Go Getter… The name is Maniratnam

Pic Courtesy: Timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Many filmmakers often express a desire for the budgets and technical support that renowned directors like Shankar and Maniratnam receive. The sentiment is, “Give me the resources, and I can make better movies.”

PC Sreeram’s Wisdom: Embracing Limitations for Creativity

Renowned cinematographer PC Sreeram counters this sentiment with a profound insight: “The more the limitation, the more the creativity.” His perspective emphasizes that constraints can fuel artistic innovation.

A Fortunate Opportunity with Maniratnam: Working on “Bombay”

While many were striving to collaborate with Maniratnam, I found myself blessed with the opportunity to work with Art Director Thotta Tharani on Maniratnam’s “Bombay.” The setting was Pollachi, where Mani Sir planned to shoot sequences involving Nazaar and Kitty.

Sudden Responsibility: A Twist in the Tale

Unexpectedly, I was pulled in for the major Pollachi schedule when Thotta Tharani was absent, unaware of the subtle ego dynamics at play within the team.

The Artistic Challenge: Recreating “Sengal Choolai”

During the shoot, after exploring a Tharavaadu in Thiruchengode (a location for the popular Malayalam movie “Oru Vadakkan Veera Kadha”), Mani Sir spotted “Sengal Choolai,” a place where bricks were made. He presented me with a challenge: could I recreate the same setting in front of Kitty’s house in the remote interiors of Pollachi?

The Maniratnam Approach: Where the Answer is Always YES

With Mani Sir, the answer is always YES. This incident encapsulates the collaborative and innovative spirit that defines the creative process under Maniratnam’s direction. It showcases the ability to turn limitations into opportunities and the power of saying YES to creative challenges.

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.


Swift Action: Ordering Bricks and Furnace Construction

Upon receiving Maniratnam Sir’s challenge, I swiftly rushed to the shooting spot, ordering five to six trucks of bricks. Detailed instructions were given to construct the furnace.

Race Against Time: The Midnight Bricks Arrival

After a few hours of hard work, the furnace was ready, but the production manager informed me that the bricks would take a couple more hours to arrive. Covered in Plaster of Paris, I contemplated taking a quick shower at Sakthi Lodge before returning to organize the bricks.

Unexpected Midnight Delivery: Handling the Logistics

“On the way, sir” is a common refrain from many production managers. Surprisingly, the bricks intended to arrive in a few hours were delivered to the spot by midnight. With only a few hours left, I rallied the Art department to assist in arranging the bricks.

Art Department Resistance: Ego Dynamics

However, the Art department, accustomed to Thotta Tharani Sir’s leadership, resisted my orders. They claimed they were artists, not laborers, and declined to perform what they considered menial work.

Desperate Pleas: Negotiating for Assistance

Realizing the urgency and lack of alternative labor, I pleaded with them, explaining the time constraints. Despite my efforts, they refused, adamant that such physical work was beneath their role.

Midnight Chaos: A Grueling Task

Feeling disoriented, I returned to the lodge, took another bath, and descended to the reception area. With the clock showing 2:30 am, I felt the pressure and confusion of the moment.

Maniratnam’s Unyielding Dedication: A Grueling Night

Maniratnam Sir was already prepared, seated and ready. When asked if everything was ready, I responded with a forced smile, concealing the chaos.

Midnight Expedition: Maniratnam’s Unplanned Challenge

As we traveled to the shooting location, an unexpected challenge unfolded, marking what I consider the most dangerous expedition of my life.

Sunrise Determination: Maniratnam’s Inspiring Work Ethic

Upon reaching the location, the headlights exposed the incomplete setup. Maniratnam Sir, undeterred, rolled up his sleeves, secured his watch, and began arranging the bricks feverishly.

Team’s Frantic Efforts: A Collective Response

Inspired by Maniratnam Sir’s dedication, the entire team, including Rajeev Menon, myself, the direction and cinematography teams, and even the actors, joined in the frantic effort to arrange the bricks before sunrise.

A Lesson Learned: Making the Best of Constraints

This experience taught me a valuable lesson: having everything in hand is not the primary concern. The ability to make the best of what you have at hand is the key to reaching greater heights in filmmaking.

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About the Author

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

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