Mani Ratnam is one of the biggest directors of South India, who has made movies in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam as well as Hindi. Credited with having revolutionized the Tamil Film Industry, he is also recognized as a talented director in Bollywood. Apart from being an ace director, Mani Ratnam also writes screenplays and is involved in production (Madras Talkies). His movies have spanned various genres, right from thrillers to romantic dramas to political themes. They present the perfect combination of substance and style and are, more often than not, box office hits.
Childhood and Education
Mani Ratnam was born on 2nd June 1956, in Madurai city of Tamil Nadu, India. Born to Hindu Tamilian parents, he had two siblings, one of whom - G. Venkateswaran, a notable film producer, is no more. Mani's father - Gopal Ratnam Iyer was also a known film producer. Mani Ratnam did his graduation, in commerce, from Vivekananda College, University of Madras. Thereafter, he pursued an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. In the initial days of his career, he worked as a management consultant.
Debut As A Director
Mani Ratnam entered the arena of film direction with the help of his late brother, film producer G. Venkateswaran. He made his directorial debut in the year 1983, with the Kannada film 'Pallavi Anu Pallavi'. For a debut director, he took on a rather bold topic for his film. 'Pallavi Anu Pallavi' was based on the relationship between a young man and an elder woman. Though he managed to get the ace cinematographer Balu Mahendra for his first film, box office success eluded him and continued to do so till quite some time.
Following 'Pallavi Anu Pallavi', Mani Ratnam directed 'Unaru' (1985), a Malayalam film. His first Tamil film was 'Pagal Nilavu'(1985), which was succeeded by 'Idaya Kovil'(1985). Four films old, Mani was still a long way from success. Then came 'Mouna Ragam' (1986), a Tamil film starring Revathi and Karthik. The romantic drama gave Mani his first commercial success and is still considered to be one of the best films of his career. A year later, he did the screenplay as well as direction for 'Nayagan', another commercial and critical hit.
'Nayagan', based on real life underworld king - Varadarajan Mudaliar, was included in "TIME Magazine's All-Time 100 Greatest Movies". In 1988, Mani Ratnam directed 'Agni Natchathiram', for which he wrote the screenplay as well. The movie is, till date, renowned for the use of new techniques in cinematography. After the success of 'Agni Natchathiram', Mani directed 'Geethanjali', a Telugu film starring Nagarjuna Akkineni. By this time, he had established himself as a director known for handling emotional stories beautifully.
Mani Ratnam opened the decade of 1990s with the film 'Anjali', based on the story of an autistic child. The following year, he his second movie based on the underworld, named 'Thalapathi', which starred Rajnikanth and Mammooty. The movie earned him both, critical acclaim and commercial success. His next film 'Roja', starring Arvind Swamy and Madhubala, was released in 1992 and became a huge hit. It was also nominated for Golden St. George Award at Moscow International Film Festival and was dubbed in a number of languages.
It was in 'Roja' only that Mani Ratnam introduced A.R. Rahman, the ace music director who went on to become a legend in his own right. With 'Thiruda Thiruda', Mani took a more light-hearted approach and met with moderate success. In 1995 came 'Bombay', a movie based on Bombay riots and bombings of 1993. It garnered much critical acclaim and also won the "Special Award" from Political Film Society. The same year, he co-wrote and co-produced 'Indira', his wife Suhasini Mani Ratnam's directorial debut.
Mani Ratnam welcomed Y2K with 'Alaipayuthey', starring R. Madhavan and Shalini. A commercial and critical hit, it was later remade into a Hindi film - 'Saathiya', which form the directorial debut of Shaad Ali. In 2002, he directed 'Kannathil Muthamittal', based on an adopted Tamil refugee girl, from Sri Lanka. Apart from being a commercial success, it was acclaimed critically as well. The movie received six National Film Awards, Ratnam's second Filmfare Award -South for Direction, Awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Awards at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
Mani Ratnam married actress Suhasini, niece of Kamal Haasan, in the year 1988. The couple has a 17-year old son - Nandan. Nandan has authored a book called 'The Contours of Leninism'. Ratnam lives in Kodambakkam, Chennai, and runs the production company Madras Talkies.