To say I can watch a Maniratnam movie objectively is like asking Dick Cheney to assess Iraq War dispassionately. Nevertheless, I do have the power to call my other twin Gemini during these times to do the job. Before I start I have to give a little history lesson.
They say the impact to your senses in the first 20 years lays the foundation for the rest 50 years of your life. My movie life’s foundation was filled with Mouna Raagam at 11, Nayagan at 12, Agni Nakchatram at 13, Geethanjali at 14, Anjali at 15, Thalapathi (Dalpathi) at 16, Roja at 17, Thiruda Thiruda at 18 and Bombay at 20.
While I saw many movies during these times, inevitably Mani’s creations would stand apart. His movies were filled with intelligent characters, breathtaking visuals, women who spoke their minds and a sense of believability for the most part. His one-liners often conveyed what five paragraphs couldn’t convey.
“I need to marry Saira Bhanu”-Shekhar
“Over my dead body”- Narayan(Shekhar’s dad)
“I can’t wait that long!” – Shekhar.
His range includes, Mouna Raagam, a silent emotional journey of a strong woman; Nayagan, an epic life saga of a young 10yr old boy till his 60’s; Agni Nakchatram, a struggle between two step brothers; Geethanjali, an intimate love story between two terminal patients. Anjali, a soulful, tragic story about an autistic girl; Roja, a crisp, tense, patriotic commentary on terrorism; Bombay, a topical, insightful and poignant story of a family caught in the midst of communal riots.
You call a movie a classic when it stands the test of time. It’s a classic when you find a new nuance to appreciate even after years. It’s a classic when you can’t find a flaw in terms of screenplay or acting even after you have grown past your adulthood. It’s a classic when your opinion of that movie still holds after your exposure to other great movies. Mani produced seven classics in a decade. And then he gave Iruvar, Alaipayuthe, and Yuva to add to that list(Thiruda-Thiruda,Thalapathi and Guru doesn’t qualify, Dilse, Kannathil Muthamittal came close but not quite there yet).
With such a track record, and my genetic lenience, I wait with bated breath for Mani’s movies. I ache for another Nayagan experience. I pray it is another Roja visually. I expect an elated feeling of having experienced a new world filled with strong-minded characters when I come out of the theatre.
Alas! With each recent Mani movie that doesn’t live up to his own standards, this Mani Fan feels let down for the lack of more classic additions from his repertoire!
I don’t want Shahrukh Khan to die in the corner of no-man’s street after two and half hours of luscious beauty and mind-blowing song direction. I want him to die grandly in front of Republic parade saving the prime minister(Dil Se). I want Abhishek to turn good in Yuva after three hours of three different stories(Yuva). I don’t want to be confused if Kannathil Muthamittal is movie about adoption or Srilankan Tamil Fight or Adoptive Parent’s struggle. Mani is known for providing a clean single story arch. Not a confusing tricolor motives for his characters. I don’t want to wonder about what atrocities did Gurubhai commit by reading Ambani’s history. I want to see them on-screen without having to do my home work. I don’t want to assume the bad things that might have been done by protagonist(Raavanan). I want to be truly conflicted about protagonist and antagonist.
We are Maniratnam fans. We are nit picky. We are used to perfection. We demand a tight screenplay and flawless flow of scenes. We want to watch these movies year after year to relieve us from item songs, Mother sentiment, Cheating politicians, Mundane romance and Honest police officer fighting crime stories.
Is it Fair to expect perfection every time ? Absolutely Not!
But the thing is, when I am not impressed with Sachin’s batting, I know I only have to wait two months for his next dazzling display. When I am not impressed with Rahman’s Album, I only have to wait three months for his next musical innovation. When I am not impressed with a Mani’s movie, I HATE to wait 3 more years with the hope of it being another “Nayagan”!
So, my dear Mani, please, for this awful, small, intelligent legion of fans make a movie every year! I don’t need a Nayagan or Roja. I can live with more Guru’s as long as I get some movie moments from you to add to my collection!