Mani Ratnam, one of the most popular directors in Indian cinema is all set to release his new love story Kadal set against the backdrop of a fishing village. In an exclusive interview to Sreedhar Pillai for sify.com, Mani opens up on the film slated for release this Friday.
Are you moving from the comforts of a urban milieu to a seaside fishing village with Kadal?
I like to be different with each and every film I do. I always believe in different moods and situations. In Kadal I’m working with Jayamohan who is from Nagercoil, the nearest town from the fishing village where my story is set. He is a brilliant writer and was able to bring the theme and milieu of the film alive through flesh and blood characters.
Kadal milieu is a fishing village in coastal south Tamil Nadu. What is the genre of the film?
It is set in a fishing village and the sea and its various moods are like characters in the film. Kadal is about the life and times of a young boy Thomas who meets Beatrice and the story is universal in many ways. It’s about good versus evil as the person is caught between sin and redemption. I can’t slot it in a particular genre.
You are back to your roots, after a decade making a straight Tamil film as Yuva, Guru and Raavan were bilinguals. Please comment.
It was not intentional, it just happened that way. Every filmmaker is an audience at heart, and I try my best to give a native touch to my films. I think Aayutha Ezhuthu and Raavanan too were rooted, though they had a pan India look.
The pairing of Karthik’s son Gautham with Radha’s daughter Thulasi seems to be a casting coup of sorts.
No way, I don’t believe in casting coups. For me the characters are more important than the artist and in my films I try to get artists who can fit into the character. In Kadal the script needed two fresh faces and I thought Gautham and Thulasi fitted the bill.
How was it working with Gautham and Thulasi
I’m very happy with Gautham and Thulasi. They did not have any starry airs about them though they were star kids. Before the shoot commenced, I conducted a workshop for them along with Kalairani to make them get into the skin of Thomas and Beatrice. They have done a good job and you can see it on screen.
What about the rest of the cast?
Everything fell into place as half the job is done if I get the right actors. Arjun, Arvind and Lakshmi were essential as they fitted the roles assigned to them like a glove.
It’s your hat-trick film with cinematographer Rajiv Menon. How do you manage to get such good cameramen for all your projects?
I have been lucky with my DoP’s (director of photography), right from my early days. I’m always closest to my DOP while I work on a movie, I read out the script to him and he is my sounding board and idea man. Kadal is my third film with Rajiv after Bombay and Guru. He has done a very good job, especially a storm shot he did during the real cyclone Nilam.
The music of Kadal is a chartbuster. Mani and ARR combo always comes out with good tunes. What’s the chemistry?
AR Rahman is a director friendly composer. I think our combo has worked to a large extent because Rahman is willing to experiment and go that extra mile to get that perfect tune. He has been there for nearly 25 years, but is still willing to experiment.
Your song picturisation has exquisite imagery, superbly choreographed and music in sync with the situation. Do you have a storyboard for the songs?
No, I don’t follow a storyboard pattern. It is a just concept and I focus on it. For me a song is a point of a narrative, and it should be elevating the mood and lift the film.
On Kadal songs-
“Elay Keechan” – It is a celebratory song set in the sea with visuals showing jubilance.
“Nenjukkulle” – It is another layer in one of the characters in the film. It is not a conventional montage song as it is blended through scenes and minds of characters.
“Moongil Thottam” - A beautiful romantic song highlighted by ambience and mood.
“ Adiye “ – Great stylish choreography by Brinda, music with lot of jazz as the boy is falling in love
Is the lip-lock crucial to the film?
You can’t call it a lip lock. Watch the movie and the particular built up to the song, then you will understand.
Is Kadal going to be dubbed in Hindi?
No. We are screening the Tamil version all over North India with English sub titles.
How big is the film releasing?
The promotions have been going on in full swing. I think it would be releasing in over 500 screens in India. A wider audience is one way to stop piracy.