Learning on the Job
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Mani Ratnam on why he can't make a film with Amitabh Bachchan or Rajinikanth, and the censorship process in India.
For a young man coming from a family which earned a living from movies (his father and two brothers being film producers), Mani Ratnam knew little about the process of filmmaking. But three decades and 20 films later, the Chennai-based filmmaker has reached a place occupied by only select members of his tribe. Mani has just finished collaborating with journalist Baradwaj Rangan to bring out his story in a book called Conversations with Mani Ratnam, and is about to wind up his new film Kadal. Excerpts from an interview with The Indian Express:
How did it all begin?
When I started, I didn't know how to make a film. I just knew I wanted to. My learning has been on the job.
Your first film was in Kannada, second in Malayalam, then one in Telugu and many in Hindi. How do you cross the language barrier?
It takes very little in India to go anywhere and understand what is required for that particular culture. It is fundamentally very similar. If somebody from the UK can come here and make Gandhi, Slumdog Millionaire and A Passage to India, you should not hesitate to go from here to the North East and do a film. We have Shekhar Kapoor who made Elizabeth. Sometimes, an outsider's view helps. There are no rules in this game.
More recently, you did bilinguals where you shot films based on the same script but a different cast, simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil. Was it because you had a story for both languages or both markets?
Neither. A film these days takes two years for me. So if I am to do one in Hindi and one in Tamil, between each film, it becomes four years. That was the only reason it was done. But bilingual is a pain. I don't think I will ever do it again. It is too taxing and strenuous.
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