Bollywood director, producer and scriptwriter Mani Ratnam is a man with 10 heads, who’s dealt with topics like terrorism, love, relationships and the India’s socialist legacy in his films. Behind his quiet and smiling exterior is a determined genius who has given us films like Roja, Guru, Bombay and Dil Se. Let’s get talking with the man of the hour, Mani Ratnam, whose forthcoming Abhishek-Aishwarya Bachchan starrer, Raavan, is riding high on expectations.
Abhishek Bachchan keeps saying that you are the only one who has recognized his true potential. What do you see in him?
As a filmmaker you’re just selfish, you want what is right for your film. And you want an actor who’s interested in the film and feels he can do the role well. Abhishek is like that; tremendous to work with. Besides, all the characters he’s done for me have been drastic, yet, he’s delivered every single time.
From ‘Yuva’ to ‘Raavan’, how’s Abhishek grown as an actor?
Abhishek has grown in leaps and bounds with every film. In Yuva, where he played Lallan, I didn’t do anything drastic with him, just made him play a character close to his real personality. In Raavan, we were able to do even more, because the character of Beera is larger than life and it needed a bigger portrayal, and much more flamboyance.
Abhishek lost all his inhibitions and has been able to play the character convincingly.
Did Aishwarya ever shout at you for changing the dialogues?
In her first film (which was in Tamil) we gave her long dialogues. So we had started training her from that time. It’s unbelievable; you can’t believe that she doesn’t know the language. She understands. I text her in Tamil all the time! Her Tamil is as good as my Hindi.
Aishwarya’s Tamil is as good as my Hindi.
What was your idea behind casting Vikram as Dev?
Why not? It’s a role which can take a new person. And if he can bring across some fresh blood into the script it just adds to the value…
How did you conceive ‘Raavan’?
Raavan was an idea which stays with you for a while. It was with me for about the last 2-3 films, after that it kind of fell into place. I actually told Aishwarya about her role when we were doing Guru.
How difficult was it shooting two versions of the film (Hindi and Tamil) together?
It’s difficult and a huge task. When I make films, I’m instinctive. But when you are doing two languages you can’t go with instinct. The tempo changes and you have to recreate; you have to make sure the films reach the desired level (of quality).
Do you enjoy making Tamil films or Hindi films?
If it’s in Tamil, I hold more reins in my hand. If it is Hindi, then I trust the writer, the actors a little more. So we discover it (the film) together. I make them more liberated and responsible.
It’s different. In one you have lot more control, the other liberated.
Every film of yours has had an underlying political touch. This seems amiss in ‘Raavan’?
I don’t think I do every film with a political touch. To me relationships are the base on which I make films. Every film need not have the same element.