Mani Ratman


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Mani Ratman

Nayakan (1987) tells an epic of the slums, loosely reminiscent of The Godfather.

A child is playing on beach when he is suddenly captured and tortured by police officers who want to find his father's whereabouts. He nvoluntarily leads them to his father's hideout in the jundle. His father is killed and is body burned on the spot. The child stabs the police chief in the back and runs away. Other children rob him but then take him with them into the slums of the big city. He becomes friend with Selva. One day, as he has grown up, he leads the protest against the evacuation of the slums ordered by the police. The chief inspector beats him up. Later he helps an old man who makes his living as a small-time smuggler. Velu Naicker/ Nayakan takes his place on the boat and demands a much higher payment for the goods from the crooks. He gets the money he wants, but the crooks are in cahoots with the police inspector. He now has enough money to spend in a whorehouse. There he meets the good teenager Neela who needs money to pay for her school. He lets her study until she falls asleep.
The old man is arrested, tortured and hanged. It is Nayakan's fault: his greed cost the old man's his life. When he meets the inspector, he beats him to death. The police investigate the murder and even tortures a child to make the crowd talk, but nobody betrays Nayakan. As much as he hated the corrupt cop, he feels sorry for the family (the child is mentally retarded) and brings them money.
One day a developer begins construction of a factory that would entail destroying the buildings of the slum. Nayakan organizes a crowd that armed with sticks and stones destroys the developer's house until the rich man agrees to surrender the deed. Nayakan is greeted like a hero when he returns to the slums.
When he accidentally meets agan the prostitute Neela, he decides to marry her (surprising her).
They have two children and he becomes more and more influential in his neighborhood. He begins to deal with rival crime bosses. He proves to be capable of deeds that they thought impossible. One rival decides to have him and his entire family killed. Nayakan doesn't want his children to be influenced by the way he earns his living and wants them sent to study in the big city. Just then the gangsters attack and his wife gets killed.
To avenge his wife, Nayakan goes on a killing spree. Then he sends his children away to his sister.
Years later he has become the boss of all bosses, flanked by his trusted Selva. His daughter is a wild teenager full of life. One day she drives the car into the ocean, and he is not amused. His son seems ready to take on his father's role as the godfather. He meets again the son of the inspector who cannot find a job because he is mentally retarded and hire him. Even a police officer comes to ask for help when his daughter is raped and left unconscious: he would not get justice and he wants the boss to do justice on his behalf. Nayakan's daughter witnesses one of the murders and, not knowing the cntext, is furious to his father. She would like him to abide by the alw. He explains his philosophy of life, which is all about survival in a hostile world, whereas she was educated in a city and believes in peaceful lawful life. He hits her; and she doesn't want to see him again.
The police officer comes to thank him and also to give him some important information: one of his men has decided to testify against him in court. His son wants to take care of the turncoat. The witness is quickly eliminated but the son is about to be arrested and, panicking, he crashes the car into a gasoline pump and dies in the fire. His daughter tells him that he killed both her mother and her brother. And she leaves him for good. Now he's alone again, except for his old friend Selva.
A new chief of police cracks down on crime, and in particular on Nayakan's operations. Selva is arrested. Nayakan is furious. He wants revenge, but in the officer's apartment discovers his own daughter: she married the unfledging chief. Her husband believes that she is an orphan. And she already has a child. Nayakan would like to see his grandson but she begs him to leave the baby alone: she is scared that he might have a bad influence on him. She doesn't even want her child to know that Nayakan ever existed.
One day her husband tells Neela that he has fnally got the arrest warrant against the crime boss (he doesn't know that the crime boss is his father in law). The police chief does not come through as much more honest than the old man he is attacking. The people are still on Nayakan's side and save him from the arrest. A woman even sets fire to herself to stop the chief. And not one of the men arrested and tortured turns against him.
Later the chief learns from his superior that his wife is the daughter of Nayakan.
Tired of all the dying, Nayakan calls his daughter: he has decided to surrender. Just then her husband walks in and overhears her. At first he thinks that she is betraying him but then she tells him that her father is surrendering. The following day, which his his wife's anniversary, he meets at the river where he just prayed.
THe arrest sparks riots. Nobody is willing to testify against Nayakan. Everybody loved him. Even the widow of the old chief refuses to testify aganst the man who killed her husband but also gave his mentally-retarded son a life. Her son, though, is shocked to learn that Nayakan killed his father. The chief is honestly moved by the respect that Nayakan commands on the street. He asks the old man to calm the crowds in case of a guilty verdict in order to avoid more deaths. In court his daughter brings her son: she finally lets him see his grandson. When the child asks him whether he is good r bad, he asnwers "I don't know".
Thousands of people await the verdict outside the court. The verdict is not guilty for lack of evidence. The crowd celebrates the release of their idol. However, the mentally retarded one has decided to avenge his father: wearing his father's old uniform, he shoots Nayakan as he leaves the courthouse. Nayakan falls in front of his daughter.
The first part is a superficial survey of cliches of life in the slums. The second part is a poor man's paraphrase of the Godfather (the protagonist even imitates Marlon Brando). The songs and dances do not help. The third part is the best, although a bit Hollywood-pathetic.

A quintessential Bollywood melodrama, Mani Ratman's A Peck on the Cheek (2002) is many films in one: a soap opera, for sure, replete with tearful scenes, but also a war movie, blessed with some of the most ferocious but also humane battle scenes in the genre, and a musical comedy, as mandatory in Bollywood.

risking the life for the stubborn whim of a girl Two young Tamils are wed in an arranged marriage. She, Shyama, is shy and happy. He is obsessed by images of war (the civil war in Sri Lanka). The early days of their marriage are happy, but one day, as they are playing in a river, soldiers come by. The man decides to join the resistance. A few months later, Shyama, pregnant, is forced to board boats and move to a refugee camp in India. In the camp she gives birth to a girl.
The action moves to Madras, a big city, nine years later. A happy and lively girl, Amudha, describes her upper-class family (a video-like musical collage): her father, a famous writer, her mother, Indra, a tv personality, her two brothers. This is her ninth birthday and her parents have decided to tell her that she was adopted. The news causes great grief in the girl. A few days later, she disappears from school and is eventually found by the police at a railway station. Her mother is hurt but the reunion is moving.
A flashback shows how it all started. He, Thiru, still a young unmarried man, found Amudha, abandoned by her biological mother, at the refugee camp, and asked to adopt her, but they would not let him. Indra, the daughter of a neighbor, was engaged to a rich man, but was in love with Thiru and had read his story about the baby refugee. Thiru proposed to her and she accepted. So Thiru claims that they did not adopt Amudha: she adopted them. The very reason that they got married is her.
Amudha is still upset, though. She is a determined girl, and wants to meet her mother. She takes a bus to travel to the refugee camp. Her parents catch up with her and promise that they will help her find her biological mother. (This is virtually the beginning of a new movie, as now the family begins a dangerous quest for the mysterious woman).
They arrive in Sri Lanka during the civil war. There are soldiers everywhere. While her father is giving a speech, Amudha walks to a park and chats with a stranger in a wheelchair. Her mother, worried that she may have eloped again, finds her and brings her back in. The girl wants to run back to return a book to the stranger but sees the stranger get up from the wheelchair, jump on a military vehicle and blow himself up: he was a suicide bomber. The girl is slightly wounded, but mostly under shock.
The family continues its odyssey through the devastated nation. They reach a village where a Shyama lives. The army is evacuating the villagers. The family finds Shyama in the crowd of poor villagers lining up along the military convoy: it is another Shyama, who has lost all her children in the war. The bombs start falling and they narrowly escape death, thanks to the help of their friend Vikran who rescues them.
Following a new clue, Vikran takes them to another village. There are soldiers everywhere. The village is mainly reduced to ruins. Amudha has a close encounters with guerrilla children, but is unharmed. Her father is almost killed when he is surrounded by fighters. Vikran manages to explain that he is merely seeking the mother of Amudha and the guerrilla chief promises to deliver the message to Shyama.
Shyama helps out at the rebel camp in the jungle. She proudly tells the chief that she doesn't have one child, she has hundreds.
A convoy of soldiers is entering the town while the family waits for the appointment with Shyama. The soldiers open fire on a building and massive fighting erupts. Indra is wounded, the family, again, narrowly escapes the massacre. Amudha sees soldiers and rebels fly in the air. Now she feels bad that her mother has been wounded because of her capricious mood and asks to leave. The family gets in the car to leave, but Indra asks the driver to stop at the park. Her female instinct is right: Shyama has just arrived. Biological mother and daughter are finally face to face. They all sit down and Amudha starts asking questions. Amudha offers her diary and photo album to her biological mother. The woman hesitates, then hugs her child. Amudha tries to convince her to fly with them to Madras and leave the war, but Shyama resists the temptation.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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