When it comes to ace director Mani Ratnam, ‘Will he be able to do it again?’ is never the question. Talking to a friend recently, he brought to my attention that Mani Ratnam weaves his movies of the moments he creates, and while I was compiling this feature I realized how true he was. Mani Ratnam is a director who knows to pack his movies with moments that continue to haunt you even after you walk out the theatre or change the channel. BollySpice takes a look at few of moments from his stint in Bollywood, which still continue to haunt us.
Anjali’s Death: Anjali (1990) was originally a Tamil film that came out in the year 1990. Later dubbed in Hindi, I still remember watching it on TV as a kid when there were not enough satellite channels. There were quite a few scenes that are still stark clear in my mind, most of which were created by the emotional turn of events between a helpless father, his wife and their two children. The father didn’t tell his wife about his third child Anjali, who was mentally ill and suffered from a terminal illness. To put the movie up across the emotional marker, the family finally gets to know about Anjali and accepts her. What followed was the tale of this little ‘mad’ girl trying to make her way into every ones heart.
The most painful scene from the movie was probably the moment that is still haunting me. The mother wakes up and goes to wake up Anjali, but she doesn’t wake up. Anjali died in her sleep. As more and more people come after hearing her screams, they all are saddened by the demise of the girl who taught them to accept and forgive. It is still memorable how the director made that scene look so extra ordinary by just showing the sad faces of the people present and occasionally moving the camera to frame the innocence of the dead girl.
When SRK meets Manisha Koirala: Dil Se (1998) was a wonderful movie. It was also nothing less than a visual delight. Everything was so perfectly executed it seemed like a story told in the best manner ever possible. However, this movie in the pretext of terrorism also brought about a wonderful love story – the seven stages of love where a young Amarkant Varma (SRK) falls in love with a suicidal terrorist Meghna (Manisha Koirala). The music dominated the movie which was bound to happen if you bring in two geniuses together – Gulzar and Rehman. Mani had been doing this ever since then.
It was rather hard to pick up the best moments from this movie, as everything it catered was terrific. However, the first five minutes of the movie were the most beautiful ones. On a secluded and deserted railway station, when Amar sees Meghna, he immediately falls in love with her. His desperate attempts to initiate a conversation and get her to speak were failing until she asked for a cup of hot tea in order to withstand the cold. By the time he came back, she had left and all we were left with was the image of the rain drops dropping in those two glasses of the tea, and the Next thing we see was the song ‘Chhayya Chhayya’ which probably ruled the charts way back then.
Dil Se Climax: Throughout the movie, SRK was God like. His mere presence seemed to inspire others to put their best foot forward in terms of acting. Or it just would have been the sheer magic of the director, which even made Manisha looked awesome without any make up as a girl from a mountain village. Dil Se, contrary to what it initially looked like to be a movie based on terrorism, actually spoke about love in the form of total surrender. That’s what Amar (SRK) did for Meghna (Manisha). He surrendered himself completely to her which added the effect that gave the movie the typical Mani-Impact.
It is virtually impossible to dodge the impact of the climax when Amar, all beaten and bleeding crawls up to Meghna, holding her closer by her waist and he could feel the explosives hidden under her clothes. “Take me with you”, he kept on pleading to Meghna as an insane lover who has surrendered everything. He then pleads her to confess her love and all she could do in return was nod. A tear rolls down his cheeks and the bomb goes off breaking the notion of Happy Endings, which was quite prevalent in Bollywood way back then. To add to the impact, Sonu Niigaam’s voice emerges from the chaos with a smoky outline which goes on like ‘Mujhe Maut Ki Gaud Mein Sone De, Teri Rooh Mein Jism Dabone De (Let me sleep in the lap of death! Let me drown my body in your soul)’.
Aishwarya – Abhishek Fight: Guru (2007) was nothing less than a masterpiece in many ways. It was sophistication and class combined with brilliant story telling, which made the movie stand out from everything else he ever attempted. Guru is believed to be have been inspired by the life and times of the Indian entrepreneur Dhiru Bhai Ambani. Needless to say, the movie did well and gave new heights to Abhishek’s career and his marriage with Aishwarya soon followed.
The movie revolves around a highly ambitious man who wants to make it big in no time. His struggle puts forward a new dimension to how we used to watch films earlier. We as audiences were involved in everything young Guru Bhai did. That is probably why we were too moved when he was confronted by his wife (Aishwarya) on why he chose to marry her even after knowing that she has run away in the past. Not willing to accept the fact that he married her for dowry, he stays silent while the distances between them grow and the song ‘Tere Bina’ in Rahman’s magical voice starts emerging. The visual execution of the song was way beyond words, but what followed after the song ended was even more magical. Abhishek realized his love for his wife and drives down to her village to bring her back. She spots the car from her terrace and comes down running. They look at each other for a while and neither asked the other for justifications. This brief conversation ended with an embrace while Rahman’s voice was still playing in the background to make it look like a perfect moment straight out of fairy tales.
Guru Climax: One of the things that set Mani’s movies apart is their distinctive climaxes, which are highly dramatized but still continue to exist in the realms of possibility. This happens in Guru as a paralyzed Abhishek Bachchan was to appear in court for charges of corruption. His almost fairy tale like success didn’t go down well with people which on its way up inculcated over confidence and other vanities in him. Walking up to the room with Aishwarya on the side, who made up for the perfect wife adorned well in a sari and strays of grey hair, Abhishek takes a seat while every bit of his gestures made it clear that he is not going to give up. Roshan Seth as a stern but unbiased judge was at his very best in the scene as the proceedings begin and much to everyone’s surprise, Guru wanted to speak. The speech he delivered, along with the background score which kept on growing even more dominant with every passing second, added to the impact which was sure to last long. This is followed by a heart wrenching moment when a visibly old and powerful Abhishek Bachchan is shown addressing a huge audience in a stadium and that’s when the movie ends.
Arvind’s attempt to douse the burning flag: Roja (1992) was one of the first few movies to put forward a different opinion about terrorism and needless to say, it worked. The threat of terrorists in India meshed with mild romance is the summary of this movie. Roja (Madhoo), the protagonist, is an innocent girl whose newlywed husband Rishi (Arvind Swamy) gets kidnapped by Pakistani terrorists. It encompasses her struggle from pillar to post as she leaves no stone unturned to get her husband freed. Blindly in love, she managed to convince the authorities to release the dreaded terrorist Wasim Khan, which was nothing less than a menace to the Indian forces. In return, the terrorists had agreed to free Rishi. There were small elements here and there which made the movie all the more magnificent, for instance the reaction of the Police Chief (Nasseer) who worked hard to get hold of Wasim.
However, the best moment of the movie was when one of the terrorist guards comes rushing in and informs the head (Pankaj Kapoor) about Indian government’s denial to release Wasim Khan. The guard then takes out the Indian flag and goes to burn it in sheer desperation. Rishi Kumar reacts to this by forcefully breaking the window and jumping over the flag to extinguish the fire risking his own life. The quick cuts of Rishi’s struggle and calm composure of Pankaj Kapoor as he offers his daily ‘namaaz’ were ironic. The background score was brilliant and so was the camera work which managed to communicate the intensity of the scene without actually showing the flag properly.
Riots of Bombay: Bombay (1995) was another story brilliantly told story. Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) has finished school and returns to his village to tell his family of his plans to take a job at a newspaper in Bombay and attend night classes in journalism. Before he returns to the city, Shekhar catches a glimpse of a young burqa-clad Muslim woman, Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala) when her veil flutters off her face in a seaside breeze. Shekhar is instantly captivated; he sees her again at a village wedding and then contrives to meet her, learning that she returns his interest. Rebuffed by their furious fathers – his, a respected orthodox Hindu pandit, hers a devout Muslim brick-maker – the couple elopes to Bombay and marries in a civil ceremony at a municipal office. Disowned by their parents, they build life of modest contentment and are blessed with twin sons. Then internecine tensions spark the Bombay riots of winter 1992-1993 – Hindus and Muslims tear after one another with Molotov cocktails and machetes, upending Shekhar and Shaila Banu’s peaceful little world.
Bombay was the onset of the new kind of cinema in India where one realized that a good story should have moments. A lot of them – good, bad, painful, happy but it should have moments that the audience can take back home after those three hours. Among many such moments, the one that chose to stay with me after all these years was when one of Shekhar and Shaila Banu’s twin boys, riding on the shoulders of his Hindu grandfather, furiously wipes the tilak from the old man’s forehead when the pair is confronted by a group of Muslim rioters. At its best, Bombay is a gripping succession of breath-stopping moments like these and a simply unforgettable film. However, it was a horrifying moment but it unmasked the ugly face of the communal Indian society, which was very prevalent back then.
Sasi and her abortion: Yuva (2004) is one movie that surpassed Bombay in terms of moments. They say you get better with time so there was absolutely no reason as to why Mani Ratnam couldn’t have created another masterpiece after Bombay. Yuva extends beyond the arena of college politics and also peeps in the life of millions of Lallans and Sasis living in every corner of the nation, not just Kolkata.
Another moment which starkly stands out was when Sasi had undergone abortion. The frustration was clear on Sasi’s face and amidst all the saddened faces, screams and shouts, the director still managed to catch that victorious whiff of air that surrounded Sasi despite the fact that she lost her own ‘child-to-be’. The intensity of the character that Abhishek portrayed was executed as it must have thought to be. Each and every second of those few frames were nothing less than reality and by the time it was over, you too could feel sorry for Lallan as he carried that remorseful look, but his frustration was perhaps too big to be conquered.
Lallan Kills His Brother: Yuva was one movie that had everything that was needed to make it a pot boiler. The best thing about the movie was the director’s ability to handle three parallel stories and make them meet at the same point of time without a single jerk. The casting was perfect and Abhishek Bachchan proved that he could act with his portrayal of the extremely moody and raw character of Lallan who is a small time criminal. When there are three different stories clashing all the while with one linked to each other, it is rather expected that the movie would have quite a few moments as Rani Mujherjee was outstanding too, playing Sasi (Lallan’s wife).
Sasi played the role of a perfect wife that we idealize here in this part of the world. She was dedicated and determined to bring Lallan on a noble track pulling him out of his brother’s (Sonu Sood) influence, expecting that he would finally give up on all those petite crimes and start his life for good. Meanwhile, to please his pregnant wife, Lallan pretended to have left all that until Sasi finds out. She decides to go for a abortion as a result of which Lallan ends up frustrated enough and plans to kill his brother. He leaves Sasi waiting in the train because he promised that they would leave the city forever and rushes off for his encounter with his brother. What followed was a brilliant set of dialogues with some superb acting while the whole scene was shot on a boat. Lallan’s act of regret after the assassination remains to be in my list of Most Touching Moments in Bollywood movies.
Vivek’s entry into Politics: Vivek Oberoi plays Arjun who falls in love with Kareena Kappor. He is shown to be one of the hip and advanced sections of the Indian crowd and the character too has been properly executed. He is the third pillar of the movie along with Ajay Devgan as Michael and Abhishek Bachchan as Lallan. He is the one who loves spending time in coffee shops, full of life and vibrant. However, Arjun wants to go to aboard to study, but in following his dad’s footsteps, or more or less to please him, makes up his mind for IAS.
Then enters Michael in his life who was rescued by Arjun after being shot by Lallan. Complex? It might sound like it but it gets really simple as the story unfolds and sweeps you off your seat. Arjun ends up being influenced by Lallan’s views of a better nation and his philosophy of ‘it-is-time-that-we-take-charge’ that he changes his mind. Glad that it happened because it leads to one of the most beautiful and inspiring scene as a young Indian boy I have ever come across. Arjun, as contrary to what we have seen of him initially, decides to go into politics and bring about a change. He tears off the papers laying all the possibility of turning his dream of going abroad to rest which for sure was an inspirational moment for the youth who always wanted to bring about a change and were ready to be that change. It for sure lit up may hopes of the people opting for politics as a career option for Indian youngsters.
Writing this article has certainly made me long for Mani Ratnam’s newest film Raavan. Who knows what wonderful moments we will be treated to by stars Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan when the film opens on July 18th!