One of the all-time legendary filmmakers, Maniratnam has made more than 25 films in his highly successful career spanning over three decades.
Known for exquisite visuals and hard-hitting storylines, he has over time become a pioneer in filmmaking that even the best of the current filmmakers look up to. But his career has not been all beds and roses as he has faced failures quite a few times.
But that said, even the most average of his films is known to have some sort of artistic merit to them. Here is a list of 13 Average-to-good-to-Best Maniratnam films that we have had the pleasure of viewing either in the theatres or on the DVDs.
List of Best Maniratnam Movies of All Time
While Raavan remains one of Maniratnam’s most polarizing films ever, there is a cult fan-base out there that believes that it is his most underrated film ever. Rightly so, the way Maniratnam portrayed the myth of Ramayana in a contemporary setting was commendable. On the top of that, the treatment was par excellence, along with the music and exquisite visuals. Abhishek Bachchan/Vikram played their roles with grace and so did Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. All said, Raavan is considered to be one of Maniratnam’s weakest films that bombed on both critical and commercial scale, But its Tamil Version is much better than the Hindi version.
After the colossal box office debacle of Raavan, Maniratnam also faced quite a lot of flak for Kadal, which was a Tamil language romantic drama film starring Arjun and Arvind Swamy. The slightly unconventional plot of the film was intriguing and hence, the film attracted a lot of audiences when it was released in 2013. But the poor word of mouth had the film not attaining the desired box office success. Telling the story of an anti-hero, who is out on a revenge streak to take out the people who blew the whistles on him, the film was appreciated for its music and visuals.
When it comes to his Hindi language films, Maniratnam has managed to collaborate with more or less the same team- Abhishek Bachchan and A.R. Rahman repeatedly. Guru was a hardcore film following the semi-fictional account of the life of the great Indian industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani. Abhishek Bachchan disappeared into the role of Gurukant Desai with ease and Aishwarya Rai and Mithun perfectly complimented him. The film turned out to be a major critical and commercial success and Abhishek Bachchan finally received the appreciation he deserved for being a top-notch actor.
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Thiruda Thiruda (1994)
Maniratnam brought coolness quotient in the otherwise bland 90s, when Indian cinema was at its very lowest. Thiruda Thiruda came as a breeze of fresh air and dominated the south Indian movie halls. The story followed an honest police officer who is trying to track down the culprits behind a major loot. The search leads him to meet several interesting characters that take the story forward and we reach a satisfying climax. Oozing with dark humour and thrill, Thiruda Thiruda remains one of Maniratnam’s most psychedelic outings.
OK Kanmani (2015)
Before Bollywood ruined this South Indian classic with a very mediocre OK Janu, OK Kanmani had already become of the biggest hits of auteur’s career. Starring Malayalam superstar Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menon in the leading roles, the film explored the meaning of love and togetherness in the contemporary times. The contrast of a young couple was met with an elderly couple and the story moves ahead with ample of heartwarming sequences. This is one of the very few romantic comedies that Maniratnam made in his lifetime and quickly became a cult classic.
Dil Se.. (1998)
Dil Se.. established Shah Rukh Khan as a highly talented actor and the music by AR Rahman turned this film into an all-time classic. Based on the controversial themes of terrorism, nationalism, and sacrifices, the film was a major box office and critical hit when it came out. SRK played the role of a radio executive who falls in love with a mysterious woman, played by Manisha Koirala and as the story unfolds, the audience sits in awe at the sheer mastery on display in terms of cinematography, sound design, and performances.
Set amidst the political humdrum of Tamil Nadu in the 90s, Maniratnam piloted this passion project based on the real-life rivalry of two heavyweight politicians Karunanidhi and M.G. Ramachandran. Both Prakash Raj and Mohanlal fitted in their respective characters to the T and the film turned out to be an international hit. Iruvar is widely recognized internationally to be one of the best Indian films to come out of the past few decades and has immortalized itself in a grand way. With Iruvar, Maniratnam proved why he was the most visionary filmmaker to come out of the country in the 90s.
One of the very early successes of R. Madhavan, Alaipayuthey is the original Tamil version of the acclaimed Hindi film Saathiya. Known as one of the greatest music albums of all times, the music was composed by Mani’s frequent collaborator A.R. Rahman. The film took a slightly different turn than the average coming of age romantic drama films and told a realistic story about a young married couple and the troubles they face in their married life. The film was noted for his hyper-realism and hard-hitting dialogues that perfectly mirrored the modern Indian culture.
Mouna Ragam (1986)
Mouna Ragam is one of the earliest films by Maniratnam, which truly established Maniratnam’s signature style of unique lighting and incorporating songs that took the story forward. The film told the story of a woman who gets married to another man while still recovering from the death of her former lover. She finds it very hard to maintain the balance between her past and the present. This conflict forms the basic premise of the film which was a major critical and commercial success. Tamil superstar Mohan Rao played the role of the husband with ease, while Revathi acted as the female lead and graced the screen with her impeccable presence.
Bombay told the heartbreaking tale of a Hindu-Muslim couple who fall in love in their small village and arrive in Mumbai for a better life. However, things don’t go as smoothly as they should have and the religious tensions threaten to break the family apart. The collaboration between Rahman and Maniratnam worked wonders in favor of the film and it became a sleeper hit. Boasting of a cast that was unknown in regards with most Hindi speaking audiences, the film turned out to be a major commercial and critical hit, one of the best Movies based on Hindu Muslim Riots.
This Rajnikanth starrer film further established Maniratnam as a highly skilled filmmaker during the early few years of his career. Maniratnam has incorporated mythological themes in many of his films and Thalapathi happens to be one of the very early examples of this fascination. The story of the film revolved around Rajnikanth and Mamooty’s friendship, which somehow resembles the friendship between Karan and Duryodhana in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharat. The film was known for its sleek pace and highly stylized cinematography and last but not the least, the soulful music by Ilaiyaraaja.
Roja was the first installment in the trilogy that followed films like Bombay and Dil Se.. Set amidst the lush valleys of Kashmir, the film featured a love story that was directly affected by the tense socio-political climate in the northern state of India. The story begins with a woman from a small village who marries a big city man and moves to Kashmir with him. Everything is beautiful in their lives before the tragedy strikes. Her husband gets kidnapped by a group of militants, following which, her life falls apart. The film left a major impact on the audiences and remains one of the best cult classic Indian films of all times.
When Kamal Haasan was slowly rising up to become a superstar, Nayakan fell into his laps. His performance became widely celebrated and it can be hailed as his true foray into the mainstream stardom. The film followed a common man as he fights against a corrupt police officer. And just like it happens, he slowly finds himself moving towards the wrong side of the law. The film’s plot gave way to several other filmmakers who came ahead with the similar storyline. So in a way, it can be said that Nayakan was a trendsetter in its own right. It was later remade in Hindi as Dayavan by Firoz Khan starring Vinod Khanna in lead role.
These are our favorites and List of Best Maniratnam Movies from Bottom to top, you can create or rank Maniratnam films in the comment section with your priorities.