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REALITY BYTE

`Yuva' is Mani Ratnam's latest venture. The director shares his philosophy of film-making.


A FILM does not serve its purpose of communication if it does not reflect society as it exists. If you agree with this statement, then you have won the appreciation of the famous film director, Mani Ratnam. If not, he is not the one who would change his ways of making films, even if he increasingly sees that the number of people who disagree with him is multiplying.

"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' (1983), in which a girl is forced into an arranged marriage, `Anjali' (1990), which was about a mentally handicapped child brought back to her family with two normal siblings, `Roja' (1992), a patriotic love story with terrorism in Kashmir in the backdrop, or `Bombay', a love story of a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl in the backdrop of the Mumbai riots of 1993.

He is at it again. His `Aayitha Ezuthu' in Tamil and its Hindi remake, `Yuva', are about three youths, their aspirations, their way of looking at life and accordingly, their relationship in their respective families. "The film is actually three short stories revolving around the lives of three young men and their attitude towards life and how it changes when they come to a metropolitan city and meet each other at the Second Hoogly Bridge. Their encounter, their differences and the way they change, form the crux of my film," says 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. "Through Vivek's character, I am only showing what is happening to our young generation. 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 reality?" he asks.

Ask him whether it is important to be recognised by the West, and he replies, "It is not a question of recognition. It is the question of influence. Isn't the West influenced by so many things Asian?"

Like what?

"Like yoga and spirituality. Loads of foreigners come to India every year in search of peace of mind and spirituality. Why does one fail to notice that? They even look up to the Asian countries for new ideas in filmmaking for their films have ceased to be fresh now!"

But `Yuva' might just end up making many look `up' to 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 teach. I am also trying to communicate my story. Society has always been intelligent enough to choose what it likes, so why blame the filmmaker?" he asks.

Mani did not budge when people in the industry tried to persuade him against casting Abhishek Bachchan in the role of Lallan, a villager. "I decide my own stars. He fits the role and that's it," he says.

And what's next in his kitty?

"Nothing. Let me see the response to this film," he says smiling.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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