December 11 2015
Three Indian films by the same director get a big screen outing as part of BFILove… and see our special 2 for 1 offer with the BFI
HE IS ONE OF INDIA’S best known directors and virtually a household name.
A product of the South Indian Tamil film industry, he has gone onto make Bollywood blockbusters (in Hindi) and been responsible for launching the careers of both Aishwarya Rai (probably India’s biggest international/Bollywood film star), and Oscar-winning music impresario, AR Rahman.
Ratnam is also much admired for his boldness and courage in tackling subjects that are considered taboo and no-go by many others.
In a special weekend that begins tomorrow (December 12), the British Film Institute (BFI) is screening three important films in his repertoire of more than 20 in a career, now spanning nearly 40 years. The three films are now being screened as part of the BFI Love Season, which draws to a close this month.
It begins with “Bombay” (1995), a film about mixed religious couple whose lives are turned upside down by religious riots in the city.
Based on the real events of 1992/1993, Ratnam’s film shows how the love between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman is severely tested by religious factions who revel in conflict and violence. The couple hail from a village in the South (and speak Tamil) and also have to contend with pressures of living in a megacity for the first time.
The film had a huge impact and put Ratnam on the map as a fearless filmmaker ready to take on subjects most thought too controversial to touch. Stylish and highly choreographed with a gripping debut score by AR Rahman, it represented something of a departure from the usual Bollywood fare available at the time, taking on a big and difficult subject but also paying heed to popular film conventions in India.
It also helped to launch the career of Nepali Manisha Koirala, who was to become one of the biggest stars of popular Indian cinema in the 1990s.
“Dil Se” (1998) – which shows on Sunday (December 13) – is regarded as a romcom with a difference. Unlike many of this genre, Ratnam placed his couple in something of a war zone. Set in troubled North East of India, it paired a still emerging Shah Rukh Khan with Koirala. A twisting, turning tale with a non-linear narrative, it showed that Indian audiences could be challenged, but without abandoning some conventional Bollywood styles and norms.
It was both a huge critical and commercial success and contains possibly the most celebrated train scene in the history of Indian cinema. A virtuoso dance scene set on a moving train, it set a new and very high benchmark in terms of technical accomplishment. The accompanying song, “Chaiya Chaiya” was a big hit too.
His most recent film, “O Kadhal Kanmani” (also referred to as “OK Kanmani”) also steers into unchartered waters – with a couple meeting in contemporary Mumbai and embarking on a live in relationship without thinking very much about marriage. To say it is controversial in India is to forget that the majority of men (from many surveys) still expect their future wives to be inexperienced and that for many any hint of sex before marriage is taboo.
Ratnam was a special guest at this year’s London Indian Film Festival and participated in a special masterclass at the BFI.
He was also joined by star Manisha Koirala for a special charity event raising money for the Nepal Earthquake victims at Grange Hotel St Paul’s.
See below for a story about his masterclass and there are two main videos from the evening.
Picture: (Left) Manisha Koirala (Shaila) and Arvind Swamy (Shekhar) in ‘Bombay’; inset – Mani Ratnam gets a Lifetime Achievement Award from the London Indian Film Festival (pic courtesy of LIFF)
Mani Ratnam BFI masterclass (July 2015) http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/liff-2015-mani-ratnam-bfi-masterclass-and-icon-award/
***OFFER: TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE TICKET*** pls use this code – lovebeauty
More info and book tickets HERE
• ‘Bombay’ (138mins) – with an introduction by Manishita Dass, lecturer in world cinema; Tamil & Hindi with English subtitles; Saturday, December 12, 8.10pm, BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, South Bank, London SE1 8XT
• ‘Dil Se’ (158 mins; ‘From the Heart’) – Hindi & Urdu with English subtitles; Sunday, December 13, 3.45pm, NFT1, same address as above
• ‘OK Kanmani’ (139 mins; ‘Apple of My Eye’) Tamil and Telegu with English subtitles, Monday, December 14, 8.20pm, NFT1, same address as above