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It’s a treat to be working with Kamal Haasan, says Mani Ratnam

Mumbai: Filmmaker Mani Ratnam on Saturday said working with superstar Kamal Haasan is not only a great collaborative process but also a learning experience.

Ratnam and Haasan are reuniting after 35 years for the Tamil star’s 234th feature film. They earlier worked together on the 1987 critical hit Nayakan.

The ace filmmaker said it’s a delight to work with a good actor like Haasan as he elevates a performance.

“There are so many elements in the film (Nayakan) that have been from him, like small gestures which made it look real. When you work with an actor who is really good, you realise that you have to do less. Sometimes you think you have to set it up and add energy but when I started working with him, I realised, I don’t have to do any of that. I just have to follow him.”

“There’s enough drama that comes out of a good performance that you don’t have to try to add value,” Ratnam said at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023.

He added that the actor also has a positive effect on his co-stars.

“He has this amazing ability to get people around him to act well and he makes them do things that will enhance the performance. It is a treat to watch. He adds so many elements to the script, so it is a pleasure to act with a great actor,” Ratnam said.

On Friday, the Ponniyin Selvan director was honoured with the Excellence in Cinema Award for his outstanding contribution to the world of cinema. Haasan presented the honour to the filmmaker at the opening ceremony of the festival.

Ratnam’s filmography includes timeless socio-political dramas such as Roja, Bombay, Iruvar, Dil Se… and Kannathil Muthamittal, with the director often touching upon prevailing issues of the country.

When asked about the politics in his films, the 67-year-old filmmaker said he believes in staying true to the story.

“I have only one thought before I do something like that. Whether I’m being honest to myself and whether I believe in it or not, if this is the way I feel, then I express it. As long as you are real and as long as it is not a way to get a kind of film out, if you feel strongly about something you can go ahead and make it.”

The director gave the example of his 1998 film Dil Se, which was set against the backdrop of insurgency in Assam.

He said his aim was to bring out the plight and anger of people through the film, which starred Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala in the lead.

“Dil Se was made during the time when India was celebrating 50 years of Independence, there was a sense of pride but there were still corners of India which were not as liberated as we are. The film was trying to say that we can be proud of what we have done but we have not done enough.”

“For us to acknowledge that there’s hurt, anger and wounds, to me that was the culmination. He (Shah Rukh’s character) was an All India Radio reporter but he was the voice of every one of us. For him to realise that there’s hurt and damage that we are trying to ignore, we have blinkers to do it. That’s what the film wanted to say.”

At the same time, Ratnam didn’t make Dil Se with the aim to preach anything to the people.

“I’m ok if they see it at surface level (as a tragic romantic film) because I believe that somewhere beyond it would have seeped in. I don’t want them to see it as a social (commentary), it was not meant to preach or underline. It was meant to be a part of somebody’s life that you go across and still be exposed to something, the problems that are there,” he added.

(Published 28 October 2023, 14:17 IST)

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