Go Getter… The name is Maniratnam

Pic Courtesy: Timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Many a times, I have heard many filmmakers say “If only I was given the budget that Shankar is given or if only I had the technical support what Maniratnam has

, I can do better movies than them”

Renowned Cinematographer, PC Sreeram always said “The more the limitation the more the Creativity”

When many were desperately trying many ways to work with Maniratnam, I was blessed to work with Art Director Thotta Tharani for Maniratnam’s Bombay. It was Pollachi, where Mani Sir was planning to shoot the portions of Nazaar and Kitty. Thotta Tharani was off to Shankar’s movie Kadhalan for Gopala Gopala song shoot, while I was lucky to tag along with Mani sir for Pollachi schedule.

Not aware of the slight ego trip that was going in the team of Tharani sir as I was suddenly pulled in for the major Pollachi schedule when Tharani sir was absent. On the way back after seeing a Tharavaadu in Thiruchengode, where popular Malayalam movie Oru Vadakkan Veera Kadha was shot, Mani sir spotted this “Sengal Choolai”, a place where bricks were made.

He suddenly asked me whether I can recreate the same in front of Kitty’s house which we were shooting in the interior of Pollachi.

With Mani sir, the answer is always is YES.

To underline, he pointed out the way the raw bricks were placed for burning. He insisted I recreate the same pattern and said that he wanted it ready by next day early morning by four and the time now was eve three.


I immediately rushed to our shooting spot and ordered for five to six trucks of bricks, and gave instructions as to how we can construct the furnace.

After few hours of work, furnace was ready, and I was told by the production manager that it will take couple of hours for the bricks to arrive.

Plaster of Paris all over me, I felt that I can rush to Sakthi Lodge and take a shower before I come back to arrange the bricks.

“On the way sir” is the mantra for many production managers. The bricks that was to arrive in few hours, landed up in the spot by midnight. Having just few hours in hands I geared up the Art department guys to give me a helping hand in arranging bricks.

That was the moment they were waiting for…

The ego trip, remember? We are with Thotta Tharani Sir so long, this guy John suddenly walks in and gives us orders.

“Sorry sir we are Art assts not laborers, you should have asked for coolie laborers to do this kind of work, not us…”

Realizing my fix, I requested, pleaded, and tried explaining them that it was too late for me to get people. They refused telling that they can’t do a work of a coolie guy.

Man… what a moment… head spinning I looked at my watch, it sneered at me showing 2.30 am.

Feeling dizzy I came to our lodge, not knowing what I was doing, took a bath again and came down to reception to see our THE man, Maniratnam sir, seated ready first as usual.

“Everything ready John?“ he asked with a smile.

“Yes sir “I replied with a fake smile.

Mani sir, Rajeev Menon and myself started travelling to the shooting location which till date, I feel the dangerous expedition of my life.

As the car took the turn and the headlights exposed my biggest fear.

“What happened John? I thought you said everything was ready”

God knows how I explained him and apologized for lack of experience in organizing men for…

Mani sir was gone.

All I heard was “Come john”

Next moment, Mani sir rolled up his shirt, slipped his watch inside his pant pockets, and started arranging the bricks in frenzy. Looking at Mani sir doing it, Rajeev, myself, Direction team and Cinematography team, followed by actors all jumped in frantically to arrange the bricks before the sun rose up to admire Mani Sir’s dedication.

Have you tried lifting up raw bricks for the first time and that too nonstop for two hours… and in a badly lit up place where you might come across venomous creatures in between the bricks?

As the sky painted herself blue  gearing up for a rise, completely drenched with sweat, smeared with brick powder, with heavy breathing, I could hear Mani sir giving instructions to Rajeev Menon for his first shot of the day…

Completely awestruck by this man’s road roller attitude, I was wondering what any other film maker would have done at the given moment.


It was sunrise for me, it dawned on me, Having everything in hand is not the deal, but making the best of what you have in hand is what one makes reach heights.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Go Getter… The name is Maniratnam – writes John Mahendran @johnroshan[/tweetthis]

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About the Author

John Mahendran
Film Director, Writer, Author, Currently teaching Film Making in BOFTA

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