How a conversation between Mani Ratnam and Dhana led to ‘Vaanam Kottattum’

The director talks about his upcoming multi-starrer that is set with a backdrop of the banana distribution business

The first time Dhana saw Mani Ratnam’s name was when Doordarshan played Agni Natchathiram. “Back then, it was advertised as a ‘Mani Ratnam’ film and that was something new. My whole family was a fan of Mani sir,” recalls the Padaiveeran director, sitting at the Madras Talkies office at Kesavaperumalpuram.

When he was still in school, Bombay released and all hell broke loose. “Pithu pudichu alanjen (‘I went crazy’),” he says, “The film didn’t release in our village near Kodaikanal, but in Theni, which was quite a distance for us school-going kids. Our tuition master took pity on me and took all of us to the film.”

He still calls the Arvind Swami-Manisha Koirala film ‘Bombaai’ — in a rustic Tamil way. Many years later, the rural life he lived would form the core idea for his script that would, interestingly, be produced by Mani Ratnam’s production house.

That is Vaanam Kottattum (VK), releasing this week, as a result of many detailed discussions between Dhana and Mani Ratnam. “It started with a conversation,” he says, explaining, “After the release of Kadal, in which I was an assistant, Mani sir and I were discussing, when he asked about my family. I opened up on them — on my periappa who had a distinctive way of wearing glasses and folding his shirt, my mother who was the sole breadwinner of the family. All these characters decided the course of the story.”

Director Dhana

Director Dhana  

VK fell in place before Mani Ratnam embarked on his dream project, Ponniyin Selvan, which he is currently shooting.

“He was completely involved in it; he has spent a lot of time and effort. VK is also his baby... it’s just that Ponniyin Selvan is a bigger baby.”

Dhana describes VK as a “family-oriented movie” that encompasses names like Vikram Prabhu, Madonna Sebastian, Shanthnoo, Aishwarya Rajesh, Sarath Kumar and Radikaa. “Isn’t that everything?” he asks, “We might lead different lives and work in different professions, but at the end of the day, we all have a family to go back to. VK explores that emotion.”

VK has considerable emphasis on romance, widely regarded to be Mani Ratnam’s forte. “There are three styles of romance here — urban, confused love (featuring Aishwarya Rajesh), fun love (featuring Vikram Prabhu) and the mature husband-wife relationship, played by Sarath Kumar and Radikaa,” reveals Dhana.

Set in Triplicane, where he lived for a few years when he migrated to Chennai, VK’s storyline also looks into the banana distribution business, which Dhana’s family was involved in. “But don’t ask me what genre the film is,” he smiles, “There are different cues for different genres, but we’ve tried to keep VK based on life. Just like life, there are different emotions captured in the film as well.”

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:41:23 AM |

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