ‘motion’ is the place the motion is. In Ratnam’s case, the ‘rating’ is the place the motion is. He’s the last word phrase in tune picturisation. Beginning together with his breakout, Mouna Ragam (1986) that tells the story of a girl (a spunky Revathi) torn between an outdated flame who’s shot in an unlucky mishap moments earlier than their courtroom wedding ceremony and a husband she doesn’t like to O Kadhal Kanmani (2015) that updates the concept of ‘love’ for the iGeneration that prefers live-in to marriage, Ratnam’s genius is the single-minded methods by which he has put his religion repeatedly within the vagaries of human relationships. “His photographs sank into our souls,” writes critic Baradwaj Rangan in Conversations with Mani Ratnam describing the imprint his work has had on Kollywood followers like him that got here of age within the 1980-90s.
All of Ratnam’s 26-odd movies as a director, starting together with his debut Pallavi Anu Pallavi in 1983 starring a uncooked Anil Kapoor and Lakshmi, are adamantly real looking and true-to-life. Rooted in a social milieu immediately acquainted to most Indians, they’re city in outlook and take up the fragile nature of life, love and relationships as their topic. Cities just like the director’s hometown Chennai, Delhi or Mumbai often function a backdrop. But, it’s within the songs that Mani Sir lets his creativeness run wild. He attracts a daring and vibrant image by way of his distinct model of songs that by some means match the context of the movie and on the similar time, transcend it. You possibly can hum the music with out figuring out which movie it’s from.
No one seeing Mani Ratnam’s songs may inform that they’re shot by the identical man who made these movies. His plots have all of the requisite ebbs and flows and wealthy human drama. By comparability, the songs are the precise reverse — grand, carefree, stylised, bold and completely observe no rulebook. Return and watch Thalapathi (1991), Roja (1992), Thiruda Thiruda (1993), Bombay (1995), Iruvar (1997), Dil Se.. (1998), Alaipayuthey (2000), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Yuva (2004), Guru (2007), Raavan (2010), O Kadhal Kanmani (2015) and his newer, Kaatru Veliyidai (2017). You may be blown away by the atmosphere, the imagery and philosophy of the musical interludes that “allows you to attain an arc of celebration, whether or not it’s pleasure or sorrow, whichever emotion,” because the grasp from Madras put it in a 2015 interview with BFI. After listening to his ideas on this masterclass it quickly turns into evident that in a Mani Ratnam movie the tune is only a palate cleanser which has come to occupy the glamour of the primary dish. Don’t search for logic in them. The person himself justifies his music’s important magic realism by underlining its abstractions. India’s nonlinear and free-flowing “oral custom” of storytelling is a continuing body of reference, he admits.
So, is it abstraction alone that has stored ‘Mandram Vandha’, ‘O Priya Priya’, ‘Chilakamma Chitikeyanga,’ ‘Dil hello chhota sa,’ ‘Tu hello re,’ Nayakan’s theme tune ‘Thenpandi Cheemayile’, ‘Snehithane Snehithane,’ ‘Kabhi neem neem’ and even the dance anthem ‘Chhaiyya chaiyya’ so timeless? What makes these tunes so intimate and but common is the truth that they replicate and signify the vibrancy and restlessness of what it means to be younger and in love. One more reason, in case you want one: Ratnam attracts the most important expertise. Most of the zeitgeisty earworms are the collective efforts of such maestros of their sport as Ilaiyaraaja, Vaali, Vairamuthu, SP Balasubrahmanyam, AR Rahman, KS Chithra, Sujatha Mohan, Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam, Madhushree, Gulzar, S Janaki, Mehboob and so forth. They’re dropped at life on display by Arvind Swami, Revathi, Prakash Raj, Rajinikanth, Mohanlal, R Madhavan, Manisha Koirala, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Kamal Haasan and so on. It’s a top-flight crew, so folks keep in mind the music, simply in addition to they do the visuals. Ratnam’s heroes are charming everymen and heroines, part-traditional part-rebellious. His love tales are extra profound than simply ‘boy meets lady, they overcome obstacles and stroll away fortunately into the sundown’ however not too complicated to place a median viewer off. Inevitably, he’s good at conveying intimacy in private relationships however he likes to offer it texture by setting the romance towards a much bigger canvas. It could possibly be a political battle and battle, whereas generally the cultural conflict between custom and modernity poses a risk. However hats off to his characters and their privilege to sing and dance their worries away, background dancers and props in tow.
To Hindi-speaking North India, the identify Mani Ratnam conjures one enduring picture — Shah Rukh Khan joyously shaking a leg with Malaika Arora in Dil Se.. on a shifting prepare. Nice stunt. Exuberant hook. Shapely Malaika. However ask any Mani Sir fan and he/she may put ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’ on the backside of the ‘most favorite Mani Ratnam songs’ playlist. Seen from one other perspective, is that this the tune that Ratnam’s profession has been constructing as much as? As a result of he lastly will get to climb up the prepare’s roof on this one after many years of working the suburban line. Trains are a recurring motif in Mani Sir’s cinema. Its symbolism could possibly be one thing so simple as life being ‘a journey, not a vacation spot.’ And what signifies the journey higher than a shifting, meandering prepare with all its pit stops, the milestones left behind and extra adventures up forward. In Mouna Ragam, the newly-weds take the prepare to start out a brand new life whereas in Thalapathi, Child Rajini is deserted by his personal mom in a items’ wagon in an echo of Mahabharata’s Kunti dropping Karna right into a basket and floating him within the Ganga. Thiruda Thiruda opens with a prepare theft and closes with a freeze body of the three characters on the tracks, harking back to Jules et Jim. In Kannathil Muthamittal, the adopted daughter is present in a railway station after a protracted chase. Alaipayuthey’s Kartik and Dr Shakti (R Madhavan and Shalini) have a working joke about leaping off the prepare to show their love and by the point you come to O Kadhal Kanmani you see Nithya Menen about to commit suicide by throwing herself in entrance of an approaching prepare. It’s love at first sight for Dulquer Salmaan.
So, you see, it’s no shock that Ratnam has arguably probably the most well-known Indian prepare tune ever to his credit score, which is admittedly an irony as a result of the prepare is probably the most typical place he’s shot a tune in. Other than capturing in typical areas like a hill station, mountain valley, desert or the seaside, he has picturised songs in a pool and gymnasium (Agni Natchathiram), on a tractor (Pagal Nilavu), on bikes and vehicles, in a sci fi-esque online game (Anjali), in film-within-a-film (Iruvar) and lastly, in entrance of the epitome of romance, the Taj Mahal (in Mouna Ragam, after Mohan takes a time off from work to point out Revathi round Delhi and in Iruvar, with Aishwarya Rai prancing about Mohanlal). Essentially the most commendable factor about Mani Ratnam — not like, say Yash Chopra whose maximalist extra relied on a mixture of Switzerland’s Alpine magnificence and Bollywood eye candies in sweaters and chiffons — is that he has by no means shot a tune, or a movie, overseas. One in all India’s most soundtrack-friendly administrators has at all times been completely satisfied to rediscover new wonders in homegrown Kashmir, Kerala and Ladakh.
As you’ll be able to see, Mani Ratnam’s musical output is very versatile. There’s a tune for each event. Think about, then, our plight in arising with simply 5 important numbers that form of outline his type. Do tune in. If it units your temper there’s at all times extra musical mysteries in Mani Ratnam’s cinema to unlock.
‘Mandram Vandha’ from Mouna Ragam (1986)
An unhappily married couple, Divya (Revathi) and Chandrakumar (Mohan) kind the center of this slow-burn love traditional, with Divya’s lifeless fiancé (Karthik as Manohar) offering the heartbeat. We’re instructed of Divya’s previous in an exquisite flashback. She’s married off to Chandrakumar towards her needs. There’s nothing in Chandrakumar to not like him. He’s the film’s Mr Good, bringing a present for Divya that he thinks she’s going to very a lot admire. However Divya refuses his reward and goes on to disclose the Manohar monitor. Minimize to the current. The reward incorporates divorce papers and an anklet. Divya is free to make her alternative. ‘Mandram Vandha’ seems within the movie shortly after the couple have initiated their divorce proceedings. “The breeze got here to the doorway of the home however didn’t have the center to come back to the sofa,” demand the Tamil lyrics, suggesting an unconsummated marriage. Certainly, the couple sleep on separate beds. That is the soul sound by which Ilaiyaraaja, SP Balasubrahmanyam and Mani Ratnam attain their apogee. It was repurposed for Cheeni Kum however the unique’s conjugal context and emotional resonance is misplaced within the 2007 R Balki movie.
‘Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu’ from Thalapathi (1991)
Discover the swag and the type. Knotted shirt. Collar up. Scarf across the neck. Supremely kitschy however appropriately heroic as a result of the person we’re speaking about is ‘Famous person Rajinikanth.’ Rajini has simply overwhelmed Deva’s (Mammootty) henchman to pulp and now, right here he’s grooving and dancing the evening away with co-star Sonu Walia. It resembles a ‘basti’ tune. In what’s in any other case a fun-filled village celebration, Ratnam, songsmith Vaali and composer Ilaiyaraaja infuse it with higher caste non secular carol. Caste, we are going to be taught, is a vital side of the movie, together with friendship between Surya (Rajinikanth) and Deva (Mammootty). Surya and Subbulakshmi (Shobana) are lovebirds however when Deva — to whom Surya is devoted, placing him on a God-like pedestal — goes to Subbulakshmi’s father to repair their marriage the aged Brahmin offers a scornful reply. The import of this change is evident: Surya is an orphan and worse, lower-caste. No prizes for guessing that Thalapathi is Mahabharata’s Karna-Duryodhana episode revisited. Karna is Mahabharata’s nice tragic hero. His dharma is loyalty and he fulfils it by being trustworthy to each Duryodhana (on this case, Deva) and his foster dad and mom whereas sacrificing his personal brother Arjuna (Arvind Swami) and mom Kunti (Srividya). There’s no Lord Krishna in sight, however then isn’t God in every single place? PS: Twin this tune with Thiruda Thiruda’s ‘Veerapandi kotayyile.’
‘Ayirathil Naan Oruvan’ from Iruvar (1997)
One other wonderful Mani Ratnam tribute to male bonding. This time, the pairing is Mohanlal and Prakash Raj and although the director opens the movie with the disclaimer “This story is fictitious’ that it’s based mostly on the cosy relationship between common Tamil cinema and Dravidian politics. Mohanlal performs a thinly veiled model of MGR, Aishwarya Rai as J Jayalalithaa and Prakash Raj as M Karunanidhi. Collectively, they’ll use the platform of the films and the mass hysteria it generates within the South to additional their very own political trigger. Regardless of the politics, it stays a private story of two buddies (the titular duo) and their ideological conflict. Megastar Anandan (Mohanlal) turns into the face, whereas radical poet Tamizhselvan (Prakash Raj) is the mind of a motion from which fashionable Tamil politics might be born. For the reason that movie is about ‘movies’ and the dream manufacturing unit’s potential as a propaganda machine, the gadget offers Ratnam and AR Rahman a chance to distil the film magic into some fascinating songs. In a top-notch catalogue that pays homage to outdated Tamil movies, it’s troublesome to choose a favorite. Many would favor the Carnatic-inflected dream quantity ‘Narumugaye’ however could we recommend ‘Ayirathil Naan Oruvan,’ as a substitute? The tune is a vital catalyst for Act 2. (Spoilers forward). Initially, Anandan is reluctant shoot with the younger discover Kalpana (Aishwarya Rai II) as a result of she reminds him of his deceased spouse (Aishwarya Rai I). Kalpana shouldn’t be involved in movies, not to mention the dance set-piece. However their chemistry in ‘Ayirathil Naan Oruvan’ marks the start of a lifelong affair. Additionally: Anandan is shot on the units, one of many occasions that set the ball rolling for his entry into politics.
‘Dil se..’ from Dil Se.. (1998)
A lot has been written in reward of Roja and Bombay. Each albums, with their catchy mix of Carnatic, pop, qawwali, Sufi and folksy influences, are extensively common. Again within the ’90s, Roja, Bombay and maybe Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela, felt like a volcanic disruption to the orchestral melodies of Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin-Lalit and Anu Malik. So whereas Rahman’s Slumdog Millionaire Oscar nod was a giant win for Indian music, the actual Jai Ho second for the Mozart of Madras got here with Roja which helped first put him on the map — thumbs-upped by a minimum of the Time journal. Roja launched AR Rahman to Hindi cinema and he, in flip, launched Hindi cinema to a brand new sound. He was the human Coke Studio, banging out hybrid music that was simply smarter and sexier than something heard earlier than. Roja and Bombay are part of Ratnam’s terror trilogy together with Dil Se.. These are movies of intimate human scale touched by bigger sociopolitical occasions by which the person has no management. Bombay’s climax was set towards the massacre as Muslims and Hindus kill one another within the aftermath of the 1992-93 riots. A helpless Arvind Swami actually begs folks to cease the insanity. Now, take a look at Dil Se..’s title hymn. It’s peppy and highly effective, with foot-tapping efficiency. The tune talks about love as “meethi si mushkil,” in Gulzar’s memorable free-verse. Within the movie, Shah Rukh Khan performs a radio journalist despatched on an project to strife-torn Assam. Moments earlier than the title monitor, he has labored his attraction on Meghna (Manisha Koirala, wanting like straight out of 1942: A Love Story). The tune’s imagery shares stylistic similarities with Bombay climax, besides this can be a dream sequence. SRK is singing anthems of affection and possibly saying, ‘love wins’ within the time of battle, weapons and violence. “Dil hai toh phir dard hoga, dard hai toh dil bhi hoga,” writes Gulzar, evaluating ‘dil’ to autumn leaves.
‘Snehithane Snehithane’ from Alaipayuthey (2000)
This can be a love ballad for the ages. A rooster soup for lovey-dovey souls on the market. Sadhana Sargam’s honey-smooth, lovesick voice casts a seductive spell on the listeners. Lilting and passionate within the mould of outdated classics, ‘Snehithane Snehithane’ is Cupid come alive. It takes you out of your humdrum actuality and hurls you into the world of love-soaked, moonlit dreamland. All the pieces is simply nocturnal-perfect right here: the mellifluous vocals, the pop-Sufi interludes, Gulzar tipping his hat to Mir Taqi Mir — apt alternative, for he’s the poet of the poets whose romantic shayari has misplaced none of its quotable worth. R Madhavan and Shalini’s scorching on-screen chemistry provides an extra layer of richness and relevance. As anybody who’s seen the movie will know, Karthik (Madhavan) and Dr Shakti (Shalini) are made for one another, regardless of hitting a bump of their marriage. One of many movie’s nice delights is their courtship after which the realisation that marriage is a variety of exhausting work. The truth is, ‘Snehithane Snehithane’ (in case you take heed to it on a loop, it begins sounding like a lullaby after a degree) comes proper in the midst of the movie. The younger romantics are nonetheless head over heels in love, unaffected but by the oppression of marriage. Karthik nonetheless flirts over the telephone with Shakti. And Shakti nonetheless blushes. Apparently, Madhavan’s Karthik gave rise to many Karthiks in Tamil cinema. Legions of younger followers proudly name themselves the ‘youngsters’ of Alaipayuthey, similar to some Bollywood addicts name themselves ‘youngsters’ of Dil Chahta Hai. A part of Alaipayuthey’s cultish stature is its era-defining music. The movie has a younger coronary heart and it’s complemented by an equally contemporary, bouncy and really, mesmerising beats. The Hindi model, too, has remained massively common. Although Alaipayuthey-philes could also be much less satisfied by Saathiya, the Hindi soundtrack is definitely at par with the unique. Gulzar’s evocative phrases, particularly, flip it right into a smash value remembering for Hindi music buffs. Or a minimum of one thing you’ll be able to’t overlook.