He directs movies based on socially relevant issues, relationships and human emotions. His movies are classy, subtle and evoke powerful emotions. And the filmmaker who has all of this to his credit is Mani Ratnam. He has become India’s most sought-after director. No mass-masala, no melodrama – just simple stories made brilliantly. As we wait for his latest offering – O Kadhal Kanmani, lets take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of the noteworthy films from the award-wining director.
Mouna Ragam (1986)
Awards won: National Award for Best Film and Best Director.
Divya, played by the fantastic actress Revathi, is a woman who lost her fiancé on the day of their wedding. Torn between her past and her future, she is forced to marry Chandrakumar (Mohan). On their wedding night, she vents her displeasure by asking for a divorce as a wedding gift. With Revathi’s fierce performance, Mohan‘s calmness and Karthik‘s energetic acting, it turned out to be a cult classic. This film focused on the relationship between a man and wife.
Awards won: National Award for Best Actor: Kamal Haasan
Best Cinematographer: P. C. Sreeram
Best Production Design: Thota Tharani
An adaptation of The Godfather, Nayakan tells the tale of Velu Nayakan, a don who becomes Robin hood. He takes money from the criminals to help the needy. Although this film was not entirely original, the local milieu added depth to the film. Kamal Haasan‘s performance was on par with De Niro and Brando. But according to critic David Chute, Haasan adds "qualities of sweetness and playfulness" not seen in their work. Nayakan was also India’s official entry for the Oscars in 1988.
Awards won: Filmfare Award for Best Director and Best Music Director (Illaiayaraja)
Can a filmmaker ever show Superstar Rajini‘s subtle side? Yes, Mani Ratnam can! Depicting a tale of friendship, rivalry and brotherhood, Thalapathi brought legends Rajinikanth and Mammootty together. This film is loosely based on the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana. Even 24 years after its release, Thalapathi still remains a classic.
Awards won: National Award for Best Music Director: A. R. Rahman
National Award for Best Lyricist: Vairamuthu
National Award for Best Film on National Integration
Based on the conflict that arises between politics and love, Roja is a beautiful tale that brought out the feeling of patriotism within the audience. With rich visuals and soulful music, Mani Ratnam and his team made poetry on screen. This patriotic love story broke all box-office records and catapulted Mani Ratnam to success and fame. It was also the first of Ratnam’s film trilogy that depicted human relationships set against the background of Indian politics.
Awards won: National Award for Best Film on National Integration
Best Editing: Suresh Urs
A Hindu boy and a Muslim girl elope to Bombay and get married. Sounds like a simple story, doesn’t it? The second film in Mani Ratnam’s love and political series, it documented the religious riots that tore apart the city of Bombay. You’re sure to get goosebumps because of this film’s powerful ending. Although Mani Ratnam’s masterpiece did give rise to several controversies, it’s among the top 20 films in the British film rankings and a winner of several awards.
Awards won: National Award for Best Cinematography: Santosh Sivan
National Award for Best Supporting Actor: Prakash Raj
An underrated classic, Iruvar tells the tale of rivalry between two politicians. Based on the life of M. G. Ramachandran and Karunanidhi, it showed how politics worked in Tamil Nadu. With stellar camera work, passionate performances and unbeatable music, Iruvar was a bold and brave attempt that’s a must-watch if you’re a film student. This film also marked the acting debut of Aishwarya Rai.
Awards won: Filmfare Award for Best Music Director: A. R. Rahman
Best Debut Actor: Madhavan
Released in the millennium, Alaipayuthey revolutionized the way romantic films were made. With a narrative that juxtaposed the past and present lives of a couple, the film made an astounding number of fans fall in love with the lead characters. Only a master filmmaker like Mani Ratnam can make a simple plot so beautiful and brilliant. The dialogues in this film will make you weak in the knees.
Is there any other film you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.