When the film Pagal Nilavu hit the screens sometime in 1985, presenting Murali as a rugged lover falling for young and charming Revadhi, the moderate success of the film depended more on the dynamic performance of Sathyaraj as a village elder with a negative frame of mind, trying to protect his notorious sons.The climax of the film had a telling impact on the audience and people began to talk seriously about who the director of the film was. When Idhayakoil was released during the same year,it was looked upon as a prospective hit of the Motherland pictures, with the mesmerizing numbers of music maestro Ilayaraja, because other films like Payanagal Mudivadillai, Naan Paadum Paadal and Udhaya Geetham from this production house, were silver jubilee hits.It was also seen as yet another film, showing actor Mohan as a young passionate lover, with a boundless quest for becoming a popular singer.But the film with its tragic undertones, was just a modest show and nobody seriously noticed the name of the director.
The next year when Mounaragam began to attract rave reviews and was selected for the National award,Tamil film industry and film goers began to discuss excitedly about the higher credentials of the director and Mani Ratnam set his feet firmly on ground as a creator of high quality stuff, that would make the entire Indian Film world applaud in standing ovation, for a repeated number of occasions. No doubt, Mounaragam was an amazing movie with clean narration, involving the brilliant performance of Karthik Muthuraman, Revathi and the wonderfully subdued role play of Mohan. There was a lot of freshness in narration revolving around a fascinating flashback and delicate touches on the conjugal core very decently told.The music of Ilayaraja was a bonus.
Then came the most incredible picture Nayagan, that was one of the grandest creations in several respects. Poignant picturing of the underworld with its interrelated sequences of crude violence and bloody horror, the paradox of positive intentions lying behind nefarious activities and the never- seen- before action magnificence on screen, made the film, a gripping event from beginning till end. Kamalahasan lived the character of Velu Naicker with its varied dimensions of love, vengeance, philanthropy and planned destruction of evil.But for the over doze of violence, demonstrated as an inevitable contextual reality,the film would have made an epic impact.But Maniratnam as director, was moving on an upscale, touching newer heights in his creative formulation and was infusing greater levels of expectations from the audience, about every one of his upcoming projects.
After tasting the unsurpassed acting potentials of Kamalahasan, Maniratnam was perhaps ignited to try the stylish richness of Rajinikanth in his later venture Thalapathi that glorified the supremacy of true friendship, in the manner of the unparalleled bond of friendship between Duriyodhana and Karna, in the most celebrated myth Mahabaratha. Though there was an element of gangster war as experienced in Nayagan,the unquestionable trust characterizing the friendship between Rajini and Mammootty, enriched the quality of the film, making it another worthy creation from the Maniratnam banner.
Some of the themes that seem to be closer to Maniratnam's creative sense are, romance with an all embracing throw of ruggedness as well as refined and exalting emotional factors as experienced exhaustively in his Pagal Nilavu, Mounaraagam,Bombay and Alai Paayudhe, the openness and subtleties of gang war seen in Naayagan and Thalapathi, religious hatred and terrorism and their tentacles of inhuman violence, delineated vigorously in Roja, Uyire, Bombay, Kannathil Muthamittaal and Raavanan and a distinct grasp of political intricacies and subtleties pictured differently in Iruvar and Aayudha Ezhuthu. In between, he has also visited rarer areas like pediatric emotions with special focus on spastic childhood [Anjali ] half brother animosity as witnessed in Agni Natchatram and a naive and innocent attraction for juvenile aberrations delightfully focused in Thiruda Thiruda.
The uncommonest thing about Maniratnam is his enlightened handling of themes and issues, with a mature intellectual perception, capable of interpreting his chosen subject matter with a precise blending of realistic and cinematic vision. At times he is a Bala chander, at times a Balu Mahendra and in a few frames a Barathiraja. On the whole, he is the summit of excellence in creativity. There is no sound and fury in his presentation.But the impact hardly ever goes missing. Both Ilayaraja and A.R.Rehaman have reinforced his art base with their compact musical backing. Over all cinematography, has always remained a salient source of strength for all the films of Maniratnam. Most of his films have targeted the elite educated sections of the audience. But films like Agni Natchatram with an album of all hit songs, Bombay with an eventful inter- religious love story, with its its exuberance of music and profound romantic appeal and Naayagan and Thalapathi with their heroes' popularity and histrionic grandeur, continued to draw crowds to the theatres, catering to the curiosity of a whole, entertainment -hungry audience and made Maniratnam a unique kind of mass director.
Manirathnam has to his credit the introduction of two handsome and charming romantic heroes like Arvindsamy and Madhavan to the Tamil film industry.The greatness of Maniratnam is in his enchanting creative width that keeps a specific section of the audience eagerly looking forward to his next release.Once the production of his new movie begins and the title is announced people begin to wait enthusiastically for the date of its release, as they were looking forward to the release of his 'Kadal'.The reviews of this recent movie not being positive,the audience would be solemnly looking forward to his next venture with the solid hope, that their enlightened director would not fail to fulfill their expectations. He is one of those qualitative film makers,whose films are watched not for the hero or heroine value, but purely for the ever fresh directorial component driving the audience every time to a new experience in film watching.The Maniratnam upscale has certainly been a measured,stable and successful vertical growth, with an all inclusive stuff of quality, evolved with a balanced promotion of emotional and intellectual attributes.Besides, it has been as much a matter of pride for people to work in his movies, as it has been a point of privilege and pleasure for the viewers to watch his films.It is in this particular aspect, Maniratnam scores his higher credits for creativity.