After his last two films — Kadal (Tamil) and Raavan (Hindi) — opened to mixed responses, Mani Ratnam shut up his detrac- tors with his latest release. O Kadhal Kanmani, the romantic comedy written, pro- duced and directed by the acclaimed filmmaker, was a success in all the languages it was released in.
Mani Ratnam is relaxed now and understandably so.
Sitting in his Chennai office, which overlooks a terrace full
of plants, the filmmaker spoke to India Abroad about the
bouquets and brickbats he’s been subjected to in recent
Social media and film critics believe Mani Ratnam is back.
This comes after a lot of criticism for your last two films.
This shows how much they expect from me. It shows how
much the audience wants me to do well. It also shows that
there is a lot of love and affection for me and they get upset
when I don’t meet expectations.
Were you upset after Raavan and Kadal were somewhat
There was no point in being upset. A lot of hard work
went into both films. We just have to take time to understand what went wrong — the concept or communication.
You take that as your input and move forward.
When you can accept the praises and applause, you have
to learn to accept criticism too.
It is very difficult for human beings to accept criticism gra-
Yes, it is difficult. You have to consciously get into Zen
mode and try not to confront each criticism.
I hope that over time, they try to see something good in
that film (Kadal). Maybe they saw the film with a different
expectation. Maybe we didn’t prepare them for the kind of
film we had made. With new actors and the seashore as the
background, it is very easy to assume that it would be a
simple love story, but it was darker and I didn’t prepare
I should have spoken with more clarity. You assume and
jump a few steps in the narration, thinking there is no need
to explain. But sometimes the simplest self-explanatory
form works and then you can carry them along with you
instead of taking leaps and jumps assuming they will move
along with you.
How important is it to prepare the audience for the kind of
film you are going to present?
It is necessary to prepare the audience beforehand on
what they can expect. We prepared the audience
for Kadal from the way the font of the title was designed to
how the poster was designed. We tried to communicate the
tone of the film. What we did was not enough; something
more was required.
That was why this time, with O Kadhal Kanmani, we
went the extra mile on social media. We made sure that we
communicated about the kind of film it was. It is a new
form of marketing.
Has marketing a film become as important as making it,
with the maximum number of people watching it in the first
Of course, it is very important and necessary. We are
showing films in a very Hollywood way — in large number
of theatres — so the lifespan of a film has drastically
reduced. Within that span, if we want people to come and
watch it, we have to market the film and hope that it gets in
more people with word-of-mouth.
We just can’t wait for the film to pick up, as theatres don’t
let it be there for the audience to come gradually.
Marketing is a very essential part of filmmaking today.
Hopefully, we will get some kind of balance, where films
made on smaller budgets will get time to be liked and be
available for the audience.
Before the release of O Kadhal Kanmani, your wife
Suhasini said only qualified reviewers should review the
film. Was that a panic reaction because of the past experi-
Not at all. Sometimes, words are interpreted differently.
Even if she did mean that, you and I cannot do anything
about it. Movie criticism is very subjective and everyone has
the right to voice their opinion. You go to a movie and
decide whether you like it or not.
With the onset of social media, ever movie-goer is now a
sort of a reviewer, expressing thoughts online even while
they’re watching the movie.
Yes, and a filmmaker has to understand that this will
The person who does that should also know that it will
have a greater effect and it sometimes doesn’t give a (
slightly) different film a fair chance to survive. But just like people write negative things, they write positive things too.
Maybe over time, it will settle down. Right now, with
smart phones flooding the market, everyone wants to be
the first to air an opinion on a film. We should ride out
this wave, accept the criticism and the appreciation, and
the film will be able to survive like we have survived all
Did you deliberately choose an urban love story this time
because it is considered your forte?
Every time you make a film, you want to do it in a genre
that is different from your previous film, so that there is
something fresh about it. My last two films were completely
different from O Kadhal Kanmani. You have a couple of
ideas in mind at any point of time and one of them falls
into place and you do that.
Three of your films had romantic relationships at their
core — Mouna Raagam, Alai Payuthey and O Kadhal
Kanmani. It is interesting to see how the relationship
ÂWHEN YOU CAN ACCEPT THE
APPLAUSE, YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT
Mani Ratnam reflects on hits
and misses, life and love, in this
fascinating interview with
Shobha Warrier/India Abroad.
CINEMA WITH A SOUL/NYIFF
M5 THE MAGAZINE