Public forbidden from talking about film’s story with anyone
Chennai: Ace director Mani Ratnam is known to be assiduously secretive about his film projects. He ensures that sturdy firewalls are always in place to prevent details of his films from slipping into public domain.
In a logical extension to this, his production house, Madras Talkies, has moved the Madras High Court with a formal plea to bringing his movies under the legal ambit of the Official Secrets Act.
If Mani Ratnam’s prayer is granted, members of the public would be forbidden to discuss or debate or detail anything related to his films, either privately or publicly, even after their release. This would help expand that aura of secrecy that Mani Ratnam is very particular about with regard to his movies.
It is a fetish that is so pronounced that in Dil Se he had shot a few scenes in total darkness that it is still a secret as to who hammed more on the screen, Sharukh or Manisha.
In Guru, on the other hand, Mani Ratnam outdid himself because he seems to have kept the story totally secret even from the cast, which alone explains the fact why Abhishek looked so clueless on the screen
However, according to sources, who we journalists are duty bound to describe as being ‘close to Mani Ratnam, letting the Official Secrets Act cover his movies may also be a tactical and practical move to prevent the recurrence of a situation that was seen in the immediate aftermath of Ravan’s release.
‘Ravan would not have become the disaster that it was if people, who had watched the movie, had not passed on to others an important piece of information regarding the film, which was: It was insufferable,’ the sources pointed out.
The sources also said: ‘Actually, if the director had wanted the Official Secrets Act to cover the story of his films then it would lead to religious riots. The point being they would have have to clamp down on epics like Mahabharatham, Ramayanam and Sathyavan-Savithri, the stories of which he masterfully retools for the modern viewers by making the lead characters speak in an unnaturally husky voice’.
Mani Ratnam is currently making a movie named Kadal, starring yesteryear Kollywood stars Karthik and Radha’s son and daughter, Gautham and Tulasi respectively. Not a single photo of either the hero or the heroine has found its way to the media. This has left the writers in the ‘Entertainment Desk’ of newspapers in a major fix because modern readers have evolved to such a level that they don’t read any report that doesn’t come with the literary stamp of an attractive photo.
But you can’t keep enterprising newspapers down for long. Modern journalists, investigative by nature as they are, can always be counted to come out of any ticklish situation. For example, there was a recent write-up on Tulasi —- this is why journalism is deemed a pillar of democracy — because the newspaper in question had managed to ferret out an alluring picture of Radha in swimsuit from Tik Tik Tik. (The newspapers have not attempted to write about the hero Gautham because that would have driven them to the predicament of using his father Karthik’s photo).
It may not comes as a surprise to many that Mani Ratnam doesn’t shoot much abroad because that would entail taking pictures of his hero and heroine for, well, the visa and passport.
Sources say that this sense of secrecy seems to be spreading in the Tamil film industry. Director Shankar is another one notorious for this trait. He once asked the censors to view his film by closing their eyes, lest they got a whiff of the storyline before its official release.
Of course, the top spot in secrecy stakes goes to Kamal Haasan. His Viswaroopam, despite being fully ready, is still lying in the cans. There is suspense over the release of this suspense thriller. As Kamal would probably say, ‘the film has now become a metaphor for its simile’. Or is it the other way round?
(Disclaimer: Someone needs to use some strong sections of the RTI Act to bring to light the thing that has been lying secret for a long, long time: What exactly was the point of Yuva?)