Here Is How Mani Ratnam Conveyed Great Depth & Emotion In “Iddaru” Using Visual Metaphors!


Contributed By Prabhala Tilak


Note : Iddaru, as a film is so dense that, everything about this film cannot be said and understood at once. So, we thought, its better to talk about this classic more than once. This is the first one.



When a person tastes success like no one else, he’ll be contented totally at least upto some time. But if a creator tastes the success, he will want something more than that. Now, what is more than success to any human being? I guess, that fulfillment of creating something with total heart and giving a life to it. Just like Parvathy created Ganesh and gave him life. If someone watches Iruvar/Iddaru, they may not understand the depth in the film, but if the film hits them, they can see Lord in it and that brings the fulfillment in the eyes of Parvathy (Mani Ratnam). Unfortunately, it took time for us to realise the divinity in his work.

This complex piece of art has several layers and several emotions to tell us. But, what made this film so complex? Is it about the technical brilliance? Did MR write the film in a tough way? Did the actors perfom so deeply? Is it about the dialogues by Suhasini Mani Ratnam? I think its the audience inability to understand the real emotions is what made the film to reach out to the world so lately. Yes, Iddaru is a clear box office failure in 1997.

Most fascinating thing about Iruvar is the title itself. It is obvious that, the title clearly indicates the duo (Anandam and Samara Suryam) played by Mohan Lal and Prakash Raj. But, somewhere deep down, it talks about a lot of duos like Anandam and Pushpavalli (Aishwarya Rai), Anandam and Kalpana (Aishwarya Rai again), Anandam and Ramani (Gauthami) Samara Suryam and Indhumathi (Tabu) and Samara Suryam and Manikhyam (Revathi). Which duo is MR indicating to? Genius himself should know the answer.













Right from the begining till the end, Iddaru could be seen as an ageless novel in digital format. The way the characters are etched and the way the story is being translated through them is just out of the world. There are so many instances that adduce the mastery in Iddaru which clearly set a mark in every department. If I’m talking about this film which is very complicated, I feel it is better to mention every particular minute where magic happens.

Anandam, an artist is introduced at the lowest phase of his life (and the character is ended as the most succesful artist) where he literally adjures for opportunity. As there is so much story to tell, MR established his character so convincingly within just four and half minutes. So, at 4:47 min, his career takes a step forward and his phase changes. This is justified by showing a train passing through a tunnel and Anandan feels the air by putting his head out.





To translate Anandam’s struggles to get a break as an artist, MR has set up a small fake fight sequence at 3:20 min. At the end of that fight, Anandam lets out his frustration of not being recognized. Now comes the biggest thing that plays the entire movie, Recognition /Identity/ Popularity.

So, when Anandam finally gets a break, he goes to the Merryland Studios and the very first thing he does there is sitting on an empty throne. That clearly says the kind of desire he has. As the character of Anandam is introduced first, he is always ahead of Samara Suryam, even in death for that matter. After Anandam finishes enjoying the throne, Samara Suryam is introduced reciting a poem that he wrote which aims at the behaviour of Anand. In this conversation, the difference between an artist and a socialist is clearly shown through their expression. (An artist always expects for applause and a socialist does not. This is what Mohan Lal and Prakash Raj conveys throughout the movie.) Kudos to the actors. While this conversation happens, there will be a still frame which captures Anand and Samara Suryam standing next to each other. Let me amaze you the way I got amazed. There will be the same throne between them (in the background, out focus) which indicates us that, all they want is to sit on it. I call them master thoughts.





The differences in their idealogies is shown very distinctly in the way they get married. Anand gets married in a very grand manner, while Samara Suryam gets married in a register office. So much difference isn’t it? Then comes the very first song of the film, Sasivadhane. This song simultaneously talks about the growth in the intimacy between Anand and Pushpavalli and also marks the entry of Anand in to films.

As Iddaru is a film set up in different time periods, there are two ways to convey the change in time. One is just displaying the current year at which the incidents are happening. This one is so simple and the eyes of the audience would easily believe the change. But, MR found the challenging way out. He wanted to convince the viewer’s heart about the time change through a lot of other things. For example, take the songs. The way they are choreographed, the way they are filmed and the color of it clearly tells us about the change in time. Properties such as cars, clothes, fans, mics, chandeliers etc are there to tell the dumb audience about the period change. Take a look at the pictures below.













After Anand movie as a leading actor halts due to financial issues, in the very next scene Samara Suryams political party led by Ayya (Nasser) is launched. If we observe clearly, every important scene in this film somehow conveys the future effect of it on the persons involved. Following this very advanced cinematic trick, MR composes a frame in which, dispirited Anand goes to the place where the political party of Samara Suryam is launched to share his anguish. Right at the opening of that scene, from a top angle, Anand is captured through party flags that are tied up to the threads that are crossed on tho each other. That indicates that, Anand will enter the labyrinthine political atmosphere in the coming scenes. The screenplay format of Iddaru is so sophisticated. Throughout the movie, scenes of Anand come and give a lead to Samara Suryam. Samara Suryams’ scenes take us to Anand’s next move. They are layered that way.



When Pushpavalli dies, Anand goes to the graveyard to see the dead body that is buried. ++Mohan Lal’s acting in that particular scene would be more than enough for us to understand the impact of Pushpavalli’s death on his life. But, MR will always want to convey it visually. Here, the credit should also go to the editor, Suresh. After every one clears the frame, for a second or so, exactly at 36:07min, he shows a broken pot and a perfect one hung on to two sticks, where the broken one indicates Pushpavalli and the stable one indicates Anand. That is how MR thinks. That artistically.



The relation between Samara Suryam and Indhumathi is so matured and complicated. To justify it, Indhumathi’s introduction frame is enough. She will be seen only through the smoke from Samara Suryams’ POV. Smoke stipulates the unclear nature of the character. Or at least that is what is understood by me. And the complexity between them is further conveyed by Cinematography genius, Santosh Sivan. When Indhumathi asks him about her value in his life, there is a shot which shows Samara Suryam’s half face, which indicates that, Indhumathi is half of his life and that is what is told verbally in the next dialogue. The scene in which Samara Suryam recites a poem about Indhumathi and her importance in his life is captured so brilliantly that, that one scene is enough to convey the weight of their relationship. All these examples are just pointnot percent of the entire film. Dig deep. Find the treasure.









When Samara Suryam finally becomes the chief minister, he takes the oath and enters his office. Seems pretty simple right? But, it will not look so simple. After the oath, Samara Suryam enters his office only by stepping on chess-like floor. That poetically indicates his entry in to chess like politics which requires some careful moves. Through out the film, Santosh Sivan’s frames seems like a very rich Oil Paintings. Man, you’re a genius ‘Artist’.



All the important things in Iddaru are clearly shown. Problem is, we never saw them. For example, Samara Suryam and Indhumathi’s baby is introduced at 1hr 40 min. But, we see the baby only after 10 mins. Such is the intelligence. It’s like taking a lecture on nuclear science to a school going kid.

At 1hr 49mins, when Anand comes to Samara Suryam to ask for a ministry, Samara Suryam shoots some serious questions to Anand. He basically talks out the thoughts in Anand’s brain. Similar scene happens immediately. When Indhumathi asks Samara Suryam about why he rejected a ministry to Anand, Indhumathi talks out the thoughts of Samara Suryam. In both the scenes, the reactions of Anand and Samara Suryam are not shown and leaves the audience in ambiguity. This creates a huge impact on the viewer on a psychological level. The scene which comes at 1hr54min, alone is a lesson for so many film makers on how to creatively escape the controversial aspect of a story. That is understood only by seeing it.

In the end when Anand and Samara Suryam attends an event sits next to each other. Surprisingly, the visuals cut between the duo and the places where they talked so much philosophy and shared their differences in ideologies. I call that one scene as a Genius Touch by MR. To convey the death of Anand, he had put a watch in the foreground whose alarm rings on the death day of Anand, indirectly stating the finished time of Anand. As Anand’s character is introduced as an artist, it is ended as an artist though he served people as CM. And that is justified by people applying make up on a dead body (like seriously, who gets a thought of applying makeup to a dead body???) Similarly, Samara Suryam character is introduced as a poet and ended as a poet as he recites a poem on Anand. That brings so much completeness to the characters.







In Iddaru, everything that is shown on the screen has some serious business to do with the film. Every property has a voice. Every craft has a tone. Especially music by the one and only ARR. He talks throughout the film or rather lets his music speak throughout the film in the form of songs, sounds of background objects, sounds of nature and even through the sound of art. If MR is throwing a lot of visual metaphors on us, ARR soothingly throws a lot of them through music. NO WONDER THEIR COLLABORATION IS THE MOST CELEBRATED ONE.


Iddaru, as a film that is set between 1950’s and late 1980’s, is so convincing visually, mainly beacuse of the art work by Samir Chanda. But, the vision of Mani Ratnam is even more perfect that he saw the entire story set in 1950’s clearly. Sometimes, MR’s vision is so unbelievable that we doubt if the movie is actually shot at that time period. Everything is that perfect. Even the aspect ratio used to present the film is so thought out. The technical brilliance in this film is so much ahead in time that, film makers of this generation could not use certain techniques from Iddaru as they’re not sure if the audience are matured enough. Now, how could Mani Ratnam travel so much ahead in time to set up a film in past (1950’s) so convincingly? Well, I believe that he is the secret time traveler. And Iddaru is a solid proof for TIME TRAVELLING.



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