3. Biopic is another largely untouched genre explored
to perfection by Mani. Be it Varadharaja Mudhaliar
or Dhirubhai Ambani, it has been a passionate portrayal
onscreen. To compress an entire lifetime into less
than 160 minutes is not a cakewalk.
Camerawork has been another USP of Mani's movies.
Infact, the lighting in "Anjali" achieved
cult status. Jokes were circulated on Mani's obsession
with darkness. He has collaborated with a galaxy
of stars-Santosh Sivan (Capturing Ooty's beauty
atop a train in "Chaiyya Chaiyya"), P.C.Sreeram
(Choosing different color lenses for the suitable
lines in "Pachai nirame"), Rajiv Menon
(Those brilliant shots in "Uyire uyire"-"Bombay")
and Ravi K Chandran (That hastily paced camera work
matching the tone of the initial scenes in "Ayudha
Mani's biggest achievement in cinema is switching
to a nondescript Rahman after getting masterpieces
out of Ilayaraja. Mani has mastered the art of bringing
the best out of his composers so much that some
hardnosed critics say that "music and camerawork
are the only pluses in a Mani movie". Compare
Rahman's BGM score for "Iruvar" with what
he did for "Sakarakatti" so as to conclude
that Mani has played an equally pivotal role in
the final music output. I am still waiting for Rahman
to do another "Thiruda thiruda" in BGM
The screenplays of his are so intense and engaging.
The storyline of "Thalapathi" is so simple
that had Perarasu handled it, it would not have
been released at all. While Selvaraghavan takes
an entire movie to establish the metamorphosis of
a gangster in "Pudhupettai", Maniratnam
takes less than 5 scenes in "Ayudha Ezhuthu"
to do the same. "Agni Nakshathiram" still
remains the ultimate definition of a "gethu"
movie to any youngster in the 80s.Karthik's episode
in "Mouna Raagam" remains the breeziest
flashback in a Tamil movie.
Some of his movies have been message oriented as
well. While "Bombay" cries for an end
to the Hindu-Muslim conflict, "Ayudha Ezhuthu"
was a catcall for youngsters to join politics. While
all love flicks ends in a marriage and subham, "Alaipayuthe"
beautifully explores the post-marital tensions.
While "Nayagan" gives the dangerous message
of "If it benefits some, even a murder is justified",
Guru extols a not-so-righteous but ambitious man.
Mani is one person who has never worried about commercial
success. Since all movies are from his own production
houses, there is no chance of a Baba-like guilt.
Mani is an enviable person who takes movies which
he likes. No one else alive in Tamil cinema can
fit in that statement.
"Raavan" gears up for release, (The usual
Mani-styled marketing: No talk of the movie till
post-production works is complete, frenzied marketing
on the eve of release) the usual fever rises. The
storyline is quite predictable from the trailers
but the expectations do not sag at all because of
Brand Mani. Personally, I am not that optimistic
about "Raavan" but I am sure that I will
see it five times at least. Mani is one of his kind!