Reviews…

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REVIEWS IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA

  • A review by Sanjukta Sharma, in Mint, is here. An excerpt:

Last year’s Conversations With Scorsese by Richard Schickel is an example of how the [interview] format works. So is this year’s Conversations With Mani Ratnam, just released by Penguin India…. This is an essential read for film lovers. Through 300 pages of detailed conversations, Ratnam’s works, something of a personal genre, come alive in vivid detail.

  • A review by Sandhya Rao, in Business Line, is here. An excerpt:

The book sparkles because we have an insightful film critic who can write, and an introspective film-maker who is articulate… As Rangan and Ratnam journey across the years and experiences of making films, they recall, analyse, clash, but most importantly, make connections that even lay readers, with only a superficial interest in watching films as momentary entertainment, can relate to with the knowledge of their own lives… In a sense, the book even works as a primer for those seriously into films.

  • A review by Kaveree Bamzai, in India Today, is here. An excerpt:

Conversations with famous people tend to be straightjacketed by too much respectfulness on the part of the interviewer and barely concealed boredom on the part of the interviewed. Rangan’s fine book, thankfully, has neither.

  • A review by K Hariharan, in The Hindu, is here. An excerpt:

Part fan, part critic Baradwaj bravely steers himself on this extensive journey avoiding all the bumps and potholes to provide us a well articulated trip… For me the best chapter is the one on ‘Iruvar’. Baradwaj takes us through the contrast between naturalistic drama and the stylised staging in a well orchestrated Q&A.

  • A review by Partha Basu, in The Telegraph, is here. An excerpt:

Picking up Rangan’s book, I knew I must not intuitively begin to assess Mani Ratnam’s work instead of addressing Rangan’s book… However, this was easier said than done, given that two gifted and intellectually stimulating men had been interacting for long hours, with a meticulously prepared Rangan probing relentlessly and Ratnam providing the answers and sometimes the questions themselves, like the true auteur.

  • A review by Deepa Gahlot, in Hindustan Times, is here. An excerpt:

Rangan hits on a tone between fan and critic and gets Mani Ratnam to reminisce about the making of all of them. He gently provokes the director, but is never abrasive. The director, in turn, is honest, modest and precise. He is able to explain with remarkable accuracy, what he did in his films and why.

  • A review by Arul Mani, in Tehelka, is here. An excerpt:

The contest is productive, nevertheless. Ratnam opens up to talk expansively about how these films came to be made, and Rangan stays on the ball, and prods and pokes his subject when he senses that further revelations may be nigh. These interactions can turn snappish now and then — Ratnam seems to disapprove strongly of any attempt at reading the subtext in his films and his dismissal of these attempts usually features the word ‘intellectualise’, but Rangan, to his credit, gives as good as he gets.

  • A review by Renuka Bisht, in The Financial Express, is here. An excerpt:

Some sceptics challenge the [Hitchcock/Truffaut] recipe by asserting meaning-making at the audience end. But this is not a zero sum game. You many vehemently disagree with what Rangan or Ratnam take away from a particular scene or song, but if both red and blue run through your fan blood, you will find their deep and wide-ranging discussion about the cinematic method very, very satisfying.

  • A review by Madhavankutty Pillai, in Open, is here. An excerpt:

The first half of the book is quite a riveting melange of anecdotes like these. Rangan mixes simple questions like ‘What was the first scene?’ with more complex ones which try to understand how Ratnam approaches character and plot development… The book gets monotonous and academic in the second half when it comes to the later movies of Ratnam. The anecdotes get sparser as Rangan gets obsessed with deconstructing and analysing scenes and songs threadbare.

  • A review by Naman Ramachandran, in Outlook, is here. An excerpt:

Ratnam has the reputation of being an introvert, but that’s mainly because he does not suffer fools gladly. Ask him a stupid question and he’ll give you a brief stock answer, thus cementing this reputation. Rangan’s questions are anything but that. He starts off by treading the water lightly and circles around Ratnam by asking some general questions. The questions make for as much delightful reading as Ratnam’s answers, given that they are incredibly informed and analytical. When Rangan dives in and throws in the occasional bouncer, Ratnam is more than equal to the challenge, choosing either to dead bat it or knock it out of the park.

  • A review by Aniruddha Guha, in DNA, is here. An excerpt:

Reading the two discuss Ratnam’s films is like listening to a director’s commentary that helps you understand why the films were made the way they were. Ratnam describes what went into recreating Bombay in a Chennai studio for Nayakan, how Alaipayuthey came out of a desire to make a film about a relationship before and after marriage (he wanted Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in the lead and eventually cast R Madhavan and Shalini. In the Hindi remake, Saathiya, Khan made a special appearance) and speaks candidly about technical details, like why certain movies were shot the way they were.

  • A review by Jemima Raman, in Millennium Post, is here. An excerpt:

The ‘conversations’ could have been overbearingly patronising, if not for Rangan’s mastery over his chosen subject – Mani Ratnam and his films (he must have watched Ratnam’s films zillion times and could recall even a shadow featured in them). Sometimes, the master concedes and says that he has to go back and watch the film (that he made). With all due respect, Rangan holds his ground. But only wish he ventured a bit further and prodded a bit more. And with all due respect to Ratnam – for he is undoubtedly one of the finest filmmakers in India – he’s a wee bit too defensive of his decisions, specially the ones that fell flat on the box office.

  • A review by Ken Ford-Powell, in Paste magazine, is here. An excerpt:

It may be difficult for Westerners to appreciate just how ground-breaking this approach really was. Asian countries are largely communalist—in Bangladesh, 70 percent of the population lives directly from the land. Rural village life, strongly hierarchical, discourages the concept of individual identity. When a community spends every spare moment trying to gather enough food from the fields, forests and rivers to feed families for even a day … and to overcome the many and varied natural disasters that ravage the nation each year … to be an individual means to be alone. And to be alone means to risk starving.

  • A review in Indian Express is here. An excerpt:

Like your favourite Mani Ratnam films, the book tickles the taste buds sometimes with sun-kissed sweetness and sometimes with tart ambiguity. Bursts of sensual fullness are balanced by doses of asceticism.

  • A review by Khalid Mohamed, in The Asian Age, is here. An excerpt:

The usually reticent Ratnam opens up with the interviewer like he has never before in any published text. A stellar achievement that, but again I wish Baradwaj had been inquiring rather than hagiographic. No filmmaker can take criticism, particularly Ratnam as I am aware from personal experience. If a sliver of doubt is expressed in the questions, it is countered by the predictable retort that critics tend to read meaning where there is none. Also, “intellectualisation” is employed as a bogey word by Ratnam. How you want to ask him what his notion of “intellectual” is anyway?

  • Another review by Sandhya Iyer, in The New Indian Express, is here. An excerpt:

The book is essentially for film buffs or those who follow cinema with a certain scholarly intensity. For the rest, not everyone might summon up patience to go through painful details of the craft. Yet, in the end, the book is a worthy one, written by a reviewer most competent for the job, and for a filmmaker who deserves the attention.

  • A review by Praveena Shivram, in Biblio, is here. An excerpt:

TThe entire tone of the conversation goes against the grain of its nature, mostly following the cadence of a rehearsed performance… where Rangan has watched Ratnam’s movies, deconstructed and analysed them in his head, and then gone with a set of questions for the filmmaker, when it would have made for much more interesting reading had he gone with his instinct more than his intellect.

REVIEWS IN BLOGS

  • A review by Satyam, in the blog ‘satyamshot’, is here. An excerpt:

But these ‘conversations’ also offer vignettes into the mind of the formidably insightful Baradwaj Rangan, really the peerless Indian film critic. From his own charmingly presented autobiographical raison d’etre for this work’s inception to his unmatched familiarity with the Ratnam corpus and perhaps most significantly his lucid interventions in every chapter Rangan is simply the ideal man for the task. To read these conversations is to hear a fascinating set of questions and responses but equally a series of comments pregnant with suggestion. If, and to paraphrase from somewhere, words are meaningful sounds stolen from silence, Rangan’s encounters with Ratnam provide both kinds of music, the strains less heard and those unheard.

  • A review by Gradwolf, in the blog ‘Confessions of a Magnificent Mind’, is here. An excerpt:

[We] never raised an eyebrow with casting choices in Anjali because for us, the real hero was Mani Ratnam. And that’s the idea behind the book. It’s about his creations, his decisions on paper and the sets and some people… The book gets better and better as you read… A very notable aspect is how Rangan knows when to painfully (not for us!) persist on some of his questions and when to let it go and let it be hanging there. It gives a very listening/watching quality to this book.

  • A review by Raghav, in the blog ‘Ticker Talks Film’, is here. An excerpt:

Mani Ratnam and Baradwaj Rangan, both stay clear of any scandals and name callings during their conversations. That for me makes the book stand out, for it remains true to the art of cinema… The conversations flow so seamlessly between the director and the author that it doesn’t matter too much which film is being discussed because the reader is just immersed in the power of cinema being discussed by two avid fans.

  • A review by Tanul Thakur, in the blog ‘theW14′, is here. An excerpt:

The questions are so pointed that they corner Ratnam to be perspicacious, and allow him to be profoundly reflective, rather than just dole out generic, calloused answers. And it is also to Ratnam’s credit that he respects Rangan’s questions; by doing justice to their insight. Ratnam’s answers are not only thoughtfully crafted, but more importantly, they don’t read like haphazardly condensed dreary bullet points. In fact, majority of his answers are in the same enthusiastic vein as Rangan’s questions are. Most of his answers also have an arc to them; they are not just a list of ‘and then this happened, and then that happened’. There’s a sense of completion to them, a sense of reaching somewhere. It makes for a fascinating journey — Rangan being both the direction-sign and the milestone, guiding Ratnam, and eliciting insightful answers from him. And for the most part, Ratnam complies.

  • A review by Ashwin Sundar, in the blog ‘Cogito Ergo Cum’, is here. An excerpt:

What Rangan does best is put his ego aside so that the questions and answers blur into one another as a series of discussions between two people who love cinema… It also helps that Rangan’s insights into scene settings, compositions, music, screenplay are at such a high level that Ratnam is forced to give exquisite answers which makes you fall more in love with the man’s work. The latter stages of the book have a more free flowing feel to it as both of them have warmed up to the topic but the tension seems to never cease between them. Case in point – Mani’s deadpan response of “We were trying to make a film” to Rangan’s question of what he and Rajeev Menon were trying to do during a specific situation. What comes here is Rangan 2.0 who brushes off the wisecrack very sternly and gets what he wants. May be this constant source of tension, which is a very good thing in itself is the reason why some chapters like Thiruda Thiruda and Raavan have an abrupt ending. I think there is only a limit to which even Rangan can push.

  • A review by Vijay Ganesh, in the blog ‘Musings of a Wandering Witty Guy from Chennai’, is here. An excerpt:

Negative comment or things which could have improved the book: a. No personal details of Mani Sir is shared. Some two pages of summary could have been added like his favourite movies, or his eating habits or travel places or about how he handles personal vs professional life.

  • A review by Hawkeye, in the blog ‘Lightning Strikes Everyday’, is here. An excerpt:

Some aspects of this book pleasantly surprised me and some aligned with my criticisms of Rangan’s work overall as a film critic… Rangan’s introduction piece could have very well ruined the book. It was very unreadable and made me think he was pulling his usual problem of writing normal English and then replacing all regular words with synonyms from Barron’s wordlist.(there is sentence that goes “just as words bind themselves better to pristine parchment than to palimpsests..”). No one writes like this. at least not real people. Certainly no Madras boy uses words like ‘peripatetic’ in a real verbal conversation.

  • A review by Goodfella, in the blog ‘satyamshot’, is here. An excerpt:

At the heart of Baradwaj Rangan’s first and very special book is a calm but tightly focused tug of war that, at its core, wonderfully dramatizes what is possibly the most important conflict within mainstream film studies and film writing in India. Put plainly, I’m talking about the debate between those who take an analytical approach to the movies, and those who resist the very same as a purposeless, overly ‘intellectual’ pursuit.

  • A review by Anuradha Goyal, in the blog ‘anureviews’, is here. An excerpt:

Rangan and Ratnam talk about a film at a time, sometimes they do jump here and there for comparison but more or less they stick to one movie in one conversation. Rangan has grown up watching Mani Ratnam’s films, he identifies with his characters that he finds very real life. He somewhere expects the director’s characters to grow with him, but the director has moved beyond Chennai with his work and hence his subjects and characters. This leads to many interesting questions in the conversations and a lot of insights into how the cine-goers relate to the works of the filmmakers and how they engage with films beyond just the entertainment factor…

  • A review by Ramsu, in the blog ’24 frames per second’, is here. An excerpt:

The conversations are further enlivened by gentle tug-of-war between a critic’s intellectual viewpoint and a filmmaker’s refusal to let his work be mined for subtext. But this is not to say that Mani Ratnam is a purely instinctive filmmaker who doesn’t think in layers — his closing remarks in the chapter on Iruvar, and his comments on micro- and macro-conflicts in Kannathil Muthamittal are cases in point. His viewpoint, I suppose, comes from the fact that the final product we see is a function of what he originally conceived as well as what transpired on set.

  • A review by Shweta Parande, in the blog ‘bollywoodlife’, is here. An excerpt:

Ratnam is surprisingly honest in the book. He accepts mistakes and discusses cinematic liberties he has taken. He is very clued in to his subjects and the story he is telling. He speaks of the depiction of love in Dil Se and many of his other films, showing he has deep insights into relationships and human psychology. Here, even though the writer is clearly in awe of Ratnam, he challenges and questions him, urging him on to share his rich experience. Rangan digs deep for answers – sometimes providing replies he expects in the question itself, to the point of irritating the master filmmaker. But it’s all worth the debate.

  • A review by tharkuri, in the blog ‘Thinking Tamil Cinema’, is here. An excerpt:

Rangan is obsessed with a few things that keep coming up again and again – there is annoying part where he talks about MR having betrayed the youth of the generation by making Roja – a responsible film. Then, in practically every chapter he brings up the nallavana kettavana reference. Perhaps because it’s structured as conversations about each film – Nayakan, Guru, Raavanan all bring up nallavanaa kettavanaa that by the time you get to Raavanan you are tearing hair when you see it… In the second half, the book does take off – Iruvar, Aaytha Ezhuthu, Raavanan make for some interesting conversations indeed. However, by no means is this a manam thirandhu pesugiraar interview. There is tangible awkwardness, in some chapters Rangan speaks more than MR does and topics that could have made for great conversations become inane exchanges.

  • A review by Srikanth Srinivasan, in the blog ‘The Seventh Art’, is here. An excerpt:

Throughout the conversations, Rangan keeps tracing auteurist strains in Ratnam’s work, deftly pointing out consistencies in plotting, character sketches, filmmaking style and world view across the movies. There appear to be three typical ways in which Ratnam reacts to these critical reflections. At best, Ratnam’s acknowledges these observations with no acknowledgement. Alternately, he would downplay Rangan’s remarks with peripheral comments that replace artistry, voice and authorial intention with accidents, logistical and functional necessities. At worst, like John Ford, he plainly denies the obvious.

  • A review by Dinakaran, in the blog ‘Being Dinny’, is here. An excerpt:

Completed ‘Conversations with ManiRatnam’ ,was interesting to know thought process behind every movie/scene. No controversy,pure cinema.

  • A review by Raja Satish, in the blog ‘Inside the Celluloid’, is here. An excerpt:

Right from the word go, the author and critic Barawaj Rangan prefers the tale to the teller, and he chose conversations format to know film director Mani Ratnam better. Rangan reinforces the distinct position of the director by saying “marry what you want to do with what the audience may be willing to accept”— this book has a rehearsed impulse. Following a different approach, the interviewer never really tries to pull YES or NO answers from the interviewee by placing him on a shaky terrain, and as the author traverses through the inner pages, a congenial casualness grows between the two.

  • A review by Amar Nath, in the blog ‘The Argumentative Indian’, is here. An excerpt:

Considering the many questions I had and the many details I would have loved to know about all those delightful movies he churned out over the years, it is not practical for me to get satisfied with the book. But then, getting the reticent filmmaker to talk itself is a huge achievement.

  • A review by Balaji Sivaraman, in the blog ‘Lost in Tranquility’, is here. An excerpt:

This marriage of one of my favorite filmmakers with one of my favorite critics was probably the singular reason I picked up this book, and one of the things that drew me to it was the conversational style… I was extremely interested in reading the dynamics of these conversations… In the initial phases, Rangan poses straightforward questions to which Mani provides straightforward answers. There’s a distinctly professional vibe attached to them. But as we proceed into the book, the conversations become much more relaxed, and Ratnam begins to share a lot more of his personal experiences.

  • A review by Sandhya Iyer, in the blog ‘The Summing Up’, is here. An excerpt:

Mani Ratnam during the conversation seems at times impatient with Rangan for reading too much into individual scenes and situations in his films, and you smile knowingly. However, as you read further, you realise that much of what you see in his cinema is indeed well-thought out, with sub-text and so on. So him chiding Rangan for it seems amusing.

  • A review by Oorvazi, in the blog ‘madaboutmoviez’, is here. An excerpt:

Sometimes as an audience or critic we might misunderstand the intentions of the director and its interesting how Baradwaj brings up particular instances to address this aspect like the question of the aspect of the director’s apprehensions about ‘crossing the line from patriotism to jingoism’ in regards his film “Roja” and Mani Ratnam’s response is revealing.

  • A review by Vaa. Manikandan, in the blog ‘nisaptham’, is here. An excerpt:

ஒரு சினிமா சம்பந்தமுடைய புத்தகத்தை- அதுவும் ஐந்நூறு பக்கங்களால் ஆன புத்தகத்தை ஒரே நாளில் வாசித்து முடிக்க முடியும் என்று கற்பனை கூட செய்து பார்த்ததில்லை. ஆனால் முடித்தாகிவிட்டது. புத்தகம் கையில் கிடைத்து இரண்டு நாட்கள் கூட ஆகவில்லை. சுடச்சுட காரியம் முடிந்தது…

உண்மையில் இந்த உரையாடலே ஒரு சினிமா பார்ப்பது போலத்தான் இருக்கிறது. மணிரத்னம் இந்த புத்தகத்திற்கு எத்தனை பலமோ அதே அளவு பலம் பரத்வாஜ் ரங்கனின் கேள்விகளும் சினிமா பற்றிய அவரது புரிதல்களும். அந்த மனிதரிடம் ஏகப்பட்ட சரக்கு இருக்கிறது.

  • A multi-part review by Rajesh Da Scorp, in the blog ‘karundhel’, begins here. An excerpt:

பகல் நிலவைப் பற்றிச் சொல்கையில், ஒரு விஷயத்தை கவனித்தேன். அதுதான் தமிழர்களின் குறியீட்டு வெறி. அதாவது, நமக்கு ஒரு இயக்குநரைப் பிடிக்கிறது என்று வைத்துக்கொள்ளலாம். அவர் சும்மா வைக்கும் ஷாட்களில் கூட ‘அதோ குறியீடு… இதோ குறியீடு’ என்று ஆர்கஸம் அடைவதே தமிழர்களாகிய நமக்கு ஒரு கைவந்த கலை என்பது என் அனுமானம்… பகல் நிலவில் கூட மணி ரத்னம் இப்படி ஒரு நல்ல விஷயத்தைச் செய்திருக்கிறார் என்பது பரத்வாஜ் ரங்கனின் அவதானிப்பு.

இந்த இடத்தில் இடைமறிக்கும் மணி ரத்னம், அதெல்லாம் ஒன்றுமில்லை என்று அதை மறுக்கிறார்.

  • A review by Suresh Kannan, in the blog ‘pitchaipathiram’, is here. An excerpt:

உரையாடல் சென்று கொண்டிருக்கும் போதே ஒரு நுண்ணுணர்வுள்ள பார்வையாளனுக்கு என்ன சந்தேகமும் கேள்வியும் எழுமோ, அதையே ரங்கனும் தன்னுடைய கேள்வியாக முன்வைப்பது ஆச்சரியமாகவும் மகிழ்ச்சியாகவும் இருக்கிறது. அதையும் தாண்டின கேள்விகளும் பதில்களும் வாசகனுக்கு புதிய வெளிச்சத்தை அளிக்கின்றன. இந்த உரையாடலுக்காக ரங்கன் நிறைய உழைத்திருக்கிறார் என தெரிகிறது. மணிரத்னத்தின் ஒவ்வொரு திரைப்படத்தையும் மிக ஆழமாக பார்த்து அவற்றை மற்ற திரைப்படங்களுடன் ஒப்பிட்டு அலசி ஆராய்ந்து நிறைய கேள்விகளை முன் வைத்திருக்கிறார்.

144 thoughts on “Reviews…

  1. Who is this Satyam? Please ask him to write in simple English. Already blog is having black background color and I just had lunch and you want me to wrestle with phrases like “lucid interventions” and “raison d’etre” ??

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  2. have got my copy… very excited.. read few snippets here and there.. loved KB sir’s reaction to the title… lol. loved the presentation rangan.. will comment again once i complete

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  3. Different target audience. You don’t make Mercedes for everyone? Or every filmaker doesn’t make “Housefull”? If you keep everything simple, many people would understand but your audience won’t learn anything?

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  4. Anita: Too early to say yet… first on the agenda is the November launch.

    oracle: Yes.

    And adding a review at the blog Ticker Talks Film. Readers, do let me know if you come across reviews, so I can link up to them here. Thanks.

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  5. brangan,
    Curious here, were these conversations happening in English or Tamil? . Was reading through on how initially Mani wrote and pitched his initial scripts in English. Glad to see the book,Im looking forward to rationing the reads over some time .

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  6. I downloaded the book yesterday evening and so far reached the Thiruda Thiruda chapter.
    The first chapter was quite informative but did feel like it was the sort of thing you would read in a newspaper or film magazine.
    Undoubtedly the best chapter is the one on Nayakan because it is the most personal to you, and the chapter feels more like a conversation.

    I do wish that you had been even more vocal and more open about your dislike of Roja and challenged Ratnam on it more, only because it would have made more fun reading. But I can understand that you didn’t want to antagonise him. After all he did make Nayakan

    BTW did you have any control over the price? I bought it as an e-book and the price I paid seemed steep even when comparing to other e-books

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  7. karbarak: I guess a mix of both. It was conversational, in the sense of both languages being used in the same sentence sometimes — just like “English-medium” educated Tamilians often talk. (This refers to a joke in the book, BTW.)

    Alpesh Patel: I thought I was pretty vocal about “Roja,” because at that time we’d gotten into more of a rhythm and the “awe” factor had gone away by then. You can make out the difference between the first question of Chapter 1 and the first question of the “Roja” chapter. These are two very different versions of the interviewer, IMO :-)

    And I wish people would understand that the author has no control over the price or the cover or the paper quality or the…

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  8. On a related note I actually felt Rangan’s perspective on Roja came through clearly and I found him suitably skeptical and probing on this ‘nationalistic’ element in the film, reasons for which this has always been the Ratnam film I’ve found most problematic and I should add here that Ratnam’s responses here were rather unconvincing.

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  9. The Hindu article ,which says is written by Kamal Hasan-I don’t know why I get the feeling that you are the wordsmith behind it and I have my own conspiracy theories about the timing of the article :-) Can’t wait to get hold of the book. The amazon price for the print is too steep and am not a kindle person since I like to “feel” the book,so waiting for folks back at home to ship it to me. Meanwhile, all the reviews are whetting my appetite.

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  10. saar, got book on 18th, finished on 19th. got at landmark, spencers. original price 799. but they gave for 598 rupees.(may be initial offer).

    did not like
    first question of u to him;
    chapters on kannathil muthamittal & guru;
    on tamil novelists, mani meant jeyamohan(ponniyin selvan and kadal), not asokamithran.

    liked
    all other chapters, esp iruvar(“mgr’s life has a lot of drama in it than sivaji’s”),
    nayagan(pigeons; mani explaining how kamal is new to brothel),
    agni natchathiram(you saying masala and mani asking is masala bad?; lightings),
    thalabathi(rajini had no issues with mamooty being given equal role),
    thiruda thiruda,
    anjali(esther),
    mouna ragam(revealing about karthik’s role; short story he wrote),
    pallavi anupallavi(balu mahendra; ilayaraja-“he didn’t bat an eyelid”, raja being offered low salary),
    revealing that ilayaraja’s is still his favorite music;
    on ARR,”its just time, rahman entered”;

    Well thought and a good idea of a Q/A format.The success of the book lies in the fact that it contained the voice of the interviewee than the interviewer. It is an art. For an interviewee to answer frankly, for an interviewee to be exposed, it is the right questions of the interviewer, who should have in-depth knowledge of the field. I liked you avoiding personal questions, character assassination, gossips, future projects. Edhu edhellam irukanumo adhu ellam irunduchu.

    nice work br

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  11. wondered at the brilliance of mani on screenplay writing, minute details(pigeons, sling), motifs like half built house in alaipayuthe), his bold decisions on under lighting mouna ragam. gr8.

    btw, there were some factual errors in the awards section in the appendix. hope it gets corrected in future editions

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  12. ram: Thanks. Regarding the pigeons (in “Nayakan”) and the swing (in “Guru”) and the half-built house (in “Alaipaayuthey”) and so on, this is one of the things I’m happiest about in the book, that I was able to get him to open up about his own “intellectualisation” even as he was mocking (at times) my own attempts at analysing his films. At first, you see this only in flashes, but the time we get to “Kannathil,” he’s quite unabashed about thinking in terms of subtext.

    I wonder, though, why serious filmmakers — and there are a lot of them, worldwide — feel so uncomfortable with analysis. Having thought so much while making the film, shouldn’t they be happy that others are engaging seriously with their work, as opposed to just munching on popcorn and forgetting about it on the way home?

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  13. Perhaps, their own approach was quite different and perhaps in many cases, motivated by something very mundane?

    I remember from some interview of Satyajit Ray’s after Pather Panchali, and the western media were going gaga about a particular shot showing insects on the surface of the pond, and the stillness of the shot, and some subtext. Ray’s response was that he thought of no such thing; he shot it because it looked beautiful; regarding the stillness, he said he was hampered by the camera equipment being bulky, which is why he could not move it around (like he might have wanted to!).

    have you seen the video on youtube which is now apparently going to be a regular feature with Ilaiyaraaja talking the viewers through some of his compositions? This first video was about annakili, and the titular song. I think the ‘subtext’, if I may use that word is a lot more cohesive for a music composer, since the distractions are that much less, and the idioms of the craft are more nuanced. Perhaps a book on Conversations with Ilaiyaraaja…?! ;)

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  14. @ Baradwaj: Is that so surprising? There is probably the fear that if people analyze too much and then figure out “patterns”, the “magic” of what the director makes would be lost, isn’t there ? It might be that the director is aware (atleast at a subconscious level) of these subtexts but he/she might not be comfortable with the public trying to break through the mystique….I guess.

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  15. Loved certain questions and the way Mani responded esplly on relationships eplly Mother – Daughter in Alaipayuthey; the train motif; the Nayagan chapter esplly Kamal’s preparation for the foster father’s hang in jail; the mirror shots (iruvar scene); Kannathil Muthamittal Chapter; how he worked with Rahman during Dil Se…

    Magic, Baddy… you have made the man talk… He seriously made movies for us! I thought he was very careful about his at peace answers of the Raja transition… I expected something about his life, marriage and his likes of this era of films… and definitely about Mohanlal (although I thought Iruvar was brilliant and the most interesting esplly on the scenes, censorship and Taj). Will surely treasure this. Is there formal launch? Would surely get ‘autograpppu’ from you guys!

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  16. It is one thing for the director (from his POV) to talk about subtext he intended and qutie another to be comfortable with interpretatvie sub-text by the critic. Personally, I believe that as a creator, one would see a critic trying to spout off his sub-textual interpretations on my creation as a parasitic exercise, not necessarily in service of the creation.

    Right or wrong (from the critic’s perspective) – it might simply be possessiveness about the creator’s creation on the creator’s part.
    Could be something along the lines of:
    “Who the hell are you to name my child, eh?” (“Although the name does,, I admit, sound nice”)

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  17. I have always wondered about Mani’s background, where he honed his craft, picked up things etc. since he didn’t seem to have apprenticed under anyone or went to a film school or such. Not sure if something on this is there in your book.

    BTW why is it not mentioned anywhere in the link that it is an old interview reproduced? Bound to confuse some

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  18. Enjoyed reading the book Baradwaj, thank you. This is easily the single best source to hear the master’s voice with respect to his creations.

    I’m curious about one thing, the one page Note written by Mani Ratnam in the beginning of the book. Did he do that after the conversation was completed? Because, it looks like he was trying to explain or defend himself to the readers about the nature of the text in this book, not wanting people to be misled or form an opinion about him or his work just by reading this book. Knowing the perfectionist that he is, and someone who always has complete control over all his work, I believe this book is one work that he could not control, and he is trying to ask the readers not to take this “intellectualization” seriously. It looks like, given a choice, he only wants his movies to talk, and nothing else.

    I completely dig your way of analysis of his work, I do the same as well. But from his perspective, I don’t think he wants to be defined. Even though you create a beautiful, intellectual picture of him, I guess he doesn’t want to be categorized, saying THIS is Mani Ratnam, or these are the patterns across all his films, or these are the ways he brings in subtexts in his films. Don’t you think its a common human tendency to easily define every one around us and give them an identity, but we always claim to never understand ourselves as an individual? I believe he doesn’t want himself or his creative/thought process to be mapped out by you, or by this book.

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  19. Message from the publishers: “Utterly brilliant! Conversations with Mani Ratnam debuts at no 17 on Nielsen!” (Nielsen is the weekly round-up of books sold by major publishers.)

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  20. Govardhan Giridass: I wonder what this is. A review? A puff piece? A piece of gossip? Can’t make anything of it.

    And added a review by Hawkeye above.

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  21. “I remember from some interview of Satyajit Ray’s after Pather Panchali, and the western media were going gaga about a particular shot showing insects on the surface of the pond, and the stillness of the shot, and some subtext. Ray’s response was that he thought of no such thing; he shot it because it looked beautiful; regarding the stillness, he said he was hampered by the camera equipment being bulky, which is why he could not move it around (like he might have wanted to!).


    IT could be instincts most of the time(or just what looks good on screen) or at other times dictated by just logistical constraints. I had this debate with Rangan about his “symmetry” reading in Raavan about Priyamani drowning in a well and Ash getting kidnapped by the lake, and how both these things were designed to happen near a water body. I could’nt help but notice that the entire film happened near a water body anyways. Even Vikram falling in love with Ash at first sight is when she jumps into a water fall.

    This delving deep into subtexts is a western way of looking at things I guess, thats how they are taught to think and analyse at their film schools. Maybe it stems from literature critique. It is just an approach. The home grown filmmaker(especially Tamil) isnt taught to analyse and think like that. Even Mani’s “intellectualization” in his later day films(havent read BR’s book yet but assuming what he says is right) could have been Sujatha intellectualizing for him as a writer.(does the book have any questions on what roles writers have played in post mid-90s Mani films?) They do have a story discussion dont they? And now it is maybe his Missus, who speaks like an intellectual anyways.

    Ever notice that Tamil films are all mostly plot or character driven and not abstract?It makes sense to delve deep into hidden meanings and layers of a film which is abstract where the film is not just about the so-called plot which unfolds on the screen.Like say, Five easy pieces. But we hardly make such films here.

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  22. If it is possible somehow, to delve far deep into a film, fragment it, scrutinize it and arrive at a kind of symmetrical/recurring motif permeating over a body of work of a particular filmmaker, it is just as well possible to draw similar conclusions from a body of work of a two bit hack. If i were to “interpret” the movies of Perarasu, and if i were a Freudian shrink, i would say Vijay in Tirupachi and Sivakasi was a caught in a bad neurotic sexual hang up, you know, the former being a subconcious, dormat love affair towards his sister while the latter being a case of blatant Oedipal Complex. After all, he wields cycle chain in Sivakasi and Aruval in Tirupachi. If that is not phallic, i dont know what is(sometimes an aruval is just an aruval, but still). To add to all that, you have a dead father in Sivakasi and a sister’s husband character in Tirupachi who is just as good as dead. By the end of both movies we witness Oedipus uniting with his jocastas. Convincing enough? No i think.

    That theory of mine, i admit, was pretty lame. But my point is, when any work of art catches you by the throat and announces its earth shattering greatness to the point that you are so enthralled and start rationalizing your feelings trying looking into it for symbols or meaning buried under layers. Ofcourse there is nothing wrong with this and i am only fascinated more and more by such analyses. But i do have my own reservations when the same is applied to the films of someone like Mani Ratnam who is a self-proclaimed commercial director. I mean, viewing the movies of say, Bresson, one gets the feeling that there is something more than what could be seen over the surface. That kind of a push to delve deeper comes naturally while watching certain movies and for some movies it simply does not(of which i do not complain).

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  23. Niranjan and co.: So you guys are more or less saying that:

    (1) The meaning of a film rests with the director (and not the viewer).
    (2) Commercial films (or Indian films) are somehow less “worthy” of being analysed than Art cinema (or Western films).
    (3) The director’s claims about his work are the final word and that he’s always going to be forthright about his intentions. So we as viewers somehow have to be able to “divine” his intentions while watching the film and not “make sense” of the film in our own ways.
    (4) Filmmakers (and viewers) have to be “taught” to think along analytical terms; and most of all…
    (5) Thinking beyond the text is a conscious and special process where one sort of rubs his hands and says “ah, here’s where I’m going to layer in subtext”, and then puts on a special subtext hat and goes about it.

    Obviously, you know that I respectfully disagree with all of this. But more troublingly, don’t you think there’s a bit of fascism in looking at film this way?

    No, I’m not looking for a resolution to this topic. I’m secure in my belief systems as I’m sure you are in yours. Just hoping that some points will come of this that I can use in future writings :-)

    PS: sonofgun — Mani Ratnam is “a self-proclaimed commercial director,” and so there are no layers in his films? thanks for the Wednesday a.m. laugh :-)

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  24. Not commenting anything about “meaning of the film”. I am aware that there are films that are deliberately left ambiguous or open-ended and the viewer needs to come to his own conclusion.But I guess sometimes the kind of movies for which we delve into these subtexts differ. All of us do this to some extent, subconsciously or even consciously.But the movies for which this happen are less, even amongst Hollywood films.And even less so, for Tamil films.

    “Filmmakers (and viewers) have to be “taught” to think along analytical terms; …”

    No, but they can definitely be taught to build in subtext in screenwriting phase. There are dime a dozen online sites that intend to “teach” one on how to effectively build subtext when writing dialogue or creating a scene.
    Here is one:

    http://www.scriptforsale.com/articles/subtextfuture.htm

    So at the very least, they are aware of it.

    Go and ask Bala, if he has even heard the word .

    Naama oorula “screenwriting”nu onnu ippo dhaan aarambichirukku with Kamal’s workshop and all that. I guess a screenwriter got paid less than an assistant director or his job was non-existent sometime back.Hindi films might be changing faster in that aspect.
    If Mani had a serious screenwriter at his disposal he wouldnt have that disco shanthi comedy tracks in agni natchathiram and especially in idhayathi thirudaathe.His films did get a little tighter during his collaboration with Sujatha.Maybe some of that can be attributed to his own maturation.But the overall point is it might be a stretch to look further into certain films and draw some patterns/meanings.
    Of course that’s subjective.Like you said once, if a scene jumps and catches you what stops from looking more into that?
    My guess is that having been exposed to a lot of Hollywood/world cinema and having conditioned your mind to read films in a certain way, your subtext-antennae is still very firmly up when watching some of these Tamil films too.It applies for me too but in a limited way.So a lot more scenes seem to jump at you in a way it doesnt jump for some of us. Or another possible explanation is that some of us have our antennae firmly down when watching these films or maybe content to just get emotionally involved with the film and see the film for what it is at the surface level.Because that’s how most of our films are. Try hard as I may I wont get much subtext out of Cheran’s film, even the ones I like, like Autograph or thavamaai thavamirundhu

    And it is not limited to films but to music too.

    someone asked Gangai amaran
    “eppadi sir devi sridevi un thiruvaai patta rageshri raagathula potteenga”?

    GA replies” neenga solli dhaan adhu enna raagamne theriyum. I just got inspired from MSV’s naalam naalam thirunaalam for the opening line”

    This happens all the time even with other music directors. Of course you can argue that just because GA did not intend it it does not stop me from identifying the pattern/scale of his song, and it is a definite pattern which is valid. But that is just a fun mental exercise which you choose to indulge in.Nothing wrong, but the choice of how much one can indule in this sort of thing can vary a lot.To an extent it is influenced by our prior knowledge of the maker’s calibre or maybe his interviews or by what we have read about his films.

    Hey Iam a bad cook, I intend to make kheer and instead it comes out as palgova. I serve my guests and they praise my khova and discuss the finer details of how it must have been made, while I stand aside quietly watching and grinning at them.
    Sometimes this is what I think directors must be doing when they watch us dissect their films.

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  25. vijay: We’ve discussed this 5000 times before, so I know your points all too well.

    Where I’m differing is in saying that filmmakers aren’t aware of these things, or that they smile as others make these calls on their films. Maybe Bala doesn’t know the technical terms for these things, but talk to him about scenes and you’ll see how much he thinks about while conceiving them. Sit on screenplay discussions and you’ll know how people get into minute details. I’m just saying don’t underestimate people just because they happen to be “Tamil” or “commercial” or whatever. There’s nothing wrong about making straightforward films, but to say that that’s the only way Indian filmmakers (and audiences) think is not right.

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  26. While this may be true, have you ever considered that some of the sub-texts you invent may just be your invention? Ofcourse, your question is “Why shouldnt I invent? I just take the base pizza made by the director and add my own toppings, and my imagined pizza is as much a pizza as the real pizza served by the director”. Fair enough, but think of it from the Director’s point of view. You are taking his baby and dressing it up the way you want. You may even argue that the director sub-consciously intended to dress it up the way you have done now. But why should a director feel comfortable about it, if he is possessive about his baby?

    Essentially, to me, it seems like you arevery creative, but need a base creation to appky your creativity on. It’s what makes good writers I suppose but doesnt necessarily mean you are always right with your interpretations, nor is it wrong for someone else to feel uncomfortable with your applying your creativity on someone else’s creation to create a new creation. And I suppose you dont disagree with all fo this, so this is a moto point I am making.

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  27. “Mani Ratnam is “a self-proclaimed commercial director,” and so there are no layers in his films? thanks for the Wednesday a.m. laugh”

    Ok. That was one bad loose statement i made. But i have no qualms with drawing conclusions and finding layers within a film by resorting to complete subjectiveness so much that no one except the person in case would have been able to read it the same way. All i am saying is, to inspire this kind of subjective reading of movies, there has to be a potential “push”, a certain amount of ambiguity, maybe an offhand shot that makes you rewind back just to find out what the fuck the directior was trying to do there, maybe all that puts your bbrain automatically into an “intellectualization” mode if you will. And unfortunately i find that totally absent in Mani ratnam movies, but that is not to discredit any of his works. Only this nagging sensation scratching at the corner of my brain which makes me think if at all anything “subtextual” is being read from a movie that does’nt demand any such delving-into-the-depths, it is only simulated, conscious reading and nothing more. When the films stands well on its own why bother about subtexts? But again you could say that is a totally individual, subjective thing and really there is no reason why anyone shouldnt read into a film the way he finds suit. Or may be i am not film-literate enough to get into such intellectual gymnastics. Oh well…

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  28. No; I never said any such thing (points (1)-(5) in the list above), no do I think I implied any such thing too.

    What i said, and I feel this rather strongly – the craft of cinema involves so many other processes, both mundane and artistic, that often what we see and interpret (consciously or unconsciously) may be completely different from the motives of the filmmaker. It does not suggest that there is no analysis the filmmaker indulges in, nor am I saying that a commercial film is unworthy of such ‘elevated’ pursuits. – that depends on the director. But this huge difference may cause filmmakers to view analyses about their work with a degree of discomfort.

    That is why a music composer is much more in control of the creative process, especially someone like Ilaiyaraaja who believes that the actual recording is only an act of translating what he has already conceived to the dot, on paper.

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  29. “There’s nothing wrong about making straightforward films, but to say that that’s the only way Indian filmmakers (and audiences) think is not right.”

    Well, that’s not what is being said, isn’t it not? What is being said is that if a Director disagrees with your interpretation, I would much rather believe the director and give more credence to him and his version. At some point, you seemed to argue that your interpretation being rejected by the director is not conclusive, because sub-consciously he may have intended exactly what you have interpreted. Given the inconsistencies in application of such interpretation by you – see for instance the reading on Tirupachi and Sivakasi by a naughty commenter here, you may say knowing Perarasu through his movies, nary a chance that he intended those but by your own argument, you cannot conclsuively say that he didnt intend that sub-consciously – it is hard to see what your review consists of, It is highly a function of your mental state when you are watchign that particular movie, and a sum total fo all biases you have formed on the movie ‘s director, writer, actors, history of the film inudstry of which the movie is part, the influences you were subject to near to your time of watching the movie and so on. As a reader, I could apply the same copcept and interpret further your reviews, and it will all be arather indulgent exercise in series. In other words, the joy of reading your writing is just the writing with the content being not of much value to me.

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  30. Leave Tirupachi aside. Let’s take the iconic brother-sister movie in Tamil. I have speculated elsewhere in the internet highways that it has deeply incestual tones. What kind of brother checks out his sleeping sister imagining her in all sorts of ways he does in “MalargaLai pOl thangai urangugiraal”. Creepy is how I always have felt watching that one :)

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  31. Niranjan/ raj/Sonofgun: Since you read me only for form and not content, I don’t know why I’m explaining this to you. But I guess I want to complete what I started.

    Let me take this example from the last part of my Gautham Menon interview about the Neethane En Ponvasantham songs.

    Songs about kaatru usually ally themselves with the flute, the most readily recognisable wind instrument. Think Ilankaathu veesuthe, or further back, the godly Yerikarai poongaathe, which, despite being sung by KJ Yesudas, is no solo but really a duet between the singer and the flute.

    KJY: Yerikkarai poongaathe…
    (Flute: Yeah, you talkin’ to me?)

    KJY: Nee pora vazhi thenkizhakko…
    (Flute: Perhaps. Why do you ask?)

    KJY: Thenkizhakku vaasamalli…
    (Flute: What about it?)

    KJY: Yenna thedi vara thoodhu sollu…
    (Flute: Hmm… lemme think about it…)

    If I said, this is what Raja meant to do, then I’d be wrong. It could just be that the piano guy had the runs and had to take the day off and the violin was a last-minute substitute. But I’m not saying that. I’m saying that this is how the song speaks to me — and no one can deny me the right to this contention. To me, the “subtext” or “interpretation” of this song is that it’s a DUET between a male singer and the violin. This is how it seems to me.

    And I am not “imagining” this, which seems to imply that I am making things up from thin air. I am taking evidence that’s very much there in the song — the presence of the male voice; the presence of the singer; the alternation between both; the words that open the song, like a question — and forming for myself a plausible scenario about the song’s existence. Why do I do this? Maybe there’s a nagging completist in me, that needs to figure things out even as he’s enjoying them.

    But maybe you’re different. This same “evidence” may mean nothing to you. Or it may mean something else to you, something very different — in which case, the way you interpret the song becomes very interesting to me. Because art is not about absolutes. And the way you process things can teach me something that my mind isn’t going to “get” on its own. This is why people like to discuss art so much — not just to say “i am right and you are wrong.”

    Not everyone has to like or be interested in this way of listening to songs or watching movies — but to say that it’s not valid or useless is something I cannot agree with. Again, none of this is new. I’ve said all this many times before. But since it came up again…

    As for “What is being said is that if a Director disagrees with your interpretation, I would much rather believe the director and give more credence to him and his version…” Well, who can deny you what you want to believe? In fact, I’m not even asking you to read me, let alone agree with what I say :-) But to choose read me and then contest a philosophy I adhere to in criticism seems very odd to me. If I were you, I’d just say “well this chap’s reviews don’t do it for me. I’m seeking out someone else.”

    “As a reader, I could apply the same copcept and interpret further your reviews…” Which you have done many times, and which you are doing to an extent even here… But no, it’s not an “indulgent” exercise. Art isn’t like sport, with a metric precision, and its vaporousness is what makes talking about it such fun.

    “That is why a music composer is much more in control of the creative process…” Or a writer :-) But again, no one is saying that the director said this — or if a critic claimed that, that would be an assumption on his part. All I do in my reviews is lay out a movie or a song as it made sense to me. In other words, I trust the movie and the song, not the filmmaker or the composer. And I can see why this approach may not work for everyone.

    “All i am saying is, to inspire this kind of subjective reading of movies, there has to be a potential “push”, a certain amount of ambiguity, maybe an offhand shot that makes you rewind back just to find out what the fuck the directior was trying to do there…” ABSOLUTELY. But that push can come in different ways for different people no? If we all got the same “push” impulses, then wouldn’t we all be seeing the same movie? How is that even possible? :-) And if I get that “push” from a Mani Ratnam movie, then how can you say that that’s not a valid “push” just because you didn’t feel the same “push”?

    “When the films stands well on its own why bother about subtexts?” Oh I say, why bother writing about it at all? Why not just watch it and forget it and go to bed? At least you won’t be wasting time with these arguments, no? :-)

    “but doesnt necessarily mean you are always right with your interpretations” — hah, this is the funniest thing I’ve heard. I’ve got to validate the “rightness” of my interpretations with you? Who died and made you Interpretation Arbiter? Now I’ve officially heard everything :-)

    “nor is it wrong for someone else to feel uncomfortable with your applying your creativity on someone else’s creation…” Of course not. But it seems a dreadful waste of time and energy bothering to read someone whose basic philosophy is so much against yours, and then wasting more time and energy arguing about it. Why not just take in a sunset instead? :-)

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  32. B, i completely agree with most of what you say. Infact i am now totally lost as to how i got into this argument at all. As i was reading through the comments i came across this guys comment about Satyajit ray. So i wanted to register what i felt about it and eventually vented about how reading into a Mani Ratnam film seemed atrocious to me. Now that was quite troll-ish because i have not read your book yet and whatever i said was on the basis of a hypothetical assumption that you had micro-scrutinized every tiny part of his movies in the book.

    I dont want to sound like i am picking on every single thing you say, but there is a difference between waxing lyrical about Yerikkara Poongatre and say, Ilamai Idho Idho. This is not to say that the Mani ratnam movies are an aesthetic equivalent of the latter song, but if they are subjected to scrutiny as intense as say, a Citizen Kane or a Persona was subjected to, i would not be happy. But to be able to talk anything about that, i should have first read the book, which i have not.

    And one last thing, “Since you read me only for form and not content,…” Just to set the records straight, no, NO.No.No, i do not read you just for the form. I dont know about others, but i can only speak for myself, No. I never did take Cinema Plus seriously until you came into action. But i have to admit though, your stint in Indian Expreess was far more fascinating than here. There was Between Reviews, Bullet point repornt and the cinematic monster that was Part of the picture. And what have we got here? a relatively boring column called Lights camera conversation. Boring because it is mostly about the pop culture cinema or bollywood. I find a rather steep fall in the cine geek material you were quite constantly coming up with in the good old days. I also feel you have become more hindi cinema audience oriented. Again, to each his own, but i would only love to see you ranting about the good old 80’s/70’s of tamil cinema squished with some godard/fellini for the cinematic yet fanboyish souls

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  33. Niranjan: That sir is marvelllous… i loved the explanation. bookmarked,subscribed and the rest of it.

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  34. Sonofgun: Indian Express was a Southern states-only paper, so I was able to get away with a lot of Tamil cinema articles. Very different now. But yes, I do miss Part of the Picture — and I’m trying to bring that back in some form…

    Just for fun, here’s an “interpretation” of a James Bond movie, which feels beautifully relevant to me: “I don’t know what Mendes believed he could bring to the series that would have freed it from all that it’s obligated to do. It seems as if Silva’s contempt for M — his vengeance is like that of a spurned child — and her discovery of an orphaned James might push the film into strange psychological territory, that M might be some rethinking of the manipulator Angela Lansbury played in “The Manchurian Candidate,” that the “M” might stand, sardonically, for “Mommy.” But the misogyny in this movie doesn’t extend that far. It’s still mostly women as bait, screw-ups, and exercise.”

    It’s fantastic. It opens up the movie for me just a wee bit more. This is why I *like* reviews. Who cares if I agree with him or not?

    But note the personalisation here, where the reviewer doesn’t say “This is what Mendes meant” but instead “This is what it felt like TO ME” – through the subjective phrases “I don’t know what Mendes believed,” “It seems as if”, “M might be some rethinking”, and “that the “M” might stand… ” And finally, from these plausibilities, a decisive opinion: “But the misogyny in this movie doesn’t extend that far. It’s still mostly women as bait, screw-ups, and exercise”

    He’s taking “evidence” that’s there in the film’s frame and creating meaning for himself, making “sense” of it all. Whether we agree entirely with this meaning or not, I think it’s fantastic to see what’s being said.

    PS: I wonder what you’d say if I offered to write about how “Ilamai idho idho” spoke to me. Don’t knock the song dude :-) And this comes back to the earlier discussion about “lighter” stuff is less worthy of analysis than “heavier” stuff. Listen to, say, MSV’s “Poova Thalaya” song, “Adi saridhaan podi vayaadi…” On the surface, it’s just a silly, light-hearted battle-of-the-sexes song, with male and female tearing into each other. But listen to how brilliantly the percussion in the song amps up the military feeling, from the snare drums to the tabla tarang. As I said, don’t knock the light stuff :-)

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  35. Also, having an event at Cognizant, where someone is going to talk to me about the book and so forth. It’s part of the events they organise for employees, but they said others could come too. So if anyone’s interested, let me know and I’ll direct you to the guy who’ll arrange for a security pass etc. The event is at Cognizant office at Tambaram.

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  36. Caught up with Skyfall yesterday. Not that i did not like it. But do we really need this deviation now, in the form of a quasi-psychological drama removed of most of the Bond idiosyncracies? I mean, how many times have we seen Bond meticulously contrive a Home Alone-esque plan to cheat the villian into a tumble? The movie as a whole worked very well for me -i am not sure if this is valid comparison- but it was like watching Rajini in utter privation of his antics and punch dialogs in Chandramukhi to play a psychatrist, spending more than 10 minutes just sitting in a chair explaining split personality :p

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  37. “As I said, don’t knock the light stuff” oh yes. The wise man in me says its always better to be a fan of good stuff vs bad stuff as opposed to heavy stuff vs light stuff

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  38. Brangan: Your points in the post above are well taken, and actually I agree with most of what you have there. I am a little puzzled on why you have slotted my response with that of a couple other gentlemen and have addressed your rebuttal/response to us all together, as if it were part of the same voice, which it clearly is not. For instance, I have never said anything about your writing in terms of content/language etc; I am equally interested in it all! I don’t even think I have accused you of anything. But if anything I wrote triggers another entry in your blog, then I don’t mind sharing the credits with the others!

    In fact, the reason I wrotethe Satyajit Ray thing there was because there are many occasions where the maker and the interpreter can be on completely different planes. To take another example, and this is from your book (SPOILER ALERT!), which has made for a very interesting time since last afternoon; I haven’t finished the book yet…

    When you quizzed Mani on the reactions of the Arvind Swamy character in Roja ranging from the Jai Hind to the flag burning sequence, which seemed to be that of an overt patriot/jingoist, he seemed to disagree completely, though he conceded that Varma opined that it was rather jingoistic (which I think too). Mani’s reading was that the Rishi character was that of an urban, educated, youth with that sliver (may a healthy sliver!) of arrogance and cockiness. The Jai Hind was just him getting under the skin of his kidnappers, while the jumping on the burning flag was just him reacting in an angry manner to the terrorists’ behavior from the earlier sequence. While Mani might be completely convinced (and right) about his reading, what transpires on the screen is certainly not that pitch at all. Mani’s explanation about the cockiness of the character stemming from an earlier scene where he tells his boss that he isn’t afraid of going to Kashmir while the latter might be, doesn’t necessarily convey anything about this apparent cockiness. I have had a few lighthearted chats with my advisor when I was close to graduating, and also because my advisor is a genial avuncular person, but such an event in isolation doesn’t say anything about cockiness. The same is true of the sequence in the film.

    In fact, the only plausible reason one might attribute to the Arvind Swamy character doing what he does in these specific sequences must be attributed to overt patriotism because no smart human being would put himself in potential harm’s way without actually appraising his/her chances of survival with all limbs intact. The fact that Arvind Swamy is confrontational right from the beginning of the kidnap comes from something else, and that is NOT your average guy put in an extraordinary situation. Furthermore, even if the pitch were what Mani was indeed saying, Rahman’s ‘Tamizha Tamizha’ in the background with Vairamuthu’s “Unnule Indhiya raththham undaa illaya?” scores a different mood completely.

    And this underlines the point I was trying to make. I am not even accusing Mani of being defensive and evasive in his response. All I am saying is that the process of making the film involves so much, that he is perhaps incapable of seeing this completely different take on that aspect of his movie. In fact, he still sees it all as part of the same big picture he has in his head, and when you offer something else as your interpretation which perhaps comes with the baggage of being a ‘responsible to the nation’ tag on him as a filmmaker, he might view this as thrusting something on him he never imagined in the first place, and that is what perhaps makes him uncomfortable.

    This is not to say that a critic’s reading is ‘right’ or ‘wrong'; that would be ridiculous.

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  39. Niranjan: Sorry about that, but wrote that response while rushing to a dinner and clubbed all the points in one post because, broadly speaking, I was addressing everyone.

    “In fact, the reason I wrotethe Satyajit Ray thing there was because there are many occasions where the maker and the interpreter can be on completely different planes.” I completely agree. Where I disagree, as stated above, is that the maker is somehow “more right.” Because unless I say that I want to review films “from the director’s POV,” the maker’s intention isn’t all that important to me, other than curiosity value. More dangerously, a maker can say “I wanted to do this,” but not all wants get translated exactly the same way into the finished product, so taking the maker’s word as gospel — in my eyes — carries a bit of a problem. The only thing we can be sure of is what we see with our own eyes, and that’s the response that’s the most honest, most true. Which kind of ties into what you say about “the process of making the film involves so much…”

    And do let me know what you thought of the book when you finish it.

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  40. “And the way you process things can teach me something that my mind isn’t going to “get” on its own”

    Maybe this is what I dont get. Have you ever processed an alternate reading by someone else, imbibed that process and applied it in your subsequent watchings of movies? (unless it expressed something you sort of thought already but werent articulate enough even insde your mind to express it in those terms). In this many years of reading your blog, can’t seem to remember a single instance of that happening to you(which ofcourse doesnt necessarily m ean it didnt happeninternally in your mind).Or, maybe that’s what all your film book reading and applying those concepts is.

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  41. “In fact, I’m not even asking you to read me, let alone agree with what I say But to choose read me and then contest a philosophy I adhere to in criticism seems very odd to me. If I were you, I’d just say “well this chap’s reviews don’t do it for me. I’m seeking out someone else.”

    Getting tetchy, are we? You do your own reading of movies and express freely(admittedly you are forced to watch some of those – even then…) what you think about them. I will choose to read you and express my views of what you write. Unless you choose to ban me or not read what I write. If you want an answer, then the answer is that I dont know a single other critic/reviewiewer who writes as interestingly as you abotu subjects that I am interested in. It is as simple as that.

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  42. “Furthermore, even if the pitch were what Mani was indeed saying, Rahman’s ‘Tamizha Tamizha’ in the background with Vairamuthu’s “Unnule Indhiya raththham undaa illaya?” scores a different mood completely”

    Interesting. Mani has effectively said that Rahman and Vairamuthu gave him stuff which was completely not in line with what he intended. I wish Mani really opened his mind honestly on BGM for his movies and what worked and what didnt work personally for him.

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  43. “it is hard to see what your review consists of, It is highly a function of your mental state when you are watchign that particular movie, and a sum total fo all biases you have formed on the movie ‘s director, writer, actors, history of the film inudstry of which the movie is part, the influences you were subject to near to your time of watching the movie and so on”

    Want to re-emphasise this. This is what prevents me from giving full credence to your content. Ofcourse, your answer is a critic is never meant to be objective and consistent. I take that point, too but it stands in my way of appreciating you all the same.

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  44. What I mean by this is your writing is interesting no matter what you write about. So, yes, whether I like your content or not, I will always be interested in your writing

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  45. “Where I disagree, as stated above, is that the maker is somehow “more right.” ”

    Oh, I am with you completely; in fact I have found some of your interpretations of some films make for a very fascinating second viewing than what I saw the first time. For instance your reading of the scene where Dev shows the picture of Raagini, and then shows the picture of Beera to the villagers while questioning, was rather interesting; I viewed it as him showing his wife’s picture first as a ‘tongue loosening’ device before getting to his main target.

    I am currently at the ‘Iruvar’ chapter. So far, the book has been fascinating.

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  46. raj: There have been many, many times I have reconciled myself with some scenes in films, thanks to comments. I can recall one in “Wake Up Sid,” for instance (where a commenter said “I saw his easy obtaining of a flat as a kind of karma;” I loved this explanation, which never occurred to me). But how would *you* know about it unless I wrote about it? Or unless I reviewed the film again? A one-time review post doesn’t let you revisit your thoughts, no? Even with English and foreign films, this has happened a lot.

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  47. There are very many Tamil films built on this very (or some similar) premise/undercurrent after all. (I think muLLum malarum brings in the interesting dimension of ‘guilt’ to Valli’s character.) I would argue such elements are often readily felt (in a tacit, unselfconscious way) and are not really obscure deconstructionist readings. I mean, these are things that most storytellers do latch on to and the audience gets it. A simple example is how most films about sibling love make sure it has the backdrop of the parents being long dead that strengthens the bond, so the story usually starts off with this ‘aberration’ (no judgement implied, of course), so to say.

    Anyway, I came to add a bit about ‘pAsamalar’ as, like raj, I also felt (based on just one moment) it goes beyond what’s par for the course. I haven’t actually seen the full film (only various bits of scenes), and don’t recall ‘malargaLaip pOl’ either. But the closing image of the film with the two kids holding hands and an apparition of the dead siblings blessing them from above is quite startling. For a moment, it was as if the whole messy melodrama was just about how they just can’t get together in this life and had to wait for another. (It seemed to even go beyond the particular and tie the whole sentiment of the film to the larger social practise of cousin marriage itself.)

    P.S.: Haven’t read through the discussion here, so don’t have the full context in which raj posted this.

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  48. brangan, I’m your fan from the express days. Would love to hear you at cognizant since I work there. When is your visit planned?

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  49. I noticed a small discrepancy in the book (I am still not done with it completely; I was stuck with work over the past couple of days and my wife resents when I sit with the book after I get back home saying I have not done anything else since I got the book :( ); on page 293, the credits section for ‘Alaipayuthey’ shows Santosh Sivan as the National award winner for best cinematography while the credits section for the movie shows PC Sriram (who was the cinematography). The same thing with the award for best audiography. It looks like the credits from Dil Se have been duplicated here.
    Or I am getting something wrong?

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  50. Niranjan: Yes, that’s been brought to Madras Talkies’ attention. This entire credits section was handled by them, and I guess there was some confusion.

    On a side note, did any non-Tamil speakers feel the way the Telegraph reviewer did? I did take care to translate Tamil lines and also mention the names of filmmakers when we talked about other films. It would be nice to know if someone else felt this gap, so we can add stuff in the next reprint/edition.

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  51. ” No one writes like this. at least not real people. Certainly no Madras boy uses words like ‘peripatetic’ in a real verbal conversation.

    This is really an interesting claim or diss. If Baradwaj Rangan were in a minority of one who really uses “peripatetic” in his verbal conversation, would that debunk this blogger’s claim?

    Which part of this offends you more BR? That the blogger implies you might be forcefully inserting unusual words, or that you might not even be a Trye Madras boy, assuming you did use the word naturally :)

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  52. raj, the problem with that guy’s comment is he somehow assumes people write the same way they speak.BR might not use such words when he talks to you or me, but that doesnt mean as a writer he couldnt have thought of those words or phrases..
    He assumes that everyone have to write just like they speak and offer only Chetan Bhagat-like prose in the process. I wonder what he will have to say if he reads say, any Rushdie book. And I am no literature buff myself. This is like saying “Ilayaraja using some rare raga in Chinnathaayaval song is highly showy and artificial because in real life, no father including IR would sing such complex lullabies to their kids :-)”

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  53. “There’s nothing wrong about making straightforward films, but to say that that’s the only way Indian filmmakers (and audiences) think is not right.
    . ”

    I didnt say that. Obviously we have had our own Adoors and Padmarajans and Ritwik Ghataks and so on. But I think as far as mainstream commercial cinema is concerned, the mechanics of movie making hasnt even involved a serious screenwriter for a very long time. I have even heard(I might be wrong) that Bala many times decides what dialogue is to be spoken just on the day of shooting, like T Rajendar.
    And stuff like symbolisms and metaphors are non-existent in the thought process.(or limited to a heroine in a KB movie flipping on and off the night lamp, to reflect her vacillating or restless mind)
    They might be discussing the minute details of the logistics/technical aspects, like what camera angles they want or how the lighting should be and all that. But a literature-like reading into movies or thinking can come only from exposure to that kind of movie making. And that is there in the West, not here.
    Naan Kadavul might(or might not) be an exception, due to involvement of Jayamohan, a serious writer. In general, I think in recent times more exposure to World cinema, due to easy access,may have changed things a bit. But if you talk about 80s/90s, there might have been 1-2 directors at best who might have even been aware of something like this, in the mainstream.

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  54. vijay – trust me, that last part of your paragraph will soon be used by anti-IR elements as criticism in the future LOL. Wonders of internet – there is some wrong information on some topic that I have posted few years ago. I realised later that I was wrong. In a recent conversation, I had someone claiming that wrong information and showing my own post from few years ago as proof :lol:

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  55. - the comment by Hawkeye and BR acknowledging it in this post,
    – directors like KV Anand/GVM including criticisms about their style of movie making in their movies.

    Both are essentially the same implying “I acknowledge your point and will continue to work the way I know it”. When creators choose to do this, I think it diminishes the effect of the actual comment the critic made.

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  56. Regarding the last few comments above, there is nothing much to say, except that what you do works for some people and doesn’t work for others. That’s par for the course, and I can hardly give in to complaining, given that the reviews for my book, overall, have been pretty good.

    But I just want to say this about “big words,” which are not about showing off or reaching for a thesaurus. It’s always, always, always about the sentence. You may reach for a “big word” because it alliterates well. Or because the centre of the sentence can use a big anchor. Or because, when you read the sentence out loud, there’s a certain ring, a certain tone to it that a “small word” will not give you (and you hope that this ring, this tone will be replicated inside the reader’s heads when they read it).

    Or sometimes because a “small word” just won’t do the job. Take “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” for instance. The whole play is about deceit, lies — so why doesn’t Big Daddy, in his big speech, say “lies, lies, lies”? Why does Tennessee Williams thrust the word “mendacity” into this character’s mouth? Because of the “bigness” of the word, that’s why.

    “Mendacity” has the suggestion of malignancy — it even sounds pathological, like a condition infecting the people around Big Daddy. And of course the bigness of the word also echoes the bigness of the man.

    Language is a craft, and it’s not just about communication. It’s about beauty, about emotional effects, about tonal variations… I’m not claiming that I achieve all this. But this is what I strive for — to tell the reader something, and also tell it with some flamboyance, with a flourish. Otherwise, IMO, there’s no difference between “writing” and a Powerpoint presentation.

    Of course, I don’t expect everyone to buy into this philosophy and I get it that others want language to be just a simple medium of getting your point across. To each his/her own.

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  57. BR: “Language is a craft, and it’s not just about communication. It’s about beauty, about emotional effects, about tonal variations…” – that triggered a thought , were you and MR speaking in English ? or was there a translation later. I found a few interesting words in there 2 in particular stuck with me – amortize , flow. ( may be its his MBA speak ,,) – just curious.

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  58. BR, you should’nt have to even defend or explain yourself on this one. I think the big reason is because for a long time your esteemed senior colleagues at The Hindu had set the standards for film reviews. Which was somewhere near 8th standard English. So I guess the adjustment to your style will take some time. This is not to say that I muself dont run into problems with your words(or your world cinema/literature references, which is another slight problem for me) but I think people like that guy Hawkeye think that everyone has to write or communicate at THEIR level.

    Adhaavadhu, Adoor Goplakrishnan enakku puriyara maari eppo padam edukkaraano appo dhaan avan nalla director:-)

    On a slightly different note, I was suddenly reminded of a comment a friend made long time back when asked to define what is a good film according to him. He said ” yaarukkume puriyaama, aana enakku mattum purinjudhunna adhu dhaan nalla padam” :-)
    When you think about that comment for a little while it sort of reflects the psyche/attitude of a lot of reviewers/film buffs.
    A movie shouldnt be that easy to get, but it shouldnt be completely inaccessible either.

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  59. BR, Although I follow your blog religiously, I have always resisted commenting on your posts for strange reasons.But reading the above comment, I have to share something with you! When i first received your book, I knew I would be reading an extended version of your elegant crafted ‘Madras Male’ article. While I began to read, I could detect few changes you had done in the article. For instance, your original article talks of “gooeyness”, while your book replaces it with “mawkishness”. My knee-jerk reaction to this word change was protest. I was close to writing a long rant in your blog on why you changed that word. However, later, when I went back to that page, the word made peace with my reading, given the much larger canvas you were trying to bring for your readers.Your writing has been an inspiration to me! Kudos!

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  60. vijay: No, it’s not a explanation/defending thing. It’s something that comes up quite often when people ask me if I wouldn’t be better known/get more readers if I wrote a different way. And I wish that were the case sometimes. After all, every writer wants more readers, and if you’re cutting off a chunk of them due to the way you write, then you wonder, sometimes, if you shouldn’t change the way you write. Of course, that’s not the solution — for that will result in a different set of problems. You’ll have more readers but hate yourself for “selling out” :-) Ah, angst! BTW, your friend’s comment was hilarious — but also worth thinking about.

    Venky: I wish you’d written that rant :-) Would have liked to have learnt of your thought process. But thanks for the comment.

    venkatesh: We spoke in English and Tamil. Where I thought the Tamil made sense, I kept the lines — like in the “Roja” passage about “paakku thool.” Amortize etc. were in English — as you say, probably a result of his management background.

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  61. BR : Heavy amount of logistics – some folks were flying to and fro to India and i got someone to do a handover at Cologne Airport of all places – nothing is too much trouble for the book. My friends were convinced this was some top-secret A-grade pr0n, till they saw the cover of course :-)

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  62. BR : For the next book – you need to get a e-version (PDF , eBook, kindle version .. something ) at the minimum.

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  63. While it is understandable that significant post-processing takes place on the actual transcript of any interview, it takes the reader out of the moment/flow when the post-processing elements stands out.

    A book like this depends on, among other things, a feeling that Mani is providing near instantaneous answers to the questions posed. It is presented as a live interview (or a recording of it). This sets the mood of the reader. This makes the reader assume the thoughts are more natural. Once the reader starts seeing post processing elements along the way, it erodes that feeling.

    To respond to the rather poor analogy the commentor Vijay used on IR. If a newspaper sent Anuradha Sriram to interview Manirathnam, it is conceivable that she may have presented the interview to us in a song format where she has sung the interview questions to him in rare delicate raagas. She has specific skills in it, can do that style and it is a differentiator. But that isn’t the point of the interview or necessarily digestable by the reader.

    I love PGW and his use of words and language. that by itself isnt wrong. Its the mileu, the subject you are writing about that makes it jarring or not. In my view, an english book on thamizh cinema doesn’t lend itself to a lot of flamboyance in the english language. Of course rangan is free to test the boundaries here.

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  64. Hawkeye: Just an FYI. The post-processing in the conversations was with flow and editing and stuff like that. Maybe taking a bit from one chapter to another, where it fit better. Not a single word was modified in the conversations. The Intro, yes, I can see where you’re coming from, but in the conversations, we spoke *exactly* the way you read them. This is what you’ll hear if you hear my audio files.

    One of the most inviolable rules in making a transcript is not to disturb the contents within quotes, and I stuck to that completely. Otherwise it’s just bad journalism.

    jussomebody: I think the actual launch is during the last week of Nov. Will put up details when I know. Taj Coromandel, I think.

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  65. Thanks Rangan. My initial assumption was that the conversation was reproduced ‘as is’. Which is why my reading flow was interrupted by ‘peripatetic’ in a smooth flowing regular conversation. I can understand its usage if someone is writing. But in a transcript of a recorded conversation this seemed jarring and prompted me to point it out in the review. It is a word I rarely hear in verbal colloqial english converstions around the world. Some response in a comments above along the lines of “hawkeye assumes people write the way they speak” above may have caused me to think it was added in a post-processing situation.

    But I feel it is unfair of me to rathole into a minor nit in this comments section while discussing what was largely a very good book that gave me a lot of reading pleasure (read most of the book in lufthansa FRA-MAA segment – which is a hard segment to stay awake and this book kept me riveted). I dont think there are many other writers out there who could have done justice in interviewing manirathnam and producing a book of this quality. The depth of Mani’s thinking was brought out well and I was impressed with the clarity of his thought and his simplicity in rejecting intelectualization of instinctive decisions. This is probably the next best thing outside of mani writing an autobiography himself. My criticisms like any other is a ‘voice’.

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  66. Hello. Congratulations on the book. Will definitely get it sometime. However, I am curious about something did Mani ever mention that “Anjali” was adapted from the book “Welcome home Jellybean” any time?

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  67. Just now completed reading the book. in a way it help me to revisit the movie made by him. Best part in the book was discussion on film iruvar, kannithil muthmamal, guru and raavan.
    Get to know reason behind using constant motif like rain and train in his movie. The book is more of conversational mode, which is plus, for reader who is familiar with his film will admire this book.

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  68. nellaivel; Thanks. The Iruvar chapter is the one I’ve got most feedback about. Some feel it’s the best in the book, and others feel I should have done so much more.

    And the most interesting reaction I got was from a young chap who said my name should have appeared as “Brangan” :-)

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  69. i still think we as audiences still do not approve of films on the living persons, ratnam played it safe by inserting disclaimer saying that it about fictitious person both in iruvar and guru.

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  70. BR: I was wondering whether I should be asking you this after I finish reading the book (currently finished up to Dil Se…part), but anyway here I go…

    You didn’t ask Mani why he used a few scenes from one of his own earlier films in his later ones, for example he used this scene from Pagal Nilavu of receiving grievance petition from people in Nayakan. Likewise, the coffee scene (Mr. Chandramouli, Mr. Chandramouli scene) in Mouna Raagam was used earlier in Pallavi Anu Pallavi…I was interested in knowing what triggered him to repeat those scenes in his other films….the thought process behind it…whether he felt he could make a better use of it, etc. I was hoping that you would have asked him those on why he did that and any particular reason behind it.

    Another thing intrigued me was the casting of young Manisha Koirala in Dil Se with a striking resemblance in more ways than one, as I was astonished seeing the resemblance….you didn’t ask how he found her and how long it took him to find her. I know, I know you cannot ask questions covering everything and all, but still I felt these questions were very relevant and would have blended in perfectly with the depth of the book….just my thoughts…hope you don’t mind answering.

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  71. maruramu: Some of these questions just weren’t asked. Some were asked and answered but were left out for one reason or another. About the reuse of scenes, there’s a question in a later chapter about the reuse of scene structures…

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  72. Posting some more blog reviews/write-ups that turned up after a Google search, including one from Indian Express with some really florid prose!

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  73. This book is a steal for Mani Ratnam fans. Sort of like a coffee table book, cos you are hoping to read something you didn’t catch the first time around. Only thing that would make this better is an unabridged audiobook version in Mani Sir’s voice. *hint* *elbow nudge*

    I enjoyed reading the somewhat-elaborate chapter on Guru yesterday. Oh and thanks for ruining the poster btw. I can’t look at it again without thinking it could be Village Visionary ‘Victor’ not Winner. :)

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  74. Padawan: hahaha! I was trying to see how to load a pic on the gravatar and this was the one nearest at hand. Will change it soon, don’t worry.

    Incidentally, this pic was taken at the Madras Talkies office, MR’s office space actually. This was the day we shot the cover for my book, and the photographer Praveen Padmanabhan made me the stand-in and experimented with test shots all over the place till MR finally landed up. And this was one of those shots.

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  75. Pah! What a classy pic. :) Maybe, this could be the Cover for the sequel Conversations with Baradwaj Rangan written by Mani Ratnam.

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  76. Hello Mr rangan
    Finally reading your book
    Stupid question
    Have you edited maniratnams answers or it was his own words in the book

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  77. dr chandrika – It’s all his own words. the editing consisted more of things like collating four related q and a’s into one. For instance, I’d ask him something, and he’ll say a couple of lines’ worth. I’ll want more, so I’ll push him some more. He’ll say another couple of lines and so on. And these would be “edited” together as a single q and a.

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  78. Added a review by Oorvazi in the blog ‘madaboutmoviez’ above.

    I must say I’m very grateful for the positive reviews in general. And even the negative ones (like the one in Biblio) have taken the effort to engage with the book and aren’t just hasty dismissals. I couldn’t have asked for more.

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  79. Added link to the first of a multi-part review by Rajesh Da Scorp, in the blog ‘karundhel’, above — where he (somewhat oddly, IMO) says that analysis/interpretation/reading is a “Tamilian obsession.”

    In general, I wonder if the Tamil reviews are going to go more by “authorial intent,” i.e. this is what the director said, therefore that’s not there in the film.

    ramitbajaj: Thanks. Removed the repeated link.

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  80. Hi Rangan,

    It was me who wrote the Tamil review at http://www.karudhel.com. Let me clarify the intent here. I didn’t say that the analysis/interpretation/reading is a Tamilian obsession. I just meant the people who try to find a semiotic mark in the scenes (I said, trying to find semiotics appears to be Tamilian birthright) and would try to map it to the genius of the director, when in reality, it might just be a scene or a shot.

    Trust me. I have read a lot of reviews and articles which ‘invent’ bizarre semiotics in many films (not yours BTW). So, that’s the reason I have said so.

    And, your point about the ‘authorial intent’ seems to hold good from an observer’s POV – yes. Till the moment the director says about the actual intent. And, well, to a reader like me, if the director had mentioned so, that solves the puzzle. I mean, if I think that a particular scene carries a particular intent (or a semiotic meaning), when the director says it isn’t so, What more proof do I need?

    Till getting it clarified to the director, I do accept that we, as observers, are free to assume umpteen number of derivations. But once the question is put forth and the moment the answer is received, I do think that my understanding is changed. Well, that’s my POV and hence I wrote it in that manner in my review.

    Thank you. Cheers.

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  81. Rajesh Da Scorp: I just meant to say that it’s not just Tamilians who do this but people from all over the world who are interested in art (not just cinema; try reading the interpretations of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, for instance.)

    Also, for me what the author (in this case, director) intended is irrelevant. Because of two things:

    (1) Art isn’t 100% “intentional”. There’s the unconscious at work at all times and what that produces is added to what’s consciously done. (I know MR doesn’t agree with this, in the book, but I think he just doesn’t want to admit it :-) ) So part of what the audience is doing is trying to get a grip on something even the creator may not have been consciously aware of. Of course, the creator may not agree — but then, once he releases his film, it’s not just *his* film but my film and your film and everyone’s film. The film isn’t what he wanted to make anymore — it’s what we see.

    (2) The film that he wanted to make is purest in his head, and maybe in the screenplay form. By the time actors and technicians come in and add their own bits, by the time the film is edited (sometimes for length), it’s no longer exactly what the filmmaker wanted it to be. It’s a somewhat compromised version. But if you ask the filmmaker, he will sometimes say things based on the film inside his head, the film he wanted to make (and which he thinks he did end up making) — and we may not see those exact things, because a continuity scene, for instance, may have been cut away, and he’ll know what happened there but we won’t, and so we’ll end up creating a different meaning. Or sometimes he may *want* you to see the film a particular way, but the film may not correspond to whatever he’s saying. So I prefer to trust the tale rather than the teller, the film rather than the filmmaker.

    I am not saying that what the filmmaker says is not interesting. But it’s just that. Interesting. Not the final word. At least, that’s how I see it.

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