18 Years on, Dil Se Lives on: A True Classic in Every Sense

What do you say about a film where the very first scene teaches you something new? Despite being good with geography I had no clue of a place called Haflong, but thanks to Dil Se I know that it is a hill station in Assam. What do you say about a film where the hero and the heroine hardly communicate the first time that they meet, so much so that the hero actually remarks at the end of it saying this must be the World’s shortest love story. And what can you actually say when that is followed by a song which is not just a personal favourite, but a song that shook the entire Nation and is popular to this day Internationally as well, the brilliantly choreographed, composed and executed number, “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. Even if the film had nosedived after that I would perhaps have still not really complained, but then there was no need to as it turned out to be a film for which there is everything and more going in its favour.Continue reading “18 Years on, Dil Se Lives on: A True Classic in Every Sense”

Happy Birthday Shah Rukh,Thank You for Being a Great Friend

This is not an open letter, Shah Rukh. I do not know what to call it – or wait, I can perhaps label it as a thank you note. One tiny bit of the many millions that you must be receiving every day.

Before I begin to thank you, let me admit that I can’t thank you enough. Did that sound like a hyperbole? This is what happens to me when I try and thank you, or when I try and explain it to myself and to others that why I need to thank you. But, today on your birthday, I think it is imperative that you know how you have touched, influenced and molded not just my life but also the lives of your millions of fans. I also write on their behalf.Continue reading “Happy Birthday Shah Rukh,Thank You for Being a Great Friend”

Dil Se… Sincerely

There have been blogs, haters, lovers, detractors, and saviors. To an extent even my father is not really fond of “Dil Se”. There was once a Mani Ratnam blogathon on MadAboutMoviez. And of course there were fans, there are fans including me. And there was once a discussion amongst us writers of this site, regarding which is the best Indian movie from last 15 years. Though I was hell bent on Satya, Sethu mentioned “Dil Se”…  There was once a film called “Dil Se”, it is, and perhaps will be forever.Continue reading “Dil Se… Sincerely”

Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films

Mani Ratnam

 

Khalid Mohamed

 

Once upon a time in Mumbai, you’d have to drag me away from the Santa Cruz aiport, literally prevent me from catching another flight to Chennai. The cities were still called Bombay and Madras then. Life was cool, cinema was cooler and conversations with this brand-new boss of mainstream Indian cinema were the coolest. Dhan ta na, that was Mani Ratnam.Continue reading “Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films”

Rahman at 20: Rehna Tu Hai Jaisa Tu…

ARRAs A R Rahman completes 20 years of his stupendously imaginative work and creations on 15th August and the only person who I will ever bow down with RESPECT in the field of cinema & music, my memories and experience of the man & his music. 20 songs which I will take to my grave till now and entirely my personal journey from 13 to 33.

The genesis of this post has to go back 20 years but my association with listening to ARR‘s soundtrack and music will be a year late. Somehwere in the month of June’ 93 scratching the audio tapes of Subhash Ghai‘s Khalnayak which was a rage at that time and listening to a lot of Nadeem Shravan, Anand Milind, Laxmikant Pyarelal etc. I landed up at my Uncle’s home for some work and at the background there was a Tamil song being played. Was not able to identify why my ears were having a crystal clear reception of sound (Ok for the record I was a big sucker for sound & great audio equipments because of my dad’s job being based in Gulf and his penchant for the same). The song being played was Kaadhal Rojave but I was instantly hooked to find out how Illaiya Raja scored such music away from his tradional style (For all your information I always associated Tamil music with Illaiya Raja as the flow of information was the lowest during those years). I caught hold of my pattar tambrahm friend, and he introduced me to a world of music and to a man who will remain a very important part of my life and existence.

(1) Roja: So lending that audio cassette from my Uncle’s home I went home at double speed to listen to the songs of a movie which was called Roja. The only thing I knew was that it was directed by Mani Ratnam and I had seen some portions of it in a Prannoy Roy DD special on friday called ‘The World This Week’. But the moment I heard this song on my Pioneer audio equipment(In those days it was called as Deck system) which was a neighbour’s envy and only my pride, Rahman became a talent to look out for. It was so mesmerising, this track that I was feeling ashamed of the music that I listened in those days. Puthu Vellai Mazhai was pure and serene and if you ever want to get transported in a world of dreams this song can do it without fail. For the record even its Hindi dubbed version carries the same imapct.

(2) Pudhiya Mugam: As I was hooked and wanted to know the man and more of his music, there was an audio shop just located outside Thane station by the name of Jai Ganesh Music Centre. This place was a treat to watch in its hey days as there was never a dull moment ever witnessed outside this store. And most importantly it was the only music shop in Thane which sold regional music and so were the sales guys informative too, who at the name of A R Rahman handed me 2 cassettes from Magnasound. One was Pudhiya Mugam & the other being Thiruda Thiruda. ‘Kannaku Mai Azhagu’ has a female version by P Susheela and a hindi disaster by the name of Vishwa Vidhaata. But for me this is pure vintage stuff and remains a personal favourite which is sung by Unni Menon.

(3) Thiruda Thiruda: If you are expecting me to write anything about ‘Thee Thee‘ then you are on the wrong page and the wrong post. I was and will always remain speechless for this compostion.

(4) Karuthamma: During the cable invasion there used to be a channel called Jain TV which was very popular for various reasons. But the one good thing about the channel was that they used to play regular Tamil music and had a Top 10. And one song which consistently featured there was ‘Thenmerku Parvakattre’. Though it was ARR’s second collaboration with Bharati Raja after Keezhaku Cheemayile, but this was more popular among guys like me who had limited knowledge of Tamil. Had travelled a distance till Matunga to obtain the cassette for the same as it was not available anywhere near.

(5) Kaadhalan: In those days I made it a favourite pass time to walk once in a month to Jai Ganesh Music Centre from my residence which was around 5 kms and collect all Rahman cassettes whichever got released or available and proudly walk back home. During such instance I got lucky with a tape which was told to be selling like hot cakes and only a single copy remained. Needless to add any more facts, Kaadhalan was such a huge rage in non Tamil speaking states too that finally all could say that ARR has truly arrived. It had some of the biggest chartbusters of the year but my personal favourite remains this song which fetched its singer P.Unnikrishnan his National award.

(6) Bombay: Rahman & Ratnam went for the kill with the soundtrack of Bombay which changed the way Hindi music was ruling during those times. This soundtrack catapulated ARR to feverish levels where even his lesser known albums where dubbed and films released solely on his name. Though I was personally never a great fan of his dubbed versions but Bombay was perfect with no feel of gibberish words inserted. This theme is a truly outstanding piece of creativeness conveying all pathos and even made it to the Hollywood flick, Lord of War.

(7) Indira: Between all the hype and appreciation for the music of Bombay, therein slipped a film directed by Mani Ratnam’s wife, Suhasini. This song Thoda Thoda is so mellifluous that even S P Balasubrahmanyum ranks it among his personal best with ARR. He even wanted to sing the Hindi dubbed version of the same where Harhiharan was handed over the mike. Listen from 0:42 to 1:15 and one will know why ARR is considered as the best even now.

(8) Indian: Rahman’s first collaboration with Kamal Hassan and one of the most expensive films to come of India at that time, Indian was highly anticipated even outside the Vindhyas and eventually dubbed as Hindustani. There are some songs which are meant to be sung by certain singers and when it comes to Yesudas then it has to be the best. This song is still a delight if you have a great audio system and gives the perfect example of how stereo sound travels in different speakers.

(9) Minasara Kanavu: The audio of this had just released around Dec 1996 and my board exams for the 12th grade were round the corner in March. But nothing could stop me from listening to the soundtrack infuriating my parents to dizzying heights. ‘Vennilave‘ has ARR written all over it and a great listen with some effective choreography.

(10) Dil Se..: During the second year of my college if any individual possessed an audio cassette it was shared among the rest, Dil Se.. remained a sole exception of everyone having their own copy. It has my own personal record of 3 cassettes for the amount of time it was scratched, used and abused extensively. Lata Mangeshkar‘s first song with Rahman had to be great with expectations to match from all and they do deliver in spectacular style. If most of the world population knows few words of Malayalam all the credit goes to this song alone. It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular track from this movie and a serious advise for all who want to judge how good your audio equipment is should mandatorily check out the soundtrack of this film.

(11) Taal: Now the time had come when Compact Disc was the future of music and being in the final year of my graduation did not know how to upgrade purchasing a CD of Rs.299 from a cassette of Rs.40. My pocket money could not afford one and had to manipulate my college fees at home because I was very sure that beg, borrow or steal; the day the music of Taal was supposed to release it will be in my hand. ‘Nahin Samne‘ shows a different side of ARR with minimal orchestration and a surreal feel, that whenever I listen it seems there is rain in the air.

(12) Alaipayuthey: After my graduation there was a phase in my life when I was disconnected from music and was not keen with movies too. As soon as I joined up with my first assignment for work and subsequent salary that was recieved, got my hand on 2 CD’s out of which one was Alaipayuthey. Hariharan and ARR have teamed up for a lot of gems, but this to me remains an absolute favourite for the portions from 3:00 to 3:30. Hariharan is unrecognizable and the melody is unmistakable. And yes you wont find a better picturized song than this.

(13) Zubeida: There is something about this song which never lets me go and seems time comes to a still whenever I listen to it. An under rated track from an equally under rated soundtrack & film, Rahman till now had mastered his stamp in Hindi music with equal gusto and nobody could point a finger that his music had lot of western & South Indian influences.

(14) Lagaan: If Lagaan is considered among the best of Indian & World Cinema a part of the credit also goes to A R Rahman’s soundtrack and all the themes composed for the film. The film has many small pieces and large orchestras to stimulate and blow one’s mind. This is a rousing theme and a great one at it.

(15) Kannathil Muthamittal: Another song that I don’t have enough words to write about and will let the song and its lyrics do the talking.

(16) Swades: Though Rahman is a master at creating Patriotic themes & songs, this song from Swades still gives me goosbumps everytime I hear it. At some point of time one even feels if ARR has really sung it because like the title song of Dil Se.., this one pulls all the right strings and straight goes inside the heart. Had seen Javed Akhtar conveying in some TV show that to sing this song, “Ache Achon ke paseene chhoot gaye the” and maybe thats why ARR must have taken it upon himself to complete his labour of love. A song that has my eyes moist even now as I listen and write about.

(17) Rang De Basanti: A song about a mother & son, to be interesting; should be an achievement in itself. Typically Hindi films have a lot of such melodramatic songs but Rahman goes straight from the heart into our heart with terrific emotions along in the company of Lata Mangeshkar.

(18) Jodha Akbar: No compilation of ARR can go without atleast one religous song in it and Khwaja Mere Khwaja is an electrifying one at that. Rarely does such kind of song feature in personal favourites but this stands tall with even some of them very serious about converting to Islam and the reason being ARR’s soulful & divine approach to such songs.

(19) Delhi 6: This must have been the most personal tune that ARR must have composed in recent times and it shows in the compostion. There is an unhibited laziness about this track but distinctly complex and will always find a place in my top 3. The Continuum at the end is so heavenly and he has learned the art to play it; that even his contemporaries can feel proud to be in his era. The video below does not give any justice to the entire track, so would advise you all to listen to the entire audio track.

(20) Rockstar: After going through a lull phase after the high of Oscars where as usual everyone feels he has the ability to pull down and criticize a person, Rahman gave a kick ass to all his detractors with an album having 16 songs. The impact of the songs has been revealed in detail at my review here, but Nadaan Parindey is what you call as a chartbuster with a soul. “Sau dard badan pe phaile hain…har karam ke kapde maile hain” is still one of the best worded lines in recent years for me.

For a generation who has listened, ate, drank and slept with his music there are some great memories for 20 long glorious years. Have missed on a lot of tracks that deserved attention and am sure everyone will have their own personal choices too. Would be equally thankful to the people who have made his music memorable along with the lyricist and singers whom I have not touched upon here and also to the Yahoo fan club which forms an important part of my life too.

Will continue to get excited about an audio release, anticipate upon the release date, watch it in a movie hall and will continue to be your fan even if the whole world go against you.

Looking forward to such happiness & joy in the coming years and my heartfelt thanks for your wonderful music SIR.

Robot Mania Strikes Japan

A few years ago, Bollywood Productions would often say that they were making Crossover films. Now what exactly did they mean by crossover films? Till date nobody has any clue and producers have stopped using the term.

Japanese Fans Dressed up as Robot for screening of Robot

It is a well known fact that in the overseas market Indian films do not have market generally beyond Indian Diaspora. It seems but this applies only to Bollywood films.Continue reading “Robot Mania Strikes Japan”

Dil Se… – The Manifesto of a Man’s Passion

Dil Se… released when I was in the middle of my 10th standard. The songs came out first, and I didn’t have much of an opinion. After the release of the movie too, I don’t think I got any feedback. Those days, friends and followers had a more literal meaning and they were mostly restricted to your class. These hapless souls, chained like me and being led to the altar of public exams half a year later, also wouldn’t have watched the film immediately. Even though I had seen some of Mani Ratnam’s earlier films and liked them, nothing really compelled me to watch it immediately. But by the time the movie left the theatres- which was very soon- my cousin had seen it and was all praises for it. Being my soul mate, his opinion mattered a lot. By this time, with repeated hearing and watching on TV, the songs- as it always happens with Rahman’s- had really grown on me. And then there was that evening…

I caught on TV the sequence of Shah Rukh whispering to Manisha in the dark corridor of an AIR Studio, interrupted by streaks of light and greetings whenever a passer-by opens the door. Never before had I experienced such a use of light and sound, or rather, their absence. I couldn’t catch even a single dialogue then (it was the Tamil version), but was instantly drawn into the melancholic world of Amar and Meghna. I believe it was on that evening he became “Mani Sir”, a dronacharya to me. Watch the video here.

But what to do now? We didn’t even have a VCR at home. This was much before TCRips and DVDScrs (Well, what is a DVD anyway?) Months later, I found out that the movie is playing in a B-class theatre somewhere outside the city. What followed was nothing short of an uprising to make someone take me to the movie (Yeah, people. I had to be “taken”). I vaguely remember that I attempted Bhagat Singh’s path of “loud noise to make deaf ears listen” and Gandhian fasting. However the might of authority brutally quelled it. Later when I was invited to watch movies on a VCR at a friend’s place, I tried to rent Dil Se, but it was not available. It was a year later that I finally got to see it, when it was screened at an open air venue. It matched all of my heightened expectations, and I fell for it completely, much like Amar fell for Meghna at the deserted railway station that rainy night.

But I learned later that the majority did not share my feelings for it- starting with my uncle who accompanied me to the screening and later remarked, “What a waste of three hours!” to my “One of the most beautiful three hours of my life”, to the majority of Indian movie-goers who decided its box office fate. I realised that it was very much a niche film. It might sound silly now, but for years my litmus test for a new friend who displayed similar views on life was, “Do you like Dil Se…?” and a positive answer moved him/her to the inner circle. I compensated for my initial negligence by immersing myself in that familiar melancholy on VCD countless times. I used to claim that I could survive years of solitary confinement if I had the freedom to play this movie. More than just as a movie, I suspect that in those formative years, Amar’s single-mindedness in his desire and passion might have rubbed off on me too.

But this time when I re-watched, I really wanted to put Dil Se… to the acid test. It’s been over a decade since I saw it first. I have grown, undeniably in age and arguably in sensibilities, aesthetics and experiences. And now I write this because, to my delight, I saw the same film again- not a degree less of anything. Excuse me for wasting so many words on my personal life, but that’s what Dil Se… is to me- it’s MY film. And all the above factors contributed in making it so.

I view Dil Se… as the manifesto of a man’s passion. The first shot of the movie shows objects and movements out of focus with strange noises making us crave to know what they are. This more or less speaks of Amar’s life- he belongs to a well-to-do, caring family; has a secure career and a happy married life in the offing. But all he wants is Meghna, who is shrouded in mystery. Despite being amidst loved ones, he chased that one love that eluded him forever. I think this would be the longest journey anyone has taken to get a positive nod to his proposal. People seem confused about the genre of the film. Some catalogue it as the last of Mani Ratnam’s “Terrorism trilogy” after Roja and Bombay. And then accuse it of simplifying the issue of how terrorism is born! To me, Dil Se… is nothing but a love story, whose purpose is neither propaganda nor giving answers but simply telling the intense tale of a man’s love and loss (or gain, depending on how you see it). It speaks on behalf of individuals and their singular experiences. It neither generalises nor attempts to place any element of it above its central theme of love.

As mentioned, the aim of my latest viewing of the film was nitpicking and making sure it’s still worth writing about. All these years, Dil Se… has intuitively been my benchmark of Indian cinema, against which even a couple of Mani Sir’s latest paled. Now, the reason for this dawned on me- it’s simply perfect in every sense, from screenplay to background score. There isn’t even an iota of excess anywhere. Let me just point out one thought that struck me- this film is one of Santosh Sivan’s finest works as a cinematographer. Each of Santosh’s directorial ventures is praised for being a visual treat, but the images he brings in often seem to be excessive technical indulgences, superfluous from a critical point of view. In Dil Se…, there is not a single shot that you can remove from its structure. The same minimalism and maturity is shown by each technical department. In which other movie can you find Bollywood stars in so less make-up? Yet in their most deglamorised roles, Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala look gorgeous, may be because as a dialogue in the movie goes, there can’t be anyone more beautiful than a martyr. And martyrs were what they were.

Ever since I first wanted to see it, I’ve tried to follow each mention of Dil Se… in the media. Years later, Manisha said in an interview that she feels the film was ahead of its time and that it would be the one that would make her grandchildren proud. I’ve also read Mani Ratnam blaming the film’s failure on his ineptitude with Hindi language, an argument I would refute furiously. Dil Se… would simply cease to exist without the poetry of Tigmanshu Dhulia’s dialogues. (Can you believe, I had noted this name back then and was overjoyed when he later debuted as a director with Haasil). I suspect though, that the basic thought behind the dialogues were from Sujatha. The unquestionable superiority of Sujatha Sir and Mani Sir in dealing with romance, which we have witnessed in their other movies, is very much present here too. By now, I know most of the dialogues by heart which allowed me to pay more attention to the rest of the soundtrack and it amazed me again. Mani Sir’s wizardry brings into life the total world of the story by painstakingly giving details of even stray background noise. And it’s those details that makes the scenes magical – their walk as they plan a family and Meghna opens up to him for the first time ever, the later recreation of that scene through the yellow headphone, the night at the old temple in Ladakh where they share their list of likes and dislikes, even Amar’s later scenes with the bubbly Preeti… There were no clichés. Everything was fresh, and it still remains so.

I believe this is the best work of most of the cast and crew- from Farah Khan’s choreography to Allan Amin’s action to Shah Rukh Khan’s acting. The film must have challenged them all to do something that they are not used to doing otherwise in Bollywood- to be natural and authentic. However, the real master who made his mark till eternity through this movie is A R Rahman. As someone who hates the typical song-dance sequences in Hindi cinema, it was a revelation to find song lyrics and choreography taking the movie to a higher level, particularly with “Satrangi Re”. Rarely has the format of a Bollywood musical been exploited with such artistic grace, without yielding completely to market pressures. Personally, it’s my favourite Rahman album, one I will never get tired of. Even in the middle of a noisy crowd, if you randomly play, “Tu To Nahin Hai Lekin Teri Muskurahatein Hain…”, I’ll instantly be pushed into the sad world of the movie. And it’s a sheer pity that we don’t have the practice of releasing soundtrack albums because many of the brilliant tracks (many with lyrics) which would be amazing by themselves are locked to the movie- like the song we hear when Amar finds out after the night at the temple that Meghna has vanished. It forms the base of many tracks from then on- like when he chases the tuba player across Connaught Place. Once Rahman had remarked that the favourite scene he has ever given music to was the one in which the bride’s ornaments are being tried on Meghna. I’m curious to know whether he still thinks so.

It’s very difficult to be objective when trying to write about Dil Se… I must have attempted it in vain at least a couple of times over a decade. Yes, it’s after all a dichotomy- you either love it or you rebuke it. That’s it. The film works for me because I can feel the characters and their world and make a connection with them which deepens with every viewing. These are people we won’t usually come across in real life. The decisions they make are the most uncommon. But the masterly writing makes it all so credible. Compare it with the careless caricatures that we usually see on the Indian screen. Let me take the liberty of giving an example. Each time “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa”‘s Karthik made advances to Jessie, I was irritated, repelled and totally disconnected. I could never relate to him. His intentions are never convincing, neither are those of the “No-Yes-No” Jessie. But when Amar chased Meghna across the east and north of the subcontinent, there was a certain dignity to it. I lived through him. Each time I also writhed with him in the pain of unrequited love. And at the end, I too couldn’t think of anything but “sleeping in the lap of death” so that I can “drown my body in her soul”…

Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:

1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)

Dil Se – An Unsung Classic

Some films are made much ahead of their time. The makers show gumption in attempting something radical, either in terms of treatment, story, or technique-sadly, the audiences and critics are not ready for it. While such films end up being commercial failures, time bestows a haloed nostalgia upon them for generations to come.

Rediscovered by film buffs and connoisseurs, films like Lamhe and Agneepath find a new lease of life, while others wait for that fortunate time in history when their stars would shine. Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) is one such brilliant cinematic gem that is crying to be rediscovered and feted, more importantly, waiting for its story to be heard.

A commercial failure in the domestic markets, Ratnam’s Dil Se is the story of Amarkant (Shah Rukh Khan) an AIR reporter who meets Meghna (played by an ethereal Manisha Koirala), a terrorist suicide bomber out to kill the President of India on the Republic Day.

Dil Se is a deliciously layered concoction topped with the common theme of love – Shah Rukh’s love for this mysterious lady whom he is constantly trying to deconstruct while she escapes a definition till the very end of the story, or Meghna who is torn between her love for her cause, her people and Shah Rukh. A subtle undercurrent is the issue of love for your motherland – dealing with issues of sedition, rebelling against the system and terrorism. Traversing the cold climes of Ladakh, Kashmir and Delhi mostly, Dil Se tells an unhappy tale through tough and painful imagery.

Ratnam’s pet themes of the politics of love found a very pained anguished voice in Dil Se – a voice that was embellished stupendously by Ratnam’s trusted Rahman. The combination of Ratnam and Rahman have over the years given us magical haunting melodies (Roja, Bombay, Guru and Yuva to name a few). With Dil Se, the duo created magic yet again. Soulful renditions that spoke of love and longing brought to life the unsaid subtexts of the story.

While the ever popular Chaiiya Chaiiya is what most would remember the film for, my personal favorites are Ae Ajnabi and Satrangi re. Udit Narayan is the voice of every broken heart searching for his lover in the emotional Ae Ajnabi. Sonu Nigam’s silken voice flows like a river in Satrangi re, bringing out the urgency and feverish need to be one with the lover. With both the songs, Ratnam weaves poignant images on screen. Very few directors have been able to utilize Rahman’s songs as more than just a musical interlude in the proceedings on screen. Ratnam has this maverick quality to make the songs another character in his story, using music to heighten the impact of emotions. Nothing could be a better example of Ratnam’s musical genius at work than Dil Se.

A mention of Dil Se would also be incomplete without mentioning the amazing lyrics that academy award winner Gulzar has embellished the soundtrack with. Be it Jiya Jale, Dil Se re or the mystical Satrangi re, every song is a stand alone piece of poetry, which at the same time blends effortlessly into the films mood and theme. Perhaps Gulzar’s best work in recent times, the soundtrack here is an example of how magic is created in verses. The lyrical quality of the film also extends into Santosh Sivan’s mastery with the camera.  The opening shot of SRK and Manisha in a deserted railway station at night, or the angles in the Ae Ajnabi song, Sivan works his magic brilliantly. For a movie where much of the first half is a mix of images and montages, Sivan takes the narrative forward with his deft camera work. In the second half of Dil Se, it is Sivan’s camera work alone that keeps one glued to the screen in the midst of elaborate talkie portions between the characters on screen. Sivan in Dil Se manages to bring a fluidity to images in Hindi cinema- a feat rarely repeated hence.

Another facet of Ratnam that Dil Se exemplifies is his knack of getting out actors buried deep down stars. Shah Rukh Khan, the King of Bollywood, has very few performances that he would be remembered for. Dil Se is one of them. As a lover puzzled, confused and tormented by his lady, SRK excels brilliantly, going much beyond his usual stammer and stretched hands, to deliver a career milestone of a performance. A huge credit to this does go to Ratnam, for seldom have we seen the same SRK again on screen with as much conviction and power. Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan are the other two stars who owe a lot to the director for giving them opportunities to showcase the actors in them. Manisha Koirala, whom Ratnam put right in the midst of all time performers and not just stars of Hindi cinema with Bombay, gave another nuanced turn in Dil Se. Pure as a dew drop, timid as a doe, yet stern and determined as a tigress on the prowl, she is scintillating as Meghna.

Director Ratnam, known to Hindi audiences for heady mix of love and strife in his earlier films, chose a stark and dark palate to tell his story this time. Much like Roja and Bombay, circumstances separate the lovers in Dil Se. Yet, unlike his earlier outings, Dil Se depicts a love that doesn’t find a happy ending. A love story that is doomed from the word go. Perhaps this is what led the audiences to reject the film so vehemently.

Today, as I watch Dil Se again, I am left with goose bumps. I am left wondering how poignant and relevant the film is as the world all over is erupting in violence against oppressors and tormentors. As love and innocence is lost from the lives of millions and the count of the internally displaced rises across nations, Dil Se and its cry for peace ring all the more closer to home. After the disastrous Raavan, one wished Ratnam would return to telling stories he believed in, without giving in to market forces, effortlessly traversing the commercial and parallel cinematic worlds as he has in the past. One wished he would tell another story, “dil se”.

Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:

1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Take 1 Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)