5 Mani Ratnam movies on Netflix to watch ahead of Ponniyin Selvan release

Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan is gearing up for release
(Image credit: Quora)

The Tamil novel Ponniyin Selvan, written by well-known author Kalki R Krishnamurthy, has held sway over the imagination of readers in Tamil for several decades now. The novel, which was first serialised in the Tamil magazine Kalki in the early 1950s, is among the top-sellers at the Chennai Book Fair every year. The book, which is a fiction based on the Chola history, had always caught the eye of filmmakers. In the 70s, former Chief Minister and top actor MGR wanted to make Ponniyin Selvan into a film. Then in the 90s ace artist Kamal Haasan got down to make a movie out of it. But all the projects came unstuck.

But now director Mani Ratnam has more or less pulled off the project amidst great difficulty (pandemic), and the film's teaser was launched amidst fanfare a couple of days ago. Ponniyin Selvan has an ensemble cast that includes Vikram, Karthi, Jeyam Ravi, Jayaram, Vikram Prabhu, Prakashraj, Trisha, Aishwarya Lakshmi, and not ton forget Aishwarya Rai.

As Mani Ratnam is the talk of the town, as it were, here is a list of his films on Netflix to understand his aesthetics better. Ponniyin Selvan, which has music by AR Rahman, is set for release on September 30.

Bombay (1995)

This is a heart-warming love story that begins in the hinterlands of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu but traverses to the cultural melting pot of Bombay. The inter-religious love marriage in the backdrop of Bombay that is afflicted by the bloody communal riots of the 1990s is typically Mani Ratnam territory --- a compelling tale of human emotions around a larger political situation. The music and songs of AR Rahman in the film are another highlight. 

Bombs were hurled by alleged Muslim groups at his house and the ace director had to be hospitalized post the release of this film.

Dil Se (1998)

Though his movies were popular in India, and films like Roja and Bombay had done well in Hindi dubbed version, Dil Se marked Mani's debut in Bollywood. Dil Se, which didn't do all that well commercially, is now deemed as an underrated classic in his oeuvre. The film, part of what is called as his terrorism trilogy (the other two are Roja and Bombay), takes up the rarely spoken up issue in India: Terrorism in the North East. This film, which stars Shah Rukh Khan, Manisha Koirala and Preity Zinta, has the backdrop of insurgency and ULFA-like terrorism in Assam.

Kannathil Muthamittal (2002)

Mani and his fascination for places trouble-torn by terrorism got a further play in this movie. the film, which begins in Chennai, spreads to the violence-ridden Sri Lankan forests. The story is about child, who is of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage, but adopted by a couple in Chennai. The kid wants to meet her biological mother in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It also triggered some controversy for the way it showed the ethnic strife in Lanka. The film won a  record of six National Film Awards, the joint highest by any Tamil Film (the other being Adukalam).

Guru (2007)

A controversial subject. And a director who does not shy away from tackling controversial subjects. Guru, on the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani, the patriarch of the Reliance empire, stirred quite a few hornets' nests. But Mani, with his typical deftness. Of course, there was some criticism too that Mani kind of air-brushed some aspects of Ambani's life. Of course, in a country like India with a touchy public, it is near impossible to show on screen popular personalities with warts and all. Aside from the film, it was around the film's release that the lead pair of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai tied the knot. Their on-screen chemistry really showed.

OK Kanmani (2015)

Mani Ratnam is one director who is always interested in relationship aspects between a woman and man post their marriage. It is one of his fascinating themes. We saw this among his earliest, and what is deemed as his breakthrough movie, Mouna ragam. Another movie that dealt with this theme was his Alaipayuthey. O Kadhal Kanmani can be said to complete this relationship trilogy. The movie broaches the subject of live-in relationships without exactly pushing the envelope. In the end, it was a frothy fun-filled romantic caper. Of course, it was topped with great songs, courtesy his long-time co-runner AR Rahman.

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Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.