Main Tamil filmmaker Mani Ratnam shared deep insights and filmmaking secrets and techniques from his illustrious 40-year profession in a grasp class at Mumbai Movie Competition, moderated by self-confessed fan and Hindi movie director Imtiaz Ali.

In a standing room solely session that lasted almost two hours, the celebrated filmmaker began by speaking about how he was working as a administration advisor when the movies of masters resembling Akira Kurosawa, Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy impressed him to hunt a profession in cinema.

“At that time, the only way you could become a director was to work as an assistant director with some big filmmaker – that would be a period of some seven or eight years and I was not patient enough for that,” Ratnam remembers.

“So I thought I’ll write a script, convince a director and learn everything about filmmaking that way. But when I finished writing, I thought I’d direct myself even though I had no clue how to do it. And the only thing I learned very fast is that when you’re shooting, you have to pretend that you know.”

Joking that he additionally suffers from imposter syndrome, Ali led Ratnam into speaking about his first movies within the early Nineteen Eighties (which included one in all Anil Kapoor’s first movies, Kannada-language Pallavi Anu Pallavi) and an early encounter with main Tamil actor-producer Kamal Haasan. “I pitched my first film story to Kamal and he listened politely and then told me three stories,” Ratnam recalled.

“He also told me something fairly significant – he said, ‘don’t aim at the heart, aim at the gut until you make it’. In a sense, he was telling me to make something that a lot of people could identify with, don’t speak in a language they don’t understand.”

Ratnam reinvented Tamil cinema all through the Nineteen Eighties, with highly effective storytelling, elaborately filmed song-and-dance sequences and new requirements in lighting and cinematography, in movies that spanned all genres together with romance, social points, politics and gangster dramas. Within the grasp class, he recalled standing outdoors a cinema in Chennai to gauge reactions to his breakthrough movie Mouna Ragam (1986), about an informed faculty lady who asks for a divorce after being pressured into an organized marriage.

“After which some man got here out and stated he had a easy answer – the husband mustn’t tolerate this behaviour, he ought to simply give her a number of whacks and she or he’d be alright. And what I believed was, I must be conscious that this mentality exists, after which say no, this isn’t an answer, and by some means construct that into the movie.

“So you keep learning as you go – how to communicate and whom you are addressing.”

Whereas Ratnam is understood for writing layered and complicated characters, later within the dialog, Ali famous that his feminine characters all the time appear to be extra conflicted than the boys.

He replied: “I hadn’t thought about it that way. I just feel that it’s important to invest intelligence into female characters. It just makes sense and makes everything a lot more real and specific – because that’s how women are in the real world, so you might as well put it on the screen.”

Ratnam additionally recalled how he found A.R. Rahman, who he introduced on to attain his 1992 terrorist romantic drama Roja, and who famously went on to win two Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Rahman was writing jingles for adverts in a tiny studio when Ratnam first met him.

“And he performed one thing he’d recorded for a jingle, and the sound was simply unbelievable. It was one thing that I’d by no means heard earlier than in such a small studio.

“But it wasn’t the conventional tools or the conventional form that he was using, so we worked with him for a few months to see if he could fit the story…to see if he could do what we required in terms of six songs and the background score.”

It was the start of an extended working relationship between Rahman and Ratnam, that spanned movies together with Bombay (1995), Dil Se..(1998), Guru (2007) and Raavan (2010). Ratnam had beforehand labored with the legendary Ilayaraja, considered one of many world’s biggest composers. Ratnam stated he couldn’t examine the 2 musicians, and solely stopped working Ilayaraja as a result of he was “looking for something new”.

Describing Ilayaraja as a “magician” who would faucet out tunes on a harmonium, he stated that Rahman’s music got here as a whole package deal, which initially made him hesitant: “It was immaculate, it was produced, it’s acquired the bass and the melody, like a completely recorded piece. So for a very long time I wasn’t positive whether or not I used to be getting seduced by the manufacturing or by the music.

“So in my mind, I would cancel everything out and just try to imagine Ilayaraja singing this tune alone in a room with a harmonium.”

Ratnam has additionally labored in Hindi cinema with movies together with Dil Se.., Saathiya and Guru. When Ali requested him why he doesn’t make extra Hindi movies, he responded: “I do know some topics name for it, however I’m rather more snug doing a Tamil movie as a result of I do know the language. I’ve extra management.

“When I do Hindi films, it’s slightly different in the sense I’m not too sure of the language, so you have to trust the actor a lot more. You have to let go and ask the actor if they feel it’s right.”

Ratnam’s most up-to-date works, Tamil-language historic epics Ponniyin Selvan: 1 and Ponniyin Selvan: 2, which had been large hits in 2022 and this 12 months respectively, are each screening at Mumbai Movie Competition.