Mani Ratnam, a leading movie maker of India, consistently chooses realistic contemporary themes and complex plots for his movies in an industry often accused of making commercial, fairy-tale formula movies also called Masala Movies. His movies are generally in Tamil, but he has also made films in other languages like Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. Known for his astute sense of camera, Mani Ratnam, works out a perfect recipe for all kinds of audience in India. Of late, his movies have come to be acknowledged abroad too.

His rich repertoire include

  • Nayagan (The Leadman/The Hero) - The story of a Mumbai underworld don. Loosely based on the story of Varadaraja Mudaliar, a don who operated in Mumbai in the 1960's. Said to be heavily inspired by The Godfather.

  • Mouna Raagam (The Silent Melody) - The story of a girl tormented between the memories of her dead lover and the love of her new husband.

  • Iruvar (The Twosome) - the story revolves around two close friends, who later become arch rivals in politics. The characters have striking resemblences to Tamil Nadu's Chief Ministers MG Ramachandran and Karunanidhi.

  • Anjali (Anjali (name of the child) literally means dedication)- a story of a little dying autistic child and the emotional trauma of her family.

  • Thalapathi (The commander) - A commercial movie made with Rajni Kanth in the lead-role. A story of friendship triumphing over filial ties.

  • Geethanjali(Musical tribute/The name of Rabindranath Tagore's work) - Depicts how love becomes a bondage to ruin the joy of living when restricted to physical level.

  • Roja (Roja (name of the lead female character) literally means Rose) - Set amidst the Kashmiri separatist backdrop, a South Indian wife fights to get back her kidnapped husband.

  • Bombay - A story of a Hindu-Muslim couple surviving the horrors of the 1992 communal riots in Mumbai in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. It generated a political controversy with the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena objecting to certain scenes in the film and derogatory portrayal of its leader Bal Thackeray.

  • Dil Se (From the heart) - Love blossoms between an All India Radio correspondent and a female militant separatist, in the violence-ridden North-East India. It ran to packed houses in United Kingdom and made it to the UK Top 10.

  • Alaipayuthe (Oh, the waves lash!/ Starting lines of a famous Carnatic lyric)- Explores the tensions of married life and the maturing of love.

  • Kannathil Muthamittal (When pecked on the cheek/A phrase from a famous Bharathiyar lyric) - A child of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage gets separated from her mother engaged in separatist struggle and is adopted by an Indian couple. She expresses her desire to meet her biological mother, when she is told the truth and this leads the family to war-ravaged Sri Lanka.

His characteristic stereotypes include music by AR Rahman and earlier Ilayaraja, a strong story line, sharp dialogue, camera play with a penchant for the dark and streaks of light and rain.

See also: Indian film