On 28 June 1991, K. Doraiswamy, an executive of the Indian Oil Corporation, was kidnapped by Kashmiri militants and put in captivity for two months. This inspired Mani Ratnam to make the film Roja. Doraiswamy's wife was fighting for his release, and according to Ratnam, it was her plight that the film was based on.
Filmmaker Mani Ratnam, coming off of a successful collaboration with music director Ilaiyaraaja, chose to work with a young composer called AS Dileep Kumar for the first time. When Roja hit screens, audiences heard the gentle melody of ‘Choti si Asha’, the thundering chorus of ‘Bharat Humko Jaan se Pyara hai’, the beautiful visuals painted by 'Yeh Haseen Vaadiyan', the fun cult classic track 'Rukkumani' Dileep became AR Rahman and Roja went on to be listed in Time magazine’s 10 Best Soundtracks of all time.
Roja starts out as a simple love story but soon transforms into an abduction tale. Ratnam’s Roja is a sweet-faced country girl who loves her blissful life. Her name means Rose.
Roja(1992) is also a contemporary adaptation of the story Savitri and Satyavan from the Indian epic Mahabharat set in the backdrop of the Kashmir conflict. The tale of Satyavan and Savitri is recited in the Mahabharat as a story of conjugal love conquering death. Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance; Savitri is the divine word, daughter of the Sun, Goddess of the supreme truth who comes down and is born to save while Yama is the Lord of Death & Justice being responsible for the dispensation of law and punishment of sinners in his abode, Yamlok. In that sense Roja is allegorical, the characters are personified qualities from mythology.
The film traces the story of a woman (Savitri)Roja who marries (Satyavan)Rishi, a cryptologist working with R.A.W and fights a tenacious battle to rescue him from (Yama)Liaqat played by Pankaj Kapur. From then on, even as we're shown Roja battling on the sidelines, pleading with authorities to enable the release of her husband, she essentially becomes an idea - one that keeps Rishi alive and fighting. It was by making the audience invest their emotions in this couple thrown into a kind of violence that they've only read about in the newspapers that Mani Ratnam succeeded in bringing home the Kashmir conflict.
One could argue that the director paints too simplistic a picture while depicting the conflict in Kashmir depicting univocal shades of good & evil. But counter this with the fact that depicting the conflict in itself was an unprecedented brave attempt at the time. We see him correct this mistake in Dil se by portraying the other perspective in a more transparent manner.
The film also had many firsts, this was probably one of the first instances in Indian cinema involving someone (Arvind Swamy’s boss) talking about crypto — a series of cryptographic codes that had to be protected. It was also the first time that Kashmir’s fight for azaadi was shown on screen and the issue of militancy was addressed. Till that time terrorists in Indian cinema were residents of some unknown foreign land, in films like Karma or Tehelka. The most realistic aspect of the movie, in the original Tamil version at least, is that the woman needs an interpreter to translate for her and the authorities. Roja is a rural girl, who doesn't know any other language except Tamil, is suddenly thrown into a situation where no one understands her. Thus you have Hindi, English and Tamil, all being spoken in the same movie. In other words a Tamil movie with Hindi dialogues.
Roja’s success also lay in the fact that there was a rush of Mani Rathnam films that were quickly dubbed into Hindi and found a willing audience in the North. For example, the films Anjali (1990) and then later Thalapati (1991) whose dubbed version was released around 1993 were successful. His other films, Thiruda Thiruda (1994) and Bombay (1995), both were dubbed and released simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil.
Roja was the first film for which Ratnam used a Steadicam, in the shot that introduces the militants hideout to the audiences. The film was made on a shoestring budget. The technicians worked for less money with the understanding that the film would also be sold for less money. It was not thought of as something that would work on a big scale. The film was composed mostly of newcomers, a new music director, and it was about Kashmir which, according to Ratnam, not much was known about at the time. He called the film "a bit of an experiment". According to Ratnam, it was not originally planned as a political film: "It was a phase India was going through and these things affected me and found their way into my work."
Tamil Actress Aishwarya was initially offered the female lead, but declined it due to date issues. The role went to Madhoo. Aishwarya later revealed that she deeply regretted that decision, which was made by her grandmother against her will, for a Telugu film which was later cancelled. Ratnam approached Karisma Kapoor to play a Kashmiri girl, but he considered her "far too expensive for a Tamil film". In an August 2016 interview with Filmfare, Rahman recalled that he chose not to pursue education at Berklee College of Music because he got to work on Roja
Roja stars Arvind Swamy, Madhubala (Madhoo to Hindi cinema), Nasser, Janakaraj and Pankaj Kapur. A.R.Rahman who stormed the music industry with his debut, won the National award for best Music Director & cinematography was by Santosh Sivan. The film won three National Film Awards, including Best Film on National Integration, catapulting Ratnam to national acclaim. The film also gained international acclaim with its nomination for Best Film at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival. The film was later re-released for international audiences in light of the growing fear of terrorist attacks across the world. It is the first in Ratnam's trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics
Story of an inter-religious family in Bombay before & during the Bombay riots, which took place after the demolition of the Babri Masjid & led to religious tensions between Hindu & Muslim communities.
The soundtrack of the film became one of the best-selling Indian music albums of all time, with sales of 15 million units. The soundtrack was included in The Guardian's "1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die" list, and the song "Kehna Hi Kya" ("Kannalanae") sung by K S Chitra was included in their "1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear" list. The song "Hamma" was later reused in Ok Jaanu (2017) as "The Humma Song". "Bombay Theme" has appeared in various international films and music compilations, while "Kehna Hi Kya" and "Bombay Theme" have been sampled by various international artists.The lyrics for the Hindi and Telugu versions were written by Mehboob. The Hindi version includes Urdu lyrics.
During the recording of the background score of Mani Ratnam's Thiruda Thiruda (1993), the Bombay riots broke out. Mani Ratnam planned on making a film in Malayalam about a boy who gets lost in the riots, and requested M. T. Vasudevan Nair to write the script. But since the idea did not materialise, he decided to make it in Tamil and the film that would later be titled Bombay & dubbed in Hindi.
Nassar, a Muslim in real life, was cast as the father of Arvind Swamy's character (a Hindu) while Kitty, a Hindu in real life, was cast as the father of Koirala's character (a Muslim). Ratnam deliberately cast them in those roles as a statement. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was shown onscreen through newspaper headlines and photographs, as the Censor Board did not want the makers to show the actual destruction. Mani Ratnam described Bombay as "a positive film about communal harmony". He said the Bombay riots were not the main focus of the film, but "a helpless, innocent man caught up in violence not of his own making" was.
Hindi version of the film grossed ₹140 million as reported by Box Office India, making it one of the year's top ten highest-grossing Hindi films. It was screened at many international film festivals including the Philadelphia Film Festival in 1996 where it was an audience favourite. However, the film caused considerable controversy upon release in India and abroad for its depiction of inter-religious relations and religious riots. It was banned in Singapore and Malaysia upon release. It was ranked among the top 20 Indian films in the British Film Institute's rankings. It won the Gala Award at the 1996 Political Film Society Awards (United States), Special Award at the 2003 Jerusalem Film Festival (Israel), Wim Van Leer in Spirit for Freedom Award -Best Feature, 1995 Edinburgh International Film Festival (Scotland) & Nargis Dutt award for Best feature film on National integration.
In 1996, American critic James Berardinelli rated the film 3.5 out of 4 and said, "Largely because of their limited North American appeal and dubious quality, Indian movies are routinely ignored by distributors. Occasionally, however, a worthwhile picture causes enough people to take notice that it becomes a favorite on the international film festival circuit. One such movie is Bombay, the fourteenth feature from celebrated director Mani Rathnam." He concluded, "Director Rathnam has shown great courage in making this picture (bombs were thrown at his house after it opened in India), which speaks with a voice that many will not wish to hear. Bombay recalls how forceful a motion picture can be."
𝟯. 𝗗𝗶𝗹 𝗦𝗲 (𝟭𝟵𝟵𝟴)
Mani Ratnam had the inspiration for Dil Se from a Sufi song called 'Thayya Thayya' (the phrase is used as one of the songs) The two lovers are said to share the relation of God and devotee in the song. The film was first titled Ladakh - Ek Prem Kahani, but was later changed to Dil Se, as Mani Ratnam was of the opinion that a shorter title will have a stronger impact. The three protagonists are from the three corners of India, making a sort of a a literal cartographic triangle. While Meghna is from the north-east, Amar hails from Delhi. Preethi is from Kerala.
Dil se is Hindi language romantic thriller film set in the backdrop of the insurgency in Northeast India. Written by Ratnam and Tigmanshu Dhulia, the film is an example of parallel cinema & noted for its aspects of nonlinear storytelling, it was the final installment of Ratnam's thematic trilogy. It also marked Preity Zinta's film debut. Though the film was shot mainly in Hindi-language, director Mani Ratnam also dubbed and released the film in Tamil in the title Uyire.. ('Darling..')
Dil Se is said to be a journey through the seven shades of love that are defined in ancient Arabic literature. Those shades are defined as an Attraction, Infatuation, Love, Reverence, Worship, Obsession, and Death. The character played by Shahrukh Khan Radio broadcaster Aman Verma is attracted & infatuated by beguiling & mysterious Meghna, he passes through each shade during the course of the film.The film is a dramatization of the attraction between a character from the heart of India and another from a peripheral state and a representation of opposites in the eyes of the law and society.
One can also see shades of The Layla-Majnun theme in the film which is a story passed from Arabic to Persian, Turkish, and Indian languages. Majnun's story is that of a constant effort to woo Layla, wander the dessert surroundings upon facing rejection, consumed by her thoughts which turned to obsession, he ultimately faced a tragic end.
Amid moonlit desert dunes, there is a particularly stirring conversation between the leading pair; Amar reveals his love for Meghna's eyes – because of the world hidden behind them & hate for the same stunning eyes – because he can't see the world hidden behind them. Their unconventional and intense love flourishes amidst the political turmoil. Visually beautiful, passionate love that turns into obsession, soulful music, deft writing & direction, and artistic performances by the actors, help to bring the seven shades of love on celluloid quite convincingly. Dil Se is an unforgettable masterpiece.
Santosh Sivan's screenplay, Tigmanshu Dhulia's dialogues, Gulzar's lyrics and Rahman's music makes it a Contemporary Classic. Dil se is said to be one of Shahrukh Khan's best performances. As a love-lorn Amar, he convinces you to empathize and pray for a happy ending to his love story.
Mani, partnering with two other filmmakers – Shekhar Kapoor and RGV, came up with a new production house called India Talkies for Dil Se. Sadly, it was the first and last film produced by the company. Sameer Chanda (known for films like Guru, Omkara, Rang De Basanti and Raavan) and Wasiq Khan (known for his gritty realism in Anurag Kashyap films) were the production and art designers.Tigmanshu Dhulia was the casting director. Pia Benegal and Manish Malhotra were the costume designers.
Simran Bagga was Mani Rathnam's first choice for the role of Preeti Nair, Rani Mukherjee was then offered the role but she declined & Preity Zinta eventually accepted. The lead role of the militant was first offered to Kajol, who couldn't accept the offer due to date clashes. Manisha was subsequently signed.
The song "Chaiyya Chaiyya" was shot on top of the Nilgiri Express en route Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri, the train is particularly painted in brown for the song sequence. Mani, apparently did not have Malaika Arora in mind for the train dance, for which Shilpa Shirodkar was his first choice. After the team wasn't impressed with Shilpa's audition, they approached model Achala Sachdev, who could not adjust her dates. Malaika finally landed the part. Shah Rukh, who is usually prone to injuries, shot for the song without using any safety harness. Farah Khan had choreographed the song in 4 straight days. No camera tricks were used in the making.
Several action sequences in the film choreographed by Allan Amin were shot near Connaught Place, New Delhi, Rajpath and Old Delhi. Some of the parade scenes were shot during the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of India's independence. The film's shoot, which happened in Himachal Pradesh, Leh, Assam, New Delhi, Kerala, and Bhutan, was completed in 55 days as everything was thoroughly pre-planned.
The intense political references of the film with the trials of the Assamese on the India-China border, the love story and the fact that it coincided with the 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations became a major factor for its success overseas, particularly amongst the South Asian diaspora in the west. Even though Dil se performed poorly at the box office in India, the film today has achieved a cult following. It was a success overseas in the US and the UK becoming the first Indian film to enter the top 10 in the UK box office charts and it was also a hit in Japan. Even 2 months after its release in September 1998 the film was still screened on 5 screens, 5 times per day with an average of 3000 spectators across all screens in the Cineworld complex in Feltham, West London. The film won two National Film Awards while also receiving a special mention at the Netpac Awards. The film was included in Time Magazine's "Best of Bollywood" list in 2010.
Dil Se's soundtrack album, composed by ARR, became a huge hit for its era and sold six million units in India alone. The song "Chaiyya Chaiyya", based on Sufi music and Urdu poetry, became especially popular and the song has been featured in the film Inside Man, in the musical Bombay Dreams, and in the television shows Smith and CSI: Miami. The bass Guitar in Dil Se Re song was played by Guy Pratt, the Bass Guitarist of Pink Floyd post the Roger Waters era. For the song 'Jiya Jale, Jaan Chale' singer Lata Mangeshkar apparently had some problems reaching the higher octaves because of her age, and so ARR kept her voice as low as possible in the final track
After Iruvar (1997), Mani was all set to make Alaipayuthey with SRK and Kajol, and registered the title, Mast. But, after completing the recce, he dropped the film, as he was not happy with the script. After finishing Dil Se, he made the script of Alaipayuthey non-linear, and shot it as a Tamil film, which was remade in Hindi as Saathiya. SRK made up to this Hindi remake by appearing in a cameo.
𝙇𝙞𝙣𝙠: Decoding Mani Ratnam Scene Breakdown
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