Readers Write In #245: Mani Ratnam walks into a classroom

Posted on August 17, 2020


(by Mysore Vivek)

(This story is set in a fictitious world)

It’s the early 1980s and teacher Mani Ratnam (MR) has taken a big decision. Excited to announce his life’s next major step, he walks into a packed and vociferous class of Inner Voices (let’s call them IVs).

IVs in chorus: GOOD MORNING, SIR!

MR: Good morning! Please sit down. I have something important to share with you all. I am moving into films. I am ready to make my first movie! Isn’t that exciting? (gleefully).Of course, it will be sad to bid goodbye to you all!

Pin-drop silence prevails for a couple of minutes.

MR (puzzled):  Did I commit a crime? Speak up, people!

IV1: Well, we have a lot to ask, if you don’t mind, sir. First of all, can you please everyone with your film?

MR: No.

IV2: Alright, at least can it match everyone’s ideologies?

MR: No.

IV3 (feeling nervous): I don’t know if I have to ask this but can you represent all communities?

MR: Well, is that compulsory?

IV4 (annoyed): At least, is there a way to skip criticism from all kinds of experts?

MR: I cannot assure that.

IV5 (pleading):  Sir it’s my sincere request that you cover the length and breadth of history with your film.

MR (now it’s his turn to feel annoyed): I am afraid my effort is going to be a movie. Your demand can be fulfilled with a book. For now, I can say I will be truthful.

IV6 (excited): Sir I have an idea! I have been reading a lot about culture. Can you show a unison of all cultures?

MR (surprised): I will have to see if the story demands that.

Once-drop silence prevails

And then, all IVs stand up together.

IVs in chorus: DON’T DO IT!

A despondent MR walks to the next class. It’s a one-student class. Still upset by the rejection from IVs, he sits quietly on a chair. Heart, concerned with her teacher’s sad face, quizzes him.

Heart: You seem low and lost! What’s wrong with you?

MR (speaking softly): I just did the crime of telling the IVs that I am going to be a filmmaker. They quashed my plans in no time!

Heart: Hmmm… I have a question.

MR: Oh, please! You don’t start now. I have had enough.

Heart: Come on! It’s just one question.

MR (agitated): Fine. Let me get done with it. Ask!

Heart: Why do you want to make a film?

MR (slightly taken aback): Because….hmmm…Because I have a story tell. I feel cinema is a wonderful medium to tell stories.

Heart (applauding): Perfect! Wait not. GO AND DO IT!

37 years later

MR is sitting with a cup of coffee with Heart. They are at the same institution. After receiving a grand tribute from the institution for his work in the film industry, MR chooses a quiet place to reminisce about the good old days with Heart.

Heart: How does it feel to be celebrated?

MR: Well, there is no one answer to it. Perhaps, I feel scared and content at the same time.

Heart: By the way. I am not liking everything you make these days. In your recent love story, I felt the pilot’s character was under-cooked. Before that, you made a sea film. I thought your storytelling took a beating there. Also, about that live-in-relationship story, many believe the treatment was a rehash of your previous works.

MR (sighs deeply): You know what I like the most about you?

Heart (confused): What?

MR: It impresses me that you see cinema as cinema.

Heart (grins): Thank you! Well, there is something about you. One of the greatest gangster films of India… King of romance…beautiful portrayal of relationships…those steely-eyed, strong-willed women…those imperfect men…magical skill to extract performances…such strong grip over narration…mouth-watering collaborations…the envious art of showing films the way only you can. Most of all, kudos for staying relevant for close to four decades!

MR (raising the coffee mug in a typical classy manner): Cheers!

Heart: By the way, before I leave, I want to know what you spoke in your tribute function. Especially when they asked what’s the secret behind your success. What did you tell them?

MR: I told them I followed (my) Heart.