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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The lessons Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan taught Mani Ratnam

In an hour-long conversation for his YouTube channel, Gautham Menon hesitantly asked Mani Ratnam to pick his favourite between Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan.

By: Entertainment Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 11, 2021 9:23:55 am
Mani RatnamMani Ratnam on the sets of Kamal Haasan-starrer Nayakan. (Express archive photo)

Mani Ratnam could be a genius filmmaker, but he never misses an opportunity to learn. The little lessons he learns from his collaborators only sharpens his storytelling skills. And that’s why he continues to remain the country’s best visual director. An interesting conversation that Mani Ratnam had with director Gautham Menon, a few years ago, demonstrates the importance of an inquisitive mind to upscale one’s skills.

In an hour-long conversation for his YouTube channel, Ondraga Entertainment, Gautham Menon hesitantly asked Mani Ratnam to pick his favourite between Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan. Gautham is unsure and very cautious in his tone as he brings up this question, perhaps knowing it was not an easy choice to make for a director. And without thinking too much, Mani replied, ”I will take both.”

“They are two different kinds, but they are fantastic. It is such a dream to have an actor who delivers. Then you don’t have to worry about the scene. You just have to capture it. You don’t have to stage it very differently. You don’t have to worry about setting it right by the cuts and the angles. But, just be there to capture the performance. So your job becomes a lot more simple,” added the ace filmmaker.

Mani Ratnam also recalled his experience of working with Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan in Iruvar and Nayakan, respectively.

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“Mohanlal, the ease with which he picks by nuances and the details he puts in, he taught me a couple of things. I picked up quite a few from both the actors (Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan), which I use all the time in my films. That’s the good thing about working with good actors. You learn fast. Without telling them, you are learning,” he remarked.

While shooting for Iruvar, Mohanlal taught Mani Ratnam about the ‘happy accident’.

“Iruvar had a lot of elaborate shots, choreographed with the crowd and things like that. The shots would be difficult. It was the style we picked up. We’d roughly mark it so the crane could be set up. But, he (Mohanlal) would say lets not fix it (the shot) 100 per cent. Let there be some unexpected things. He’s the one who called it ‘happy accident’. If I am walking and suddenly my dhoti is coming off, then I am doing something which I had not planned. Or if somebody comes the wrong way, I have to stop and then move. And it is not in the dialogue rhythm, but it makes it a little more real. It is a pleasure to see such smaller things happening in front of you,” he said.

Mani Ratnam also learned a great deal working with Kamal Haasan. “There was a sequence in Nayakan, in which he (Kamal) comes to the police station to see his foster father hanging. So the police station is crowded, and he had to come and peep. And the crowd is being pushed by two constables. He caught hold of one of the constables and told him ‘push me’ (in the shoulder). But, that man is not pushing him first of all. He took that man aside and he made him push him 10 times. (In the close-up shot) he’s coming in the crowd and he’s looking inside to find out whether the one who is hanging is his father. Then a hand comes and pushes his shoulder and his face just bobbles. His reaction (in the scene) is only that bob of his head. So he uses every element in a situation to enhance his performance. He brought something else into that,” recalled the Ravanan director.

Mani Ratnam is currently working on his dream project Ponniyin Selvan.

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