Home Indian Movies Bitty Ruminations 94 – Mani Ratnam, ARR and the ‘mainstream’

Bitty Ruminations 94 – Mani Ratnam, ARR and the ‘mainstream’

Bitty Ruminations 94 – Mani Ratnam, ARR and the ‘mainstream’


It is a take-off on Madan’s remark within the MR-ARR interview thread, the place he talked about my podcast the place he says I stated one thing like “this bizarre strongly mainstream impulse Mani has for one who desires to be making an attempt new issues on a regular basis. “

I wish to outline what I meant by the phrase “mainstream” right here. For one, there is no such thing as a “non-mainstream” cinema in Tamil, and even these movies (Nasir, Pebbles, and others that come beneath the latest blooming of festival-bound “artwork cinema” in Tamil) have hardly been seen by the “mainstream”. So if Mani Ratnam is a mainstream director, it’s as a result of he can’t be area of interest. He has to work “throughout the mainstream”, in a format that normal audiences can observe.

So what is that this format?

  1. Having stars
  2. Having songs
  3. Having (principally) completely satisfied endings
  4. And so forth, so forth

However why is Mani Ratnam particular, the best way Thiagarajan Kumararaja (one other filmmaker whose sensibilities I like) is particular? As a result of in a much less “apparent” method than Tremendous Deluxe, each movie of his is “avant garde” in a roundabout way or the opposite — and I’m not simply speaking in regards to the post-Iruvar section, the place he remodeled into a unique type of filmmaker.

Take the Nineteen Eighties movies:

If you wish to take Mouna Raagam the actually “mainstream” method, you’d say the heroine has been harm by the trauma of a now-dead ex, she refuses marriage, however is nurtured again to happiness by the love of a very good man.

However this isn’t the movie in any respect. The heroine actively rebels towards being married off towards her needs (a non-mainstream selection) till she has to due to a father who suffers a heart-attack (a stock-mainstream melodramatic machine), after which her ego received’t permit the wedding to succeed (a tremendously non-mainstream selection) till she sees the person’s goodness and relents (a mainstream completely satisfied ending).

The identical could be stated about so a lot of these early movies. I imply, Rajinikanth as a loser in love, shedding his lover to his enemy, and later marrying a “non-virgin”? A narrative about a little bit lady with a terminal sickness, with no particular person protagonist as such, the place the “household unit” is the collective protagonist? (Even within the “family-unit” Visu films, the Visu-character was kinda-sorta the centre, the protagonist, so to talk.)

That’s what I imply once I say there’s presumably no different Tamil filmmaker — 90s onwards (at the very least, earlier, there have been Okay Balachander, Mahendran, and so forth.) — who has made such “non-mainstream” selections throughout the wrapping of a mainstream movie, that may attain broad audiences.

A “mainstream” filmmaker wouldn’t even contact a topic like Iruvar or Kadal or Kaatru Veliyidai or Dil Se. And even Ponniyin Selvan! Who would threat their time/vitality on a style that has been lifeless for some 4 a long time? Who would ask his lyricist for phrases like “Aga naga“? (Is that this the primary andhadhi tune in Tamil since MSV-Kannadasan’s ‘Vasantha kaala nadhigalile‘?

And I believe plenty of this has been enhanced by ARR’s sensibilities. Mani Ratnam was already breaking formulation, and when he joined arms with a similar-thinking music director, they fed one another’s thirst to be “non-mainstream throughout the mainstream”. ‘Theera ulaa‘ from OK Kanmani is an excellent instance — the segue from staccato, high-pitched phrases to a “charanam” (if one can name it that) with a flowing, Carnatic-sounding portion.

Now, examine this — loosely — with an identical, parting-situation tune like O paapa laali, my favorite within the Geetanjali soundtrack. That tune is beautiful, exquisitely sung and organized — however it doesn’t go anyplace you don’t count on it to. This isn’t a “fault” , or an announcement that Raja couldn’t do one thing else. I’m simply refuting the concept the Mani Ratnam-ARR mixture or the Mani Ratnam-Ilaiyaraaja mixture was someway “constrained” by the director’s “mainstream” sensibility — as a result of the mode he works in is “mainstream” however his sensibilities are usually not.

Now, the Ilaiyaraaja query: was he not “non-mainstream throughout the mainstream”? I might say, sure and no. His genius in music doesn’t want me to elaborate additional. However I believe his larger genius was the best way he determined to take his music to the mainstream. Sure, there are exceptions like ‘Thendral vandhu theendum pothu…‘ or ‘Ila neje vaa‘, with lengthy melodic traces — however he largely saved his tunes brief, metric, simply hummable and did the main non-mainstream stuff (his orchestration/preparations) within the background. In order a “bundle” that pierces the hearts of listeners from nooks and corners of the state, ‘O paapa laali‘ is the higher tune, however as a bit of particular person expression, ‘Theera ulaa‘ is best. (All IMO, in fact.)

And it’s with ARR that Mani Ratnam has gone the furthest together with his personal mode of “particular person expression”, which can be a operate of the instances. (And which is why many viewers don’t like the brand new Mani Ratnam as a lot, and preserve asking him to make films like Mouna Raagam once more.)

The opposite motive is that Raja’s biggest section (the “IMO” is pointless right here, as a result of everybody goes to have their very own block of time as a “biggest” section) got here earlier than Mouna Raagam. Once more, this isn’t to say he didn’t make nice songs after that, however that “looseness of spirit” you discover in, say, Poo malarndhida (Carnatic, prog-rock) or perhaps a Maanada kodi (a staccato three-line pallavi, that segues into lengthy melodic traces within the charanam) didn’t seem as ceaselessly as in that golden-age section. Fortunately, we obtained Poo maalaiye, earlier than Raja determined to go full-on symphonic (on account of what occurred together with his personal symphony? who is aware of!).

To me, Mani Ratnam’s and Rahman’s sensibilities are like these of MSV and RDB. Of their finest work, they’ll completely take you on unusual instructions, which you by no means noticed coming.

I’ll finish with Vikram’s introduction scene in Ponniyin Selvan – Half 1. Any “mainstream” director would have defined why he doesn’t behead the Rashtrakuta king. As a substitute, we simply get the change of expression on Vikram’s face (victorious and cocky to confused, in a couple of seconds) and the road that he doesn’t wish to kill ANOTHER defenseless individual. (And once more, think about this style itself was a lifeless one, and an everyday “mainstream” director would have tried to be as protected as doable. )

Even the 80s/early-90s Mani Ratnam may need had the Vikram/Aishwarya Rai parts as a fast prologue, so after we get to this second, we “know issues in chronological order”. However no. The reason for that line comes earlier than the interval, in two components: one that’s revealed to Vikram Prabhu and one which stays inside Vikram’s head and is revealed solely to the viewers. And belief me, only a few individuals know the novel that effectively to make these connections, or would have even anticipated this flashback at this level.

In order that’s what I meant by ‘mainstream’ in that podcast. It’s not art-film territory, however it’s not full-on mainstream both. My favorite a part of the interview was when Mani Ratnam stated: “I’ve fallen many instances.” And but, he stays away from protected zones as a lot as doable.

CCV didn’t work for me in any respect, however even there, you may see an uncharacteristic, “highlights-reel” type of strategy that labored effectively for the ADD audiences of at this time, who simply need issues to maintain transferring. And so they made the movie an enormous hit. This, I really feel, is the explanation Mani Ratnam and ARR have been on the high for therefore lengthy, regardless of “falling many instances”. They’ve garnered sufficient of a loyal viewers base — like Kamal did — that desires to see what they do subsequent. “Non-mainstream throughout the mainstream” is a uncommon high quality.

PS: I’ve not stated all I needed to say, however I believe the feedback will prod me to jot down extra about this. And thanks, Madan, for making me take into consideration this.



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