Thursday, August 02, 2012

Nizamuddin cats and Mani Ratnam

Two close friends, who are also two of my favourite writers (and the fandom preceded the friendship), have books coming out very soon. Presenting:

The Wildings, by Nilanjana S Roy (some information and an excerpt here; available for pre-order on Flipkart)


Conversations with Mani Ratnam, by Baradwaj Rangan

I haven’t read Nilanjana’s book yet but hope to soon – more on it in a later post. I have read most of Baradwaj’s manuscript, and instead of gushing on mindlessly as I’m prone to doing, I’ll say just this: it holds up extremely well in comparison with the two best conversations-with-directors books I have read: Bogdanovich on Orson Welles and Truffaut-Hitchcock. When Baradwaj first told me the book was going to be almost entirely in the Q&A format, I had...not misgivings but a tinge of regret, because I’m such a fan of his flowing writing. But he’s achieved something very special here: he has got Mani Ratnam to open up about a lot of things, moderated a series of fascinating conversations (and these ARE conversations between two people who are very knowledgeable about film – not standard-issue “interviews” where Serf asks Celebrity a line of vapid questions) - and most tricky of all, he has structured those sessions in such a way that a reader gets a sense of drama as well as chronology. I was riveted even by the discussions about the early Ratnam films that I haven’t seen.

(Okay, so I did gush on mindlessly. Won’t apologise for it though. Do keep an eye out for both books.)


  1. Does a familiarity and personal friendship with an author make it difficult for a reviewer to criticise the friend's book?

    For example, if the book by Nilanjana turns out to be unimpressive, would you find it hard to criticise it openly?

  2. Anon: I usually try to avoid reviewing books written by close friends. And if I don't like a friend's book, I simply won't write about it in a public space. (I don't commit to reviews beforehand in such cases.)

  3. Jai : This is totally irrelevant to this post.

    But the news is that Vertigo has displaced Citizen Kane in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll (held once a decade). Not that it means anything.
    But this might be a good time for you to revisit your Vertigo review and do another post ;)

  4. It will be interesting to read Bharadwaj Rangan's book on Mani Ratnam.

    Ratnam might know a lot about cinema. But he makes terribly mediocre cinema himself. He could be India's Peter Bogdanovich.

    Bogdanovich will be remembered for the book, not the cinema he made. Might happen with Mani Ratnam too.

    Less theory, more practice.

  5. Bogdanovich will be remembered for the book, not the cinema he made

    Bogdanovich is definitely a talented filmmaker.

    The Last Picture Show is one of the great films of the 70s.
    What's up Doc is a nice little screwball - a daringly unfashionable throwback to the 30s tradition in an age of heavy, turgid cinema.

    Haven't seen anything else from him.

  6. BR's writing does deserve gushing Jai. So, no need to feel guilty about it. I know that this book will be enjoyable even for people who are not very familiar with Ratnam's work.

  7. Mani Ratnam deserves to be studied. He has made 3 excellent movies - Nayagan, Thalapathi and Iruvar (the rest on a scale from good to very bad) - but he has had quite an influence on all sorts of filmmakers after him, especially down South. An important man.

  8. Iruvar is an all-time favorite of mine.

    Would like to see what else is left to say about these movies dozen or so films MR made.

  9. With reference to the arlier comment on reviewing books written by friends, here's an interesting Slate piece..

  10. Bogdanovich is definitely a talented filmmaker.

    True...Bogdanovich is talented, but mediocre. There are many in this category - talented but mediocre, including our own Mani Ratnam.

    Iruvar is the only good film Mani Ratnam has made, the rest are overrated pap. Even Iruvar has a monumental miscasting - Aishwarya Rai. (He repeats the mistake with Junior Bachchan in Raavan.)Plus Iruvar is too long. Two major errors bog the film down.