Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan on the new opportunities for storytelling

'The canvas that streaming offers is probably the most important thing for storytellers,' say the filmmakers  

The pandemic has taught us many things, but two of them stand out for us. The first is how we need to be there for each other in times of crisis and the second is how stories form connections and unite us. It was over a year ago that the pandemic terribly affected film industries around the world, including our own. One evening, during a brainstorming session, we decided to help unite the incredible creative community of Tamil cinema to send a much-needed message of solidarity and resilience with Navarasa. We needed the daily wage earners in the industry, shaken by the pandemic, to feel reassured that their industry won’t let them down.

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Greenlighting films can take a long time and we were surprised by how quickly Netflix understood what we were trying to do with this nine-film anthology. We were inspired by the amount of work that a streaming service was ready to put in, its attention to detail, focus on quality and most importantly, how respectful it was of the creators who came on board and gave them space and trust to produce their work.


Language agnostic

As viewers, the language of a story stopped mattering to us a long time ago; we have become language agnostic. Many people around us, just like us, have discovered many regional Indian films, as well as cinemas from South America, Spain or Korea. On streaming, as viewers, we are more open to watching content that we know nothing about. Minimum demand for commitment and time gives us the freedom and energy to explore. If the story doesn’t grab our attention, we are free to discover another story in another language. This has made us agnostic of where the stories are from in terms of cultures and geographies.

Jayendra Panchapakesan and Mani Ratnam

Jayendra Panchapakesan and Mani Ratnam  


The canvas that streaming offers is probably the most important thing for storytellers. With Navarasa, it was clear to us that we have the complete freedom to narrate our stories, without being restricted to a two-hour-plus format, or without breaking the film into two halves or being limited by the audience of a specific geography. Streaming enables us to tailor our stories to a film or a series and still remain honest to it. For instance, we could craft the story for each rasa (emotion) and do it creative justice. Without deviating from what the story needs or without designing the film for all audiences, filmmakers today can still reach the right audiences for their content, in their homes, across the world. Even stories rooted in a specific culture have found a worldwide reach with streaming. This is why streaming services are liberating for a filmmaker and for audiences across the world who may have never get to watch these incredible stories that bridge their understanding of cultures.

Future of storytelling

We have three observations to share. First, streaming services are pushing filmmaking towards a higher quality of storytelling and enabling us to compete with the finest filmmakers in the world in terms of quality and storytelling, which is fueling our desire to do even better work. Second, streaming services have made us aware of and opened up the possibility to collaborate with incredible actors, directors and technicians across the world. This will bring unprecedented opportunities to everyone in filmmaking. We will see more fusion in production and talent, which will lead to more exchange of ideas and craft, and make the processes of editing, writing, research, costume designing and sound mixing more collaborative. It will become easier to draw talent from everywhere because they will know that the story they are working for will be seen in their geographies too. Third, the demand for content will continue to grow and all storytelling mediums will continue to grow with it.

In conversation with Mani Ratnam, Jayendra on upcoming Tamil anthology ‘Navarasa’

With the Internet shrinking the world, now it is the turn of stories and streaming to make it truly one world.

Jayendra Panchapakesan and Mani Ratnam are filmmakers

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 2:03:03 AM |

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