Films happened by accident: Mani Ratnam
"It was an accident. I was interested in cinema only as a viewer. I never thought I'd take it up as a career. I never thought I would sit and write and actually direct films," the director says in a new book "Conversations with Mani Ratnam".
The book, based on the filmmaker's freewheeling interactions with film critic Baradwaj Rangan, published by Penguin, reveals how the reticent man who went on to deliver gems in Hindi and Tamil films switched over to cinema.
During the seventies, Ratnam was so fed up of watching sub-standard Tamil films that he decided to push the bar himself. "Even now I feel that if enough good Tamil films were made, I wouldn't become a filmmaker," the acclaimed filmmaker, favoured both by critics and the box-office, says.
Besides those by Balachander and Mahendran, he says, "The rest of the films, predominantly, were not good. Tamil cinema had stagnated. The films were so ordinary and without any flair that you felt you could do better even if you didn't know anything about cinema".
When his friend Ravi Shankar was making a Kannada film in 1979, the 56-year-old Ratnam had his first brush with the visual medium as he helped him in the script.
"Up to that point in my life, except for writing a few letters occasionally to my father from the hotel asking for money, I had not done any form of creative writing," he recalls. This stint in script-writing proved to be career-changing for him as he decided to direct films.
"That's when I thought I'd write a script, sell it to a director, work alongside and learn everything about direction, and then I thought I would be ready for a full-fledged career in films. In the worst case scenario, I could go back and get a job. But that was just insurance. Once you get bitten by this bug, you get seriously bitten," he said.
His first film was the Anil Kapoor starrer Kannada film "Pallavi Anupallavi" in 1983. Striking a fine balance between art and commerce, he went on make films in many south Indian languages and his Tamil classic "Nayakan" is among Time magazine's '100 best movies ever' list.
Although some his works like "Yuva" and "Bombay" have touched upon various issues affecting the society, Ratnam insists he is not attempting to give any messages.
"I don't make movies to give messages. Films are about sharing an experience or sharing your angst or your concerns about something with a larger group of people," he said.
Offering readers a peek into the mind of the auteur, the book examines the evolution of Mani Ratnam's works taking one film at a time.