Ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan: 1 is the talk of the town ahead of its worldwide release on September 30 and the demand for the film's tickets has reached an unprecedented high. With the epic historical magnum opus set to take a grand opening in theatres everywhere, Mani Ratnam recently sat down for a candid conversation with National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, the Editor-in-Chief of Galatta Plus, with the filmmaker giving an interesting explanation about the core visual thought behind the venture. Mani Ratnam said, "I think the concept is something which you fix early. For example, when we were doing Nayakan, there was a choice of doing it slightly in a sepia kind of a feel to get the 50s look and you know the growth and things like that and do it in CinemaScope and do it normally. So, we did a screen test, a lab test, where we shot it one way and we shot the same thing in another manner. Nothing inanimate stuff is what we shot. And, then we screened it and realized that we'll go with skin tone, we'll bring in HMIs, we'll make the blue, we'll make it look normal and not paint a backstory and not go period. So, that becomes a defining moment for the rest of the film and that defines how we go about the rest of the film."
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Elaborating how he wanted to make the film, Mani Ratnam added, "In Ponniyin Selvan, a similar concept was there that we didn't want it to look like I'm telling you a story about a thousand years back. Kalki has this magical way of narrating it. He says, 'Let's go a thousand years back in ten seconds.' He takes you there and he's constantly talking to you as he's narrating with the viewer. He makes it very inclusive. So, on film, how does he do that by not trying to stay away, but trying to stay inside it, trying to bring everything that will make it alive at that moment in time. Nothing is pristine, nothing is like a huge palace, which is untouched and things like that. There are small flaws, which make it real. And, I think in that way a lot of masters like Kurasowa have told you how it is done to make it very contemporary, and that is what we did here."
Mani Ratnam continued, "With the filmmaking, we decided it will be contemporary. Though it is about the past, we're not taking the shots in a classical fashion. It is constantly moving, it is like eyes that are searching, it's like somebody getting all the information and we are with her instead of the information that is being told. And, if we are in the war, we are in the war. We're not shooting war from outside, but actually in the middle of it, and Ravi Varman (cinematographer) had to take the camera in hand and go inside the middle of it, face danger, and get hurt a couple of times, but that's what we did. That's what he actually was able to pull off and make it look really contemporary. The frames are not perfect, the frames aren't picture-perfect postcards. It's not in that school and it's not Barry Lyndon, but it's more like Ran. That is the difference. I mean both will work, but the style you choose defines how you go."
Watch Mani Ratnam and Baradwaj Rangan talk in detail about Ponniyin Selvan: 1 below: