Interviews…

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  • My interview in Time Out magazine, by Jai Arjun Singh, aka Jabberwock, is here. An excerpt:

Why did you choose to write the book in the Q&A format? And what were the challenges in doing it this way?

I wrestled for a while with other options, but I settled on this format because he’s never talked at this length to anyone before, and it made sense to honour his participation in this project. It’s a terrible thing for a writer to do a book this way, because you have to suppress your writerly vanity and constantly remind yourself that this is not about your writing skills but about the back-and-forth of the conversation. But that said, I do feel that conversational books (as opposed to mere Q and A’s; and I hope readers will come away with the impression of having read a series of conversations and not just a set of questions and answers) come with their own set of challenges. The preparatory work is no different from any other type of non-fiction: you still have to do your research, come up with a list of things the book is going to be about, formulate those into questions, be prepared for accidental discoveries, and so forth. But there’s the problem of catching someone in a mood to answer your questions even when they may not be the most flattering. It’s easy to write a book about someone by talking to those around him and putting facts together, but when you’re talking to the person himself, you have to balance your job as a journalist (i.e. getting the hard facts) and your job as a facilitator (i.e. creating an ambience that makes it comfortable for so reticent a creator to open up, even when your questions are somewhat less-than-complimentary about his work).

  • The above interview as it appeared in Time Out magazine is here.
  • My interview in Dainik Bhaskar (with a link to a shorter piece in the e-paper), by Gajendra Singh is here. An excerpt:

How has your way of seeing his movies changed after knowing from him possibly every minute detail of how, why and with what context he made his movies?

I definitely understand why he made certain decisions regarding certain films. I understand his thought process, but understanding that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like the movie. For instance, you meet somebody for the first time and you’re sitting across him and you really don’t like a couple of things. For the second time, may be you become comfortable but the same things that irritated you the first time, are irritating you the second time. And then you talk to somebody else, a third person, and understand ki achcha the reason he’s so quiet is because of this, or the reason he’s so talkative is this. That understanding you have of that person is going to get you inside that person but that doesn’t mean you’re going to stop getting irritated by those traits.

  • My interview in the blog Ticker Talks Film (with an excerpt from AR Rahman’s foreword), by Raghav Modi is here. An excerpt:

Your chapter on Thiruda Thiruda ends a bit abruptly with Mani Ratnam stating that he doesn’t remember a dialogue you based your question on. Were there times during your conversations when you knew you had asked enough questions, pushed him to the limit, and it was time to move on?

There was also a bit of shaping of the questions, so that there would be some dramatic impact even within a session. But yes, you have to know, sometimes, when you have hit a wall and when it’s time to move on.

  • My interview in Kalki, by S. Chandramouli, is here. An excerpt:

ஒரு சந்திப்பில் அவர் சொன்ன விஷயங்களை, அடுத்த முறை சந்திப்பதற்கு முன்னால் எழுதிவிடுவேன். ஒவ்வொரு படத்தின் கதை, கதாபாத்திர உருவாக்கம், நடிகர்கள், வசனம் போன்றவற்றோடு கேமரா, எடிட்டிங், மியூசிக் போன்ற டெக்னிக்கல் விஷயங்களைப் பற்றியும் நிறைய பேசினோம். ஆனால், எல்லோருக்கும் படிக்க சுவாரஸ்யமாக இருக்கும்படி புத்தகம் அமைய வேண்டும் என்பதிலும் குறியாக இருந்தேன்.”

  • Not technically an interview, but my little sidebar to the Business Line review is here. An excerpt:

My first question in the first chapter is a simple one. But by the time we get to Roja, my first question to him is deeply personal and not quite complimentary. It’s almost an accusation. But once that rapport was established, I found him open to any kind of questions, because he’d understood by then that my motive was not accusatory, but simply trying to understand the choices he’d made. It was fantastic to hear why he did what he did, because sometimes we don’t realise how many decisions go into a movie.

  • And an interview that appeared in Midday is here. The image file:

Conversations with Mani Ratnam, Midday, Mumbai, 111912

18 thoughts on “Interviews…

  1. Unrelated to this article – rameshram, where are you?!! I quite enjoy the face off you have with rangan and the others. Get out of the hibernate mode, STAT.

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  2. Read your interview with interest; looking forward to picking up the book when I go to India later this month. Were you satisfied with what you accomplished in the course of the conversation? Or did you come away feeling there is so much more you could have asked him?

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  3. “creating an ambience that makes it comfortable for so reticent a creator to open up, even when your questions are somewhat less-than-complimentary about his work).


    which is partly why I couldnt think of anyone except Mani(amongst directors) who could have been the subject of your book, even if it does look counter-intuitive at first. If you look at the factors(i.e impressive body of work, your personal affection for the director’s work, sensibility-matching,the way he communicates(that he thinks in English helps a bit I guess), whether currently still relevant etc.) it narrows down to maybe 1 or 2. You couldnt have done this with say, a Bharathiraja. Or it might have needed a lot more effort. Just my thought.

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  4. “He is not someone who’s comfortable with subtextual analysis, and I’ve seen (rather, read about) this with many filmmakers……but again, I think he got to know this about me and I got to know that he’s not a fan of what he calls “intellectualisation”, so that was some place we agreed to disagree.”

    ah, he is sort of our kind of guy then :-) But, by that time you did this interview you should have been experienced enough in the comments space here to know how to deal with these characters and those opposite viewpoints :-)

    BR, but in general, am curious to know how directors in general(in Tamil cinema) vibe with you. Do they have an attitude towards film criticism still?(like “ivan yaarda namma paththi pesa vandhuttaan, or”modhalle nee oru padam yedu, appram enna paththi ezhudhu etc.)
    Because unlike the west, formal criticism is not something that is in our film DNA yet. Or maybe things are changing.

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  5. vijay: the few people that I have met for interviews or other stuff (GVM, Thyagarajan Kumararaja, Vasanth, KB, Kamal) know about critics/criticism, and they don’t have any kind of attitude. I don’t think most others even know of my existence :-)

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  6. I am pleasantly surprised to know the book is in the Q&A format. I was expecting an anecdotal interview in your trademark illustrious prose on the lines of the interviews on the blog. Brilliant decision.

    And, I am guessing this is the cover of your ‘Director’s cut’ version. When I saw the new cover I thought this would be perfect for one of those fanboyist essay books or analyses of the work of a particular filmmaker. Props to Mani Sir for suggesting the conversational mode.

    “despite his annoyance with certain things I was asking – had come to know that my questions weren’t accusations so much as coming to grips with certain choices in his films.”

    Did you explain yourself beforehand to make sure he didn’t think you were ‘criticizing’ him ? Or did you just go about your thing honestly even when things got heated up hoping he would understand that the questions are not accusations and it’s still a conversation – not an interrogation ?

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  7. Mango Man: Yes, I am rather fond of this cover, and if someone funds a book containing all my outtakes, then this is the cover that will go on it :-)

    Also, it was not Mani Ratnam who suggested the conversational mode. He just said, let’s talk. I could have still written the whole thing out in a non-Q-and-A form. But as I’ve explained in the Intro, this format made sense, and I went with it.

    I sent him a draft and he replied, “Went thru it. Quite nice. Like the Q&A format.” You know, I somehow never pegged him for a casual “thru” man :-)

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  8. “You know, I somehow never pegged him for a casual “thru” man

    ..and I never pegged you as a guy who is not quite open or friendly face-to-face as you claim in the interview(and especially when few others here who know you personally have’nt said so) :-) But then, cyber personas can be a bit misleading I guess

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  9. Pingback: Conversations with Mani Ratnam — பரத்வாஜ் ரங்கன் « Balhanuman's Blog

  10. Brangan, a late reaction to your interview with Jai Arjun Singh, but I loved how you put this.

    “Today, in the multiplex era, we have people making ultra-edgy films for niche audiences, and there is something almost absurdly touching about a single man’s belief that he can carry along huge masses of viewers with spectacle, style and substance.”

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  11. While Interviewing for Agni, I was wondering why you finished the episode without asking why he included Janakaraj episode in the whole film? – Honestly, Agni was his worst film till date, though he was dealing a very sensitive issue at the core – it was a torturous film to watch with the abrupt scenes and songs and on top of that, he comes up with Janakraj thread and a not so thrilling Godfather ish climax ! – please post any edited questions on that film..!

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