Mani Ratnam (born as Gopala Ratnam Subramaniam) is an Indian filmmaker who brought new dimensions to the otherwise mongrelized Tamil Cinema. Mani Ratnam’s movies never had that didactic messages, but they ride on truths laced with soothing music and visual beauty.
Despite hailing from a family of filmmakers, Mani Ratnam, and his siblings were never allowed to watch movies as it was considered a taboo in their family. His father S Gopalakrishnan was a film distributor who worked for Venus Pictures.
It was only during his teens Mani Ratnam started watching movies and was in awe of K Balachander’s works and Sivaji Ganeshan’s acting. After completing his MBA in finance from “Jamanlal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies”, he took a sabbatical from the consultant job as he felt the job isn’t any more exciting and started accompanying one of his friends in a filmmaking, but the film eventually got shelved. Though he was hosed by the unfateful beginning, it did not deter him from going in pursuit of his passion as he was completely taken over by the mojo of Cinema by then. Despite, no support from his family, Mani took a step ahead and joined with few other film passionates like PC Sreeram and few others.
Mani Ratnam developed a script for a Kannada film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (which happens to be Bollywood Actor Anil Kapoor’s one only Kannada film till date) and his uncle Krishnamurthy produced it. Though the movie was an average grosser, it fetched him the award for the Best Screenplay from the Karnataka Government. After debut, he was offered to direct a Malayalam film and few Tamil films none gave the satisfactory results until Mounaragam (1986) happened. The movie’s success elevated Mani Ratnam’s status as the director and won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil at the 34th National film Awards.
In 1987 Naayagan is loosely inspired on the Godfather movie, it’s about a slum-dwelling boy who turned a gangster in the Mumbai underworld. The film is said to be based on the true story of real-life gangster Varadarajan Mudaliyar. The movie was featured in the list of “All-Time 100 Greatest Movies of India” and the film’s stupendous success brought him the national recognition. His meticulousness, obsessiveness to push his vision to the end made him the most sought-after directors and his mojo started since then.
Mani Ratnam had directed only direct Telugu film till date Geethanjali, an elusive concept of an ill-fated individuals Nagarjuna and Girija who suffer from terminal diseases fall in love with each other. The movie wasn’t just a commercial and critical success but won him the Nandi Award for “Best Story Writer” and “National Film Award for Best Popular Film providing Wholesome Entertainment” in 1990. His next film Anjali, the story of an autistic child wasn’t a just a mere commercial success but was nominated as India’s official entry to the Oscars in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category at the 63rd Academy Awards. Later, Mani Ratnam made yet another underworld-themed Thalapathi (got dubbed as Dalapathi in Telugu), that is loosely based on the Indian epic Mahabharata in which Rajnikanth and Mammootty reprising the roles of Karna and Duryodhana respectively.
Post the success of Talapathi, Mani Ratnam started focusing on serious issues happening in the Country rather than just commercial plots. He came up with Roja, a patriotic drama and fight against the terrorism which marked the debut of music director AR Rahman, followed by the trilogy of terrorism movies Bombay and Dil Se. All these 3 films weren’t a planned political dramas. But, it was the phase India was going through at that time which enticed Maniratnam to make films on those subjects.
In a career spanning over 3 decades, Mani Ratnam has not just redefined the Cinema but left his distinction as a film-maker and has won a spate of Awards for his exemplary work in the Indian Cinema. There are Art films, there are commercial films and there are Mani Ratnam’s films, such is the impact created by him.
The ace filmmaker is married to Kamal Hasan’s niece and former leading heroine Suhasini and the couple has a son Nandan.