'Unlike OK Kanmani, Kaatru Veliyedai lends itself to a classical form. It is very different from the previous film in tone, texture and scope.'
Mani Ratnam discusses his latest film.
Mani Ratnam returns with his latest Tamil film, Kaatru Veliyedai, starring Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi.
The director tells Subhash K Jha how he planned his film, and the actors he loves working with.
What is the secret recipe for your longevity as a filmmaker of enduring appeal?
There are so many filmmakers who have made films till the very end, all over the world, who are doing great films irrespective of age. That gives you enough courage to reach for the sky. You will never reach it, but no harm in trying.
Kaatru Veliyedai is your first film in two years and the second love story in a row. As you grow older, why are you gravitating towards themes about young romance?
Filmmaking is a strange business. After OK Kanmani, I had planned and almost went on floors with a different project. The casting did not fall into place, so we worked on a second one and somehow, that didn't fall into place either.
Then Kaatru Veliyedai happened. The other two that I had planned were not love stories.
What attracted you about Kaatru Veliyedai's subject?
The characters, maybe.
The shades of people that you come across.
The relationships you see in real life.
Unlike OK Kanmani, Kaatru Veliyedai lends itself to a classical form. It is very different from the previous film in tone, texture and scope.
Karthi and Aditi look gorgeous together. What made them right for the film?
With Karthi, the casting is a bit against the grain. But that is what adds to the charm, I think. He plays a character, who is so different from his real self that he had to discover the person as we went along.
I think that pushed him as an actor and me as a director, to bring out nuances and flesh out the role better.
Aditi's part was tough. To begin with, she had to learn Tamil dialogues. She had to put in tremendous amount of hard work, which she did.
The film relies very heavily on her character. Aditi had to be very real and convincing. I think she carries the film.
How do you rate the level of dedication in Karthi and Aditi, as compared with your actors in the past, say Arvind Swami and Madhoo in Roja or Mohan and Revathi in Mouna Ragam?
All roles require preparation. Some characters have a peculiar requirement.
Like, Karthi is a fighter pilot. We had to make sure that he was familiar with the cockpit. We should be convinced that he does this every day of his life practically. So it required extra effort. He had to learn some flying. He went to an airbase and was with fighter pilots to get a glimpse of their routine, understand their mind-set, and their attitude.
Aditi (is a doctor and) needed to know the basics when she examined a patient at the hospital. Though we had doctors on set to guide us, it was necessary for her to spend a few days at the hospital before we started the shoot.
So some roles need more physical homework. On the other hand, a role like Abhishek Bachchan's Lallan in Yuva needed more mental preparation.
But all actors, given a chance, bring their best to the table.
Of all the fabulous actors you have worked with, whom have you enjoyed working with most?
The children in Anjali, and all the other films where they've worked with me.
Many consider Kamal Haasan in Nayakan to be a monumental performance by any actor. Do you agree?
Have you watched Kokila, Mundram Pirai, Avargal, Swathi Muthyam, Michael Madana Kama Rajan? I could go on. He has done so many. Nayakan is one of them for Kamal.
In my films, I have been lucky to have great actors.
When do we see you and Kamalji come together again?
When and if it happens, I suppose.
Kaatru Veliyedai's look is bathed with a kind of radiant glow, suggesting intense passion. What was your mood and colour palette for this film?
Like every other element, colour is a story telling tool. It is not a stand-alone entity. It goes with the lensing, the angles, the location, the production design and the costume design.
As a director, you use all the help you can get from each of the departments to tell your story better, to create mood, and rhythm. But what rules is the content and the way it is performed.
In Kaatru Veliyedai, (Director Of Photography) Ravi Varman was a huge part of the story-telling.
You and A R Rahman complete 25 years of blissful confluence. How do you explain the spirituality of the sound that he generates in your cinema? Which among the great Rahman soundtracks of your cinema is your favourite?
When do we see you return to Hindi filmmaking?
Very soon, hopefully.