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Mani matters

Mani Ratnam's "Yuva" is a reflection of society. A chat with the versatile director


A FILM does not serve its purpose of communication if it does not reflect society as it exists. If you agree, then you have won the famous film director Mani Ratnam's appreciation. If not, he is not the one who would change his ways of making films even if he finds a large number of people disagreeing with him. "I believe that ideas don't come in vaguely. They are a major reflection of the society you are living in. You can't escape that. Even your behaviour is a reflection of the social order you are a part of," asserts the filmmaker who has been, most of the times, able to get his point across through his subjects in his films. Be it his debut film in Kannada Pallavi Anu Pallavi in 1983 in which a girl is forced into an arranged marriage, Anjali in 1990 which was about a mentally handicapped child, brought back to her family with two normal siblings, Roja in 1992, a patriotic love story with terrorism in Kashmir as a background, or Bombay, a love story of a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl against the backdrop of the Mumbai riots of 1993.

And this time too, he is at it again. His Aayitha Ezuthu in Tamil and its Hindi remake Yuva to be premiered at IIFA Awards at Singapore this May, is all about three different youths, their aspirations, their way of looking at life and accordingly, their relationship in their respective families. "The film is actually about three short stories encircling the lives of three young men and their attitude towards life and how it changes when they come to a metropolitan city and accidentally meet each other at the Second Hoogly Bridge. Their encounter, their variance and the way they change, form the crux of my film," enlightens Mani Ratnam. An important segment of the film is glorification of the term `abroad', especially the U.S, through the character of a yuppie youth played by Vivek Oberoi who wants to go to the U.S. "for fun". For him, that country is the ultimate. "I am only showing what is happening to our young generation through this character. Don't you see the U.S. as a glamorous country in real life? Aren't you somewhere bugged by the English language? Otherwise, you wouldn't have been asking me questions in English. I am only showing what I am seeing around me. We Indians do glorify the West to a great extent, so what's the harm in showing that?," Mani is charged with excitement.

You might say still, in a country like India, where films are still largely the only medium of entertainment especially in rural areas, they affect masses hugely. Yuva might just end making many aspire for looking `up' at the West and `looking down' at their own country... But Mani does not care. "Look, I am a filmmaker, not a teacher or a preacher. It s like working in a newspaper in which a reporter just informs, he does not try to indulge in teaching sessions. Similarly, I am also trying to only communicate my story. Society has always been intelligent enough to go for what it likes, so why blame a filmmaker?" he would not budge.

And he did not budge when people in the industry tried to make him avoid giving Abhishek Bachchan the role of Lallan, a villager. "I decide my own stars. He fits the role and that's it." And what's next in his kitty?

"Nothing. Let me see the response of this film," he says smiling, at last.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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