Mani Ratnam on Navarasa: This project would not have been done for the big screen

Filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchpakesan talk to us about their upcoming web anthology Navarasa that will release on Netflix on August 6, 2021.
Filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchpakesan.
Filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchpakesan.
Updated on Jul 09, 2021 12:22 PM IST
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ByRishabh Suri

Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan have been around in the film industry for decades now. While the former is among the most acclaimed directors in the history of Indian cinema, the latter is a filmmaker known for taking the path less trodden. This time, the two both have come together for a special project, Navarasa, a direct to Netflix nine-film anthology, which is touted to be the biggest thing in the history of Tamil cinema.

In a freewheeling conversation, the duo gets talking about their collaboration, how did this project come together and the ease of working as a filmmaker today.

Ever since you began your career in 1983 with Pallavi Anu Pallavi, till date, have you been able to make your films exactly the way you wanted to, or had to tone things down at times?

Mani: I think more or less you will be able to, if you are convinced about what you are doing. You have to have that ability to convince others, so they trust you. I have been lucky to have people who trust me. Anything good and bad belongs to me (laughs)

Nine directors and over 40 actors came together for Navarasa. At which point did you come on board?

Mani: Jayendra and me have been together for a long time, raising funds for various causes over the years. In the pandemic, we talked on the phone, and decided we should do something for the film industry because it has been badly affected. There has not been work for a very long time, and most of them are daily wage earners. We needed to do something substantial, and not just a token thing, which would make a real difference. It needed not just us but the entire industry to come together, so we just had to ask all these actors and directors, they were ready for it. That is something we all are proud of.

We heard that none of these artistes took a single penny for their job…

Mani: Yes, except the production cost and the fees of the workers for whom Navarasa was made. They were paid their salaries, but the rest practically worked free of cost. They gave us time for everything, it was quite amazing, it humbles you.

What was the toughest bit about putting together such a huge project amid a pandemic? Was it a logistical nightmare?

Jayendra: Not really. We had started with enthusiasm to do something for our own industry. It really charged us. We saw the enthusiasm, as everybody spontaneously agreed for their heart. There were absolutely no hurdles, except for the fact that our hands were tied due to the pandemic. In terms of logistics, we were not able to move around and get things done. Other than that, nothing. We overcame all these obstacles.

As someone who has always been associated with the big screen, do you find the web a much more flexible platform creatively, with no censorship?

Mani: Yes,like this current project, probably couldn’t have been done for the big screen. It has got nine different stories, which gives you the freedom to think of an anthology and different formats. I think the web just opens up and gives you a huge range in terms of the kind of stories you want to say.

If you had to pick any one out of nine anthologies, which one would you?

Jayendra: It is not about picking any one. The idea is we have nine emotions as human beings, we respond to different situations differently. We felt there is a strong concept, there was a variety and it will appeal to everybody. Everyone will find three-four which will appeal to them. You can’t pick one, you have to pick more.

Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021