It's another high to work with newer lot: Ratnam

Jan 28, 2007 Subhash K. Jha


Mumbai, Jan 29 (IANS) After working with veterans like Kamal Haasan, Mammootty and Mohanlal, director Mani Ratnam experienced another high treading the same path with Abhishek Bachchan, because he took to untested waters with tremendous confidence in "Guru".


"When Kamal did 'Nayakan', he had done a few roles that had him aged and demanded a lot of commitment from. He was already a veteran and a master. For Abhishek such physical preparation was a first. He was in a new zone. But he took to the untested waters with tremendous confidence," Ratnam told IANS.


Asked if he still thought shooting in Hindi that is an alien language for him was burdensome, he said: "My Hindi is improving in geometric progression. I started at zero and am gradually climbing up. No, I have not abandoned Tamil, if that is what you're asking. I have done five films after 'Dil Se', three in Tamil and two in Hindi."


Ratnam, who is known to be a disciplinarian and taskmaster on the sets, doesn't face any problems in handling stars.


"Star or no star, they are all actors. And if they are right for your role then they should be able to slip into the character quite well. We just make sure that there is enough in the character to be able to take the burden of the star's popularity," he said.


Excerpts from an interview with the filmmaker:


"Guru" is another bio-pic like "Nayakan". In fact, the physical preparation undertaken by Abhishek is reminiscent of Kamal Haasan's rigorous preparation. Did you get a similar level of commitment from both actors?


Absolutely. When Kamal Haasan did "Nayakan", he had done a few roles that had him aged and demanded a lot of commitment from. He was already a veteran and a master. For Abhishek such physical preparation was a first. He was in a new zone. But he took to the untested waters with tremendous confidence.


How much do you miss the older generation of actors like Kamal, Mammootty and Mohanlal in your newer films?


They are all great. No doubt. It was a pleasure to work with them. Such actors make a director's life a lot easier. But it is another high to travel similar path with the newer lot.


The youngsters have grown watching these masters perform. The standard has already been set. So, the newer lot is trying not just to reach that standard, but also to cross it. They are a bunch of intelligent youngsters with a wide exposure to world cinema. They bring all that to the shoot.


"Guru" has an unusual cast. What made you sign on unusual suspects like Mallika Sherawat and Mithun Chakraborty?


Mithun-da was brilliant to work with. He is so real in his performance. Natural and with no fuss.


Mallika did an item song... Is she a commercial add-on? Did she really trouble you during shooting?


Mallika was very professional. She had to dance to a number in Istanbul in very cold conditions. She did it very well. No fuss and no problem whatsoever. She had done a lot of rehearsals before we left for Turkey and worked long hours there in a belly dancer's costume.


How much of the burden of shooting in an alien language - Hindi - have you abandoned since "Dil Se"?


My Hindi is improving in geometric progression. I started at zero and am gradually climbing up. No, I have not abandoned Tamil, if that is what you're asking. I have done five films after "Dil Se", three in Tamil and two in Hindi.


Is it true that you originally wanted Shah Rukh for "Guru"?


Not at all! Abhishek was the first choice. Would love to do another film with Shah Rukh when I have a subject for him. He is fantastic to work with. He will do anything for a film. A terrific guy.


How do you assess your journey from "Mouna Ragam" to "Guru"?


It feels like yesterday and then again it feels like a long long journey. One thing has not changed. I still struggle and plod through each film.


Are bio-pics like "Nayakan", "Iruvar" and "Guru" harder to do than fictional films?


All three are fictional. They might have some connections with real life characters but otherwise they are all 'novelisation'. In fact, if you look at other scripts like "Mouna Ragam" - they are also based on real-life characters. You may not know their names and who they are. But they are as true as the guy in "Guru".


You've done acutely romantic films like "Alai Payuthe" and "Dil Se". You've also done political parables like "Kannathil Muthamittal" and "Iruvar". Where does "Guru" figure in your repertoire?


Right in the centre. It is the life-story of a man, his romance with his life with his ambition in the times of political changes.


How difficult is it to mould huge commercial stars from iconic emblems to into characters?


Star or no star they are all actors. And if they are right for your role then they should be able to slip into the character quite well. The fact that they are stars is something that you take into consideration when you cast them. We just make sure that there is enough in the character to be able to take the burden of the star's popularity.


Since being satisfied isn't an option for a true creator, what is your level of dissatisfaction with "Guru"? Did you get the feel and texture that you desired?


Yes.


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