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Happy Birthday Mani Ratnam: Discovering different facets of love through his movies

Mani Ratnam celebrates his 62nd birthday on Saturday, and here is a look at the different kinds of love stories he has narrated over the years.

regional movies Updated: Jun 02, 2018 14:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mani Ratnam,Mani Ratnam birthday,Happy birthday Mani Ratnam
On Mani Ratnam’s birthday, here’s a look at different love stories that he has narrated.

Ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam turned 62 on Saturday. Since his debut with Kannada film, Pallavi Anu Pallavi, starring Anil Kapoor and Lakshmi, to his most recent Kaatru Veliyidai, in Tamil, featuring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari, the director has enriched our lives with a variety no one else has.

If you have watched closely, a key element in all his 26 films has been love — the romantic relationship between the main characters.

Through Karthik-Shakti in Alaipayuthey, Manohar-Divya-Chandrakumar in Mouna Raagam, Roja-Rishi in Roja and others, Mani Ratnam has aesthetically brought out the beauty, tension and maturity of relationships between different kinds of people.

That said, here is a look at 16 different kinds of love stories that he has narrated.

Alaipayuthey – Secret love marriage and entailing pitfalls
While one is mostly used to hearing and watching men and women falling head over heels in love, fighting their families to find their happily-ever-after ending, it is very rare that a film shows what happened after they rode into the sunset. Alaipayuthey is the story of Karthik and Shakti, played by Madhavan and Shalini, showing some difficult aspects of love marriage, and still melt your heart.

Set in the new millennium in Chennai, youngsters quickly connected with the film. It was later remade in Hindi as Saathiya. Notably, Mani Ratnam writes the best endearments for a woman. In Alaipayuthey, it was simply ‘Ay Pondatti’ (hey wifey).

Pallavi Anu Pallavi – Love beyond age

Lakshmi and Anil Kapoor in this Kannada film will make you realise that love is beyond age. Going against the norm of older man-younger woman, this film, though Mani Ratnam’s first and made over three decades back, is a fine work of art that breaks traditions and stays relevant even now.

Mouna Ragam – Life after love failure

Divya (Revathi) meets Manohar when she is a student. They start on a false note, but once the misunderstanding is dealt with, they fall in love. Manohar, who is a part of a revolutionary group, gets falsely accused of a crime and is shot in front of Divya, who is, in fact, waiting to get married to him at the registrar’s office.

Her family has no knowledge of this and finds her a groom who says yes to the wedding even after she requests him to reject her. Chandrakumar (Mohan) ends up being ignored by his wife after marriage and she even goes as far as to ask for a divorce as a birthday gift. Ratnam has shown how she matures and starts to love another man.

Nayakan – Love beyond prejudice
This cult film stars Kamal Haasan in the lead role and is the story of Velu Naicker, an underworld don in Mumbai. While the film is also about the father and daughter, Velu’s love story is inspiring.

A younger Velu visits a brothel where he finds a school-going girl waiting in the room. She asks his permission to study for an upcoming exam and he grants her the time and just watches her. He is impressed with her attitude about education and her innocence, so he pursues her and then the two get married. The fact that she was a prostitute before doesn’t affect Velu at all. In fact, he loves her deeply.

Geetanjali – Love in the face of death

Starring Nagarjuna (Prakash) and Girija (Geetanjali) Shettar, the Telugu film is about two patients with terminal illness discovering love and life. While Prakash realises that the happy-go-lucky Gitanjali has a terminal illness, he learns how to let go of his inhibitions about death and live in the present. He falls in love with her and just after she reciprocates, she learns of his medical condition. This one is a tear-jerker, but the film will stay with you for long.

Thalapathy – The tragic love story
This is a classic tragedy of Surya (Rajinikanth) and Subhalakshmi (Shobana). The goon falls in love with a girl, but circumstances don’t let them stay together. They think they are going their separate ways, but fate plays a part in making her Surya’s half-brother’s wife. This is the kind of tragedy that might result in a Devdasesque behaviour, but Surya ends up getting married to the widow of a man whom he publicly killed.

Roja – Love after marriage

Ever wondered how weird it must be to meet someone at the age of 19, not know anything about the man and yet to get married. This is how arranged marriages were earlier. So when Roja falls in love with her husband Rishi, it’s gradual and beautiful. She might have known her husband merely for a few months, but the film also shows how it doesn’t take too long to take root in a person.

With this 1992 film, Ratnam also introduced AR Rahman to the world who went on to compose some of the most evergreen and soulful melodies one has heard, including the poetic “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai”.

Thiruda Thiruda – A love triangle

This one was written by Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma. The film is about two burglars, played by Anand (Anbu) and Prashanth (Azhagu), who end up helping a girl escape her ruthless uncle after stopping her from committing suicide and is a, sort of, love triangle. Both men fall in love with Heera Rajagopal’s character Rasathi.

Rasathi, who falls in love with Azhagu is stopped from confessing the truth to Anbu. Azhagu, in fact, encourages her to be with Anbu, leaving her no choice but to give up on both. The song ‘Rasathi’ nails her predicament with its music that sounds like a mourning.

Bombay – Love beyond religion
A Hindu man falls in love with a Muslim woman and the two leave their town to the city of dreams to build a new life, but they don’t seem to be able to run away from the religious conflict that surrounds them. Years pass, and the couple have twin boys named after both their grandfathers, indicating that this household will be free of religious differences. The beauty of the love between Arvind Swami’s character and Manisha Koirala’s comes across stunningly when she fights her religious shackles. The iconic song “Uyire” , “Tu hi Re” in Hindi, lyrically and musically captures the couple’s situation.

Dil Se – Love that leads to death

Ratnam’s first Hindi film has Shah Rukh Khan as production executive Amarkant Varma for All India Radio with Manisha Koirala as Moina, a member of an extremist group which has planned bombings during the occasion of India’s 50th Independence.

Amar falls in love with her when he sees her for the first time at a railway station. He then incidentally meets her again at another station, but his efforts to develop a relationship with her fails. Intrigued by her, Amar recalls his conversation on air in New Delhi, beautifully captured through the song ‘Aye Ajnabi’.

Moina uses Amar for her mission as a suicide bomber. But Amar doesn’t want to give up on her even when he learns the truth and tries to stop her in the end.

Kannathil Muthamittal – Maturity in love
This is a passionate story about adoptive parents helping their child find her biological mother, amidst the relationship between the parents in the background. Played by Madhavan and Simran, we see how author Thiruchelvan fell in love with Indira. ‘Sattena Nanaindhadhu Nenjam’, the BGM, is a clear indication of how suddenly he fell in love.

Aayutha Ezhuthu – Obsession in love
This film has three couples and all of them share a different equation. While Surya-Esha Deol and Siddharth-Trisha’s relationships were interesting, it was Inba and Shashi’s story that intrigued me. What would drive a woman love a man like Inba, who abuses his wife as much as he loves her? It could only be a kind of obsession.

Our basic instinct is to hit back when we are attacked, or to run. But Shashi initially stays. She loves this man and has fought with her family to stay with a professional thug, and the obsession comes across strongly.

Guru – Unwavering love
Starring Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, R Madhavan and Vidya Balan, this movie was not just about Gurubhai turning a prince from a pauper, it was also about the strength of relationships. When Madhavan stands by a dying Vidya or when Aishwarya stands by Abhishek when he is accused of fraud, the strength of their relationships comes across so well.

Raavanan – In love with the enemy
A modern take on the epic, Ramayana, Raavanan is the story which seeks to portray the villain as righteous despite his flaws. Aishwarya Rai played the role of Sita, who gets kidnapped. Now, Vikram’s character, Veera (Raavana) spends more time in her company and falls in love with her and her fighting spirit. Towards the climax, we see Aishwarya’s character Ragini waver, and how she sides with Veera, as love doesn’t always happen after it seeks your permission. The fact that this was attributed to Stockholm Syndrome is another story.

Ok Kanmani – A modern-day love
Dulquer as Adi and Nithya Menen as Tara showed us what romance in 2017 looks like. The two chance upon each other at a railway station, then meet at a wedding where they don’t hesitate to share numbers. The relationship progresses quickly and smoothly. In the age of technology where the means of communication has brought people closer, our emotions are wound up and left unexpressed due to fear of rejection — classic millennial relationship problem portrayed beautifully by the director.

And then we have Bhavani, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and her husband, Ganapathy, who stands by her, strong as a pillar. Their’s was a love marriage too, but that was when people had to wait days to receive letters from loved ones over snail mail. Ratnam wove not one, but two beautiful love stories that in a way showed us where the director stood. The newer generation taking over from the older one, and yet he was not ready to relinquish his position.

Kaatru Veliyidai– Love after redemption
Karthi as Indian Air Force squadron leader Varun and Aditi Rao Hydari as Dr Leela are what make a couple dysfunctional. Their love is a fire that burns strong, but their thinking, which is poles apart creates differences of opinion. VC, as Varun is referred to, begins as a confident pilot, but the movie which is based in 1999, shows him to be more and more chauvinistic man. His ego leads to decisions that he later regrets and when he realises his error, there is redemption.

This film was criticized for glorifying misogyny and chauvinism, but it was more of a journey from being an arrogant prick to becoming a respectable human being. Also there is no redemption when there is no sin.

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First Published: Jun 02, 2018 14:31 IST