Mani Ratnam needs no introduction because he is an international brand. There is no doubt that he is among Asia’s best directors and a filmmaker who has got the Indian audiences to transcend conventional ways of looking at cinema. He is a director who delves into mythology and creates contemporary renderings. Never for a moment is one allowed to forget who the mind is behind every inflection and emotion. One is constantly reminded of the film even after emerges from the theatre.

From his first film, Pallavi Anu Pallavi, to his latest OK Kanmani, which will be released worldwide on April 17, Mani Ratnam has come a long way. This filmmaker has shown us the values of human relationships. That is the magic of Mani Ratnam. All his movies stand tall and his admirers are loyal and vociferous, but there are equally rabid critics who in their tirade contradict each other.

Be it Roja, Bombay, Dil Se or Kannathil Muttamittal, your movies deal with contemporary issues. What does your next film OK Kanmani deal with?

OK Kanmani does not deal with any issues but primarily focuses on what is happening around us. It is all about the changing values and change in attitudes among youngsters. The film also talks about the changing views in relationships, and it is something that I have observed closely over the years.

You don several caps. You conceive a story, write scripts and direct films. What do you see yourself as?

I see myself as a complete filmmaker. I enjoy every aspect of filmmaking be it writing or directing. When I take up a film, it is my duty to ensure that it reaches the audience effectively. For any director, every movie is a challenge and in order to conceive it the way you want, it is always better if you take up all these roles together.

How do you work on your character and their relationships? Where does the sensitivity come from?

There are no such clear-cut lines. Every film starts with an idea and then the lines merge. The idea of the story comes with a glimpse of the characters. I always believe that a character takes shape only when an actor performs on screen and that has been my experience. There is more clarity when you write about the character on paper, otherwise it is all on screen. Sensitivity comes from your value system isn’t it? You need to turn around and look at your background, the people around you, what moves you in life. You pick things out of anywhere and you think you can do that particular subject.

Writing is a process that does not come easily. You need to throw yourself a challenge every time. It is something I thoroughly enjoy.

You have admitted openly that writing to you is exciting but sometimes troublesome. How challenging is it to crack an idea on paper for the first time?

That is true. At times writing can be nagging, exciting, fascinating and troublesome. It stares back at you. There are times when it opens up and at times it just opens up halfway and not completely. At times it promises to be fantastic. There are times when you get stuck on it and then you keep thinking over it for days. It pains you and even hurts you but nothing can beat the happiness when you ultimately shape a character completely. It is a moment when you know you have solved the problem and you feel good about it. It is a process that does not come easily. You need to throw yourself a challenge every time. It is something I thoroughly enjoy..

What one has observed is that your films have a force field of their own. When one is in it, one feels differently. When one leaves the theatre nothing lingers. Is that a deliberate attempt?

That seems to be a good observation (laughs). Frankly, I have nothing against conventional methods of filmmaking. Before thinking about a film, I always ask myself what I want to do. I know that I want to do something that matters. It is something that intrigues, fascinates and challenging.

This was first published in Times of Oman on April 15, 2015

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