Tuesday, March 6, 2007

scenes from Aayitha Ezhuthu

all about yuva

Three men.
Three different lives.

A chance meeting on Kolkata's famed Hoogly bridge.

And three lives will never be the same again.


It is easily one of 2004's most eagerly awaited films.
After all, how often does Mani Ratnam come knocking on Bollywood's door? And, this time, he's put together a package that includes Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji and Esha Deol.

Catch the interviews with the stars. Get the low-down on the behind-the-scenes action. Hear the crew's views.

rediff.com presents the curtain-raiser to Mani Ratnam's Yuva, which released on May 21.


Mani Ratnam

Vivek Oberoi


Sreekar Prasad

Ajay Devgan

Esha Deol


Abhishek Bachchan I

Abhishek Bachchan I I

Kareena Kapoor

Sabu Cyril

Ravi K Chandran

Anurag Kashyap

I had two nightmares!

The Rediff Interview/Mani Ratnam

I had two nightmares!

May 20, 2004

He had two nightmares, confesses Mani Ratnam, arguably one of India's finest directors. The task of shooting a bilingual simultaneously in two languages, with two sets of star casts cannot have been easy.

Yet, Ratnam seems to have come out none the worse. Like all his movies, under the aegis of his production company Madras Talkies do, Aayitha Ezhuthu (Tamil)/ Yuva (Hindi) have been the subject of much speculation and hype -- as all of Mani Ratnam's films are.

But as Siddharth, one of the leads in the Tamil version says, "We at Madras Talkies believe in keeping our traps shut." And so shut they shall be, about the plotline of this latest offering of Ratnam.

In an extended telephonic interview with Managing Editor Saisuresh Sivaswamy, Ratnam reveals exactly what we should know about the movie. No more. No less. Excerpts:

Be it Roja, Bombay, Dil Se/Uyire or Kannathil Muttamittal, your movies deal with contemporary issues. What issue does Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu deal with?

Yuva is contemporary in that it deals with three youngsters, their attitudes. How today's youth, from three different backgrounds, deal with a situation. The film is set against student politics. When you make a film, the bigger picture is to take the heart of the story and managing to convey it on screen. That is the challenge.

Directors normally find it a nightmare to juggle just one cast, and here you have gone made the same movie twice, in Hindi and Tamil. What was your experience?

I had two nightmares (laughs). I have not done this before, and the two movies were shot back to back, not simultaneously. I dealt with two different set of actors, and each brought its own changes. Filmmaking brings its own organic way of doing things, changes, it develops a character of its own.

Did you resort to this because in Dil Se/Uyire, the same cast speaking in two different languages did not gel with the audience, and that the north and south have their own sensibilities?

Dil Se was dubbed into Tamil as Uyire. Dubbing a movie brings its own set of compromises, and you end up losing some of the elasticity.

Abhishek Bachchan plays Madhavan's character in the Hindi version. There is a tremendous buzz about him even though box-office success has so far eluded him. What is your take on him?

I am very happy with Abhishek Bachchan. He has played a very interesting character, and the rest you will see for yourself.

Yuva is a youth film. Although your films are young, two of your previous films -- Thiruda Thiruda and Alai Paayudhey -- also had youth in the centre. Did your experiences with those two movies impact on how you shaped Yuva?

No impact. Once you identify the script and characters are formed, the whole thing just drags you in. There is no baggage. The most important thing is to be honest to this particular script, and not to start off with the intention of making a good film. It depends on the story, and the characters. Each dictates its own rhythm.

The project also earned its share of headlines, what with Vivek Oberoi's accident etc. How was the schedule affected?

That was a most unfortunate thing. Sometimes the most ridiculous things happen and Vivek's accident was one of those. Yes, it did push back the schedule by some three months, but then there is no other choice. It was particularly hard on Vivek.

Yuva is a multi-starrer, which is a sort of break from the past in that this is the first time you have worked with three protagonists.

That is because the script demands three different attitudes. Sometimes films work with just one character, sometimes with more. It all depends on the script, and is built in. I had not done it earlier because the scripts did not require that. There was no specific intention of doing a multi-starrer, it so happened that the story is about three youths. The story decides whether I use new faces or not.

You are also a tech savvy director who constantly pushes the boundaries. You have used sync sound in Yuva. What else is new?

When you do something new, you don't do it in order to do something new but because it is required by the story, because it improves your filmmaking. Sync sound is used now because the story demanded it. These things are done without realising that one is doing something new, because that is not the intention.

Do you have a favourite character among the three protagonists in Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu?

I hope not. I hope I have been able to do justice to all three. All three are important aspects to the film, so there is no choosing one over the other. When you see the movie you will be able identify with the characters, not necessarily with just one of them. You will feel at different times, in different circumstances, you are able to identify with all three. That way, each of us has a bit of the characters in us.

The burden of being Mani Ratnam, the pressure of consistently being among India's better directors. How do you handle it?

I ignore it. One knows where one stands, so there is no burden. The only burden is to make the film right, and constantly struggling to make it right. The pressure is enough to not only bring anyone down to earth but also take you a couple of feet under (chuckles).

You don't suffer from pre-release jitters?

The journey of filmmaking is so amazing. You start off with great confidence, and develop insecurity at the time of release. When you are ready with the finished product, you are constantly wondering if you have been honest to the story you started out with, if you got what you wanted. One is too close to the project by then to be objective. You never know if you have been true.

You have said Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu is a seed that has germinated with you for some time. How does your creative process work?

Sometimes it is quick and happens fast. Sometimes the seed remains with you for a while, as is invariably the case with me, been with me for two-three films. Unlike in the West where an idea goes into development, with different departments taking over different stages of its development, we work differently here. Sometimes you have not found the writers to develop the script, so it remains with you for a while. After some time it falls into place. Everybody works this way. It is important that you have people around you with the same passion for good films, and have the same flair. That is as important as the story itself.

Actors, and technicians will give their right hand to work with you. Since you can have anyone you want, how do you pick and choose for your movies?

When it comes to casting for movies, it is a priority that you cast right. The guiding principle must be what is right for the movie, that is the basis you cast someone, not because so and so is a friend. It helps to have a wide choice, it makes filmmaking easier. But the priority must be the film, and to be clear about it. Of course, the person you want may not be available, say, then you go for the next best choice.

About Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu you have said it is about how three different characters react to the same situation. Do you see a bit of yourself in any of or all the three characters? Is the movie then a vehicle for self-examination?

No, not self-examination. This is true for everybody. Everyone will identify with the characters at different times. About a bit of me in my films, every filmmaker puts a bit of himself in his movies, that's how it is done. Just as every actor puts a bit of himself into every character he plays. In this case it could well be about three different aspects in the same person. When you are in one person's shoes you see things differently, when you are in the other person's shoes you will see it differently yet.

You have also said the kernel is a real-life incident. Do you think you have remained true to the original incident or changed it anyway?

No, it is totally different. That incident I referred to was just the starting point. I have taken the spirit of the person, and this is in no way a real-life drama.

Your films have never used the female character as simply an adornment, rather they have very strongly delineated characters. Your promo material, however, focuses on the male characters?

Wait till you see the film (laughs). I don't use women characters for the sake of using them, this movie calls for very specifically designed characters. They have strong feelings and express them. They are not heroines, they are characters. They all have a mind of their own.

Your wife Suhasini is a talent in her own right, and is an integral part of your filmmaking process. What is her contribution to Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu?

She is a critic first. She is the bouncing board for this film. She brings in the objective view, and was involved at the script and the post-production stages. She has the long-distance perspective.

Be it in Roja, Sonu Walia in Dalapathy, Malaika Arora in Dil Se/Uyire, you have used what Bollywood calls 'item number' long before the term became fashionable. Is there one in Yuva?

The songs were not considered 'item numbers' at that point (chuckles). The point is, because I used Sonu Walia from Mumbai it became an item number. Had I used, say, Disco Shanti, it would not be considered an item number.

In Yuva the songs are more an integral part of the story. I had started off saying there will be no songs, and then changed my mind. But when you see the movie you will realise that nothing stands out as a song, but they flow with the story. The music too deals with three different people with three different styles, and is more in tune with the characters.

A R Rahman has said working with you is a two-way give and take. Music is a strong element of your movie-making, and it has a tremendous Tamil idiom. What is the extent of your involvement with Rahman's music?

I don't make, but merely choose, the music. I get to tell Rahman, sometimes push him to what I want, but finally it is up to him to deliver. Rahman is very very director friendly. He is ever ready to go whichever the director wants, the story wants, depending on the kind of movie or the music you want, and within that he finds his niche. It is a constantly complementary process. At the end of the day he is not pleasing you, he has to please himself.

Nayagan was the only movie you and Kamal Haasan, the two powerhouses from Tamil films, worked together. It has been a long time. Are movie buffs to be denied a chance to see you together?

I don't know. Kamal Haasan is a huge talent. We need to have something to offer like Nayagan, we need to cross that benchmark, or at least go up to it. We are not merely doing a project, that is very easy, but we need to something good. As of this moment we have not hit on anything.

From the Western perspective, Bollywood has become an all-encompassing term for Indian cinema. It does not justice to talent like you who are out of the Mumbai film industry, or to the Malayalam and Bengali industries. Does it irk you?

The name itself. Calling yourself after something that rhymes with Hollywood is, well, sad. Obviously they are doing it to identify Indian films, but that is a classification one can grow out of. As long as you are making the kind of films you are happy about, it is okay. One is not in competition with Hindi films.

Making films appealing to the NRI sensibility is the trend now, but Tamil films seem to stay out of it. Do you see yourself making an NRI film?

My focus is on the script, and the characters are rooted here. I don't think it is easy within the script to take them over there and bring them back. I have to be honest to the story I have. If the story is based over there, I will have no problems doing it, but not with this story.

Your films are rooted in the local idiom and have done well for that reason. Dil Se/Uyire was one movie that failed to connect at that level. With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, what could you have done differently?

I don't know. When you make a movie for a year-and-a-half, obviously you are convinced that it is right. Yes, the film didn't do commercially well. Yes, I made a mistake, but that doesn't mean the one-and-a-half years were a lie. It was intended to be right, but some elements didn't work. There could be a few faults, I was aware of them at that time, but despite it I thought we will be able to make the film work. It was confidence.

But, then, you get on.

Among all your movies, do you have a favourite, one that you can look at and say, 'yes, this was it'?

No. Probably the next one.

(Parts of this interview first appeared in India Abroad)

Vivek Oberoi: Acting the Mani Ratnam way!

Vivek Oberoi: Acting the Mani Ratnam way!

Vivek Oberoi | May 19, 2004 20:00 IST

Mani Ratnam is a genius."

"My role was challenging."

"All three actors from the Tamil version are good friends of mine."

"I hope Yuva will be memorable."

"Kareena is fun to work with."

The excitement in Vivek Oberoi's tone is hard to miss in his interview to India Abroad's Deputy Managing Editor Vaihayasi P Daniel. Excerpts:

Yuva has been a fascinating experience because of the master of cinema: Mani Ratnam.

He [Ratnam] is one of the best talents that India has ever produced. It has been a great experience working with him.

I have never performed a character like this [Arjun Balakrishnan] who does not have any direction. He represents the masses, the youth in India, which is indifferent to most political issues. They [the youth] are not politically conscious [or] awakened.

He [my character] is very self-serving and selfish. His whole drive is very individualistic. He does not think about what he can do for others, only what he can get for himself. He is not good. He is not bad. He is not polarised. He thinks he has got it all figured out. But the film reveals that there is a certain inherent goodness and nobility that comes out. How he polarises them. And, by the end of the film, how his stand on things, his perspective of things change.

It [playing the character] was challenging. It was different to do a film like Yuva. Because there are two ways to act — one way is the regular way to act and one is Mani Ratnam's way.

He is a genius. What is amazing is that he throws up a challenge all the time. You have practised something. You have been given a scene. You have worked it out for yourself. You have rehearsed it a number of times. You have worked on the lines. You have thought how you are going to deliver. You have thought how you are going to mechanically work out the entire scene in your head. Then you have gone there. You have done it. And he says, "Great, fabulous, I love it. It is damn good. But now that we have this, how about trying something completely different? Whatever you have done, leave it all aside. Try something different from everything that you have done."

You have put in everything you have got into that [scene]. Now, you have to try and find something that is totally different and apart from what you just did. It is challenging. It is interesting. It gives you a fresh perspective on everything.

What is amazing about him [Mani Ratnam] is that he plans so brilliantly and executes so perfectly. What is amazing is that he still leaves enough room for spontaneity.

As an actor, I love improvising. I love bringing stuff that was never in the script out. Try to add on stuff, you know? And to have a director who is so confident and assured enough to be able to decide what he wants to keep and what he doesn't. [He is not] somebody who is not insecure enough to say, "No, no, let's go by the book, let's go by the book, by the rules. This is exactly how it has to be done." He is not like that.

In spite of being so well planned and well organised, he leaves enough room for spontaneity.

He is a wonderful human being, a great guy. I had so much fun working with him. He has different moods. He is a lot of fun. He has a great sense of humour. In spite of being so much older than I am, he makes me feel like we are the same age. The way he behaves, the entire attitude, the way he interacts, it makes you feel that the generation gap does not exist. He just thinks, behaves and acts. He is so hip and cool.

Mani Sir had seen Company. He really liked that. He had seen Saathiya, which was written by Mani Ratnam. He also produced the film. He was very impressed with my work. He had been telling me that he wants to do something [a film] with me. I said, 'It will be an honour.' He called me and gave me the script. I think I was the first actor on that film [Yuva] to be confirmed. That was the best part. I was really honoured to know that the first person to be picked for a part was me.

I was really kicked about the idea. He called me and gave me the script. I read through it. I freaked out on the script. I told him all the roles are so brilliant that I would do anyone of them. Then he told me which one he wants me to do. I loved it. I went for it.

I have met Siddharth [who plays Oberoi's role in the Tamil version Aayitha Ezhuthu]. I met him before too. He is a really cool and fun guy. All the actors [Siddharth, Surya and Madhavan] from the Tamil version, all three of them, are very good friends of mine. Madhavan is a very good friend of mine. Surya is a very good friend of mine. Siddharth is a very good friend of mine. They are all very good friends.

The Hindi film was shot and completed first. And then they [the makers] commenced the Tamil shooting. We hung out together. Every time we [actors] were down in Chennai, we hung out with a lot of the Tamil actors, which was great fun. They would drop in on the sets. We would say hi and meet up.

I hope it [Yuva] will be memorable for reasons other than the accident.

I worked with Kareena [Kapoor] for the first time. She is fun to work with. She is a talented actress.

'Vivek and I have given our hearts to our roles'

'Vivek and I have given our hearts to our roles'

Siddhu Warrier | May 20, 2004 15:54 IST

Siddharth was the star of Boys, a fun, young movie that released in 2003.

He had assisted Mani Ratnam in Kannathil Mutthamittal and is one of the three stars of Aayitha Ezhuthu. Like the character he plays in Aayitha Ezhuthu, Siddharth also holds an MBA degree from a top business school in India.

He describes what it is to act under Mani Ratnam:

Working with Mani sir is fun. Period. I probably enjoyed assisting him more because it entailed more work, and hence, more interaction. Acting is far more gratifying, though, essentially because you get to be a bigger part of the finished product!

I played a boy in Boys. I play a young man in Aayitha Ezhuthu. I must say it took ages for me to see common ground between my reality and who I was in Boys. But I believe the main reason I was cast in Aayitha Ezhuthu was that I looked, talked and behaved like Arjun.

Working with Maddy [Madhavan] and Surya has been a great experience. I have known Maddy a while now, and we get along really well. He is hugely talented and it was fun watching him perform. He was like a protective big brother on the sets, always watching out for my safety. We had a blast.

As for Surya, he is one of those actors who makes you want to work harder to match his efforts.

The biggest thrill of this film is getting an opportunity to play along with these guys. It has also been an absolute pleasure working with Trisha [Krishnan]. I have another film coming up opposite her, so it is always a relief when you work well with a co-star.

I am not going to reveal what the plot of Aayitha Ezhuthu is. We at Madras Talkies pride ourselves on our ability to keep our traps shut.

But I can tell you what you need to know at this point. I play Arjun, a young educated man who has made airtight plans for his future. He couldn't be concerned with the interests and problems of the world. He strives for maximum joy with minimum effort. His goal in life is to look out for himself and himself alone. For more details on who this Arjun chap is, catch the film.

I think sync sound [in Aayitha Ezhuthu] worked more for me than against me. I am from the stage, so live is always better! However, I tend to speak very fast, especially in Tamil. That small impediment notwithstanding, I really enjoyed working on a movie with sync sound. Bob Taylor, our sound recordist, really helped me get into the swing of this technique.

I knew I was headed the film way even before I signed up for business school. I have dreamed of making films since childhood. It was not acting, but writing and directing that interested me. So I completed my education as a safety cushion, and headed south [he grew up in Delhi and Mumbai] to be an assistant director.

Three years have gone by. Now, I am an actor on the verge of a second release. I have no clue where I will take myself next. I am just taking things as they come.

I don't think Yuva and Aayitha Ezhuthu will turn out all that different. The theme of this movie is universal. The varied facets of today's youth manifest themselves in different ways in different places, depending on the individual. The facets remain the same. On a screenplay level, the films are identical, so the question of varied incorporation of nuances does not arise.

Making AE felt like living a dream. I was never in a frame of mind to pick and enjoy moments. The whole experience was a challenge, not to let down the faith that was shown in my abilities. Every moment of this challenge has been equally enjoyable, equally excruciating!

Although executed simultaneously, the locations and schedules of the two films were very different. The interactions were mostly informal. I am still intrigued by the prospect of watching both our performances back to back.

I gave all my heart to this role. Vivek [Oberoi, who plays his Hindi counterpart] has done the same. I hope we have both done justice to our characters.

Sreekar Prasad on editing a bilingual

Sreekar Prasad on editing a bilingual

Sreekar Prasad | May 20, 2004 16:13 IST

With six National Awards under his belt, editor Sreekar Prasad is inarguably one of the best in India.

His last National Award was for the Mani Ratnam's Kannanthil Muthamittal.

Prasad tells Shobha Warrier how he edited Mani Ratnam's new bilingual.

Mani Ratnam's film is about three different characters belonging to different strata of society. We chose different editing styles for each character. The character played by Madhavan [essayed by Abhishek Bachchan in Yuva] is erratic and unpredictable. So I used lots of cuts to make him look as unpredictable as possible. That way, we could give more energy to his personality.

On the other hand, the character played by Surya [Ajay Devgan in Yuva] is more of an idealist. He is little more steady- paced compared to Madhavan. I didn't go for many edits or cuts. Whatever cuts I had for him were not fast.

The third character played by Siddharth [Vivek Oberoi in Yuva] is totally different from the other two. He is young and wants to enjoy his life. He is very modern too. We have lots of fast motion for him. What you may call 'ramping', which is actually controlling the motion of the shot.

Normally, shooting is done at 24 frames [per second]. Wherever we wanted to push the narration, we went for a higher speed for this character. In the song sequences, we pushed it ten times faster. I have tried to bring this sort of speed in editing too. Of course, when all three are there in a frame, we could not stick to one type of editing.

The editing pattern is the same for both languages. They shot one language first, then the other. Sometimes, it would be Tamil first. Sometimes, Hindi.

When I edited the first version, I had an idea of what the second version would be like. While shooting the next language, they [makers] didn't redo it. They always improvised on it. Both versions are quite similar because the story is the same. The editing pattern was more or less the same for both the languages [Hindi and Tamil].

I have worked with Mani Ratnam in his last two films, Alai Payuthey and Kannanthil Muthamittal.

As a director, he [Ratnam] gives you a lot of freedom to create an edit pattern. He gave me some wonderful material to work on. It was great fun to get the desired effect. To a great extent, we have achieved a good edit pattern for this film.

Alai Payuthey was a love story. It only had a couple of characters. Kannathil Muthamittal was about a girl in search of her mother.

In this film [Aayitha Ezhuthu and Yuva], there were more characters and three protagonists. So, it was definitely much wider in scale. There was more variety and scope for me to work.

I particularly enjoyed editing the sequence for the song Dhol, picturised on Madhavan. It is [a] rap [number]. The director was trying to tell a story through the song. It had to have the energy of a song and convey the story. It was a challenge editing it [Dhol

Ajay Devgan: I love my role in Yuva

Ajay Devgan: I love my role in Yuva

In Yuva, Ajay Devgan plays Michael Mukherjee, a serious character with a serious goal. Like the tagline of his character goes: the cause for him is everything -- even if it means death.

Going by his past roles, projecting the nature of Michael's character must have been comfortable for the intense-eyed Devgan.

The actor tells Subhash K Jha what the most interesting aspect of playing a intellectual rebel in Mani Ratnam's Yuva was:

"Yuva is the story of three young people -- me, Abhishek and Vivek, and how our lives are influenced by each other.

"[The experience of] shooting for a Mani Ratnam film is excellent.

"He is so clear in his head about what he wants. He is a rare and perfect balance of a technician and storyteller.

"He is really hyper on the sets [laughs]. His zest for work can't be matched by any of us actors.

"He gets up at 4 in the morning and works till 2 at night. He goes around almost sleepless.

"Apart from the mishap on location [when Vivek Oberoi injured his leg], it's [making Yuva] been a great experience. In that shot, Abhishek Bachchan was supposed to chase Vivek on the road. A motorbike was to come towards him [Oberoi] from the opposite direction. But the bike skidded [and injured Oberoi]. It was totally unfortunate.

"I play a very strong, energetic character. He thinks he can bring about change in our society. He thinks he can get rid of the rubbish in our political system.

"I am an intellectual rebel in the film. I love my role."

'I am today's woman -- very independent, very bindaas'

The Rediff Interview/Esha Deol

'I am today's woman -- very independent, very bindaas'

Syed Firdaus Ashraf | May 19, 2004

Esha Deol is the only star from Yuva who is also acting in the film's Tamil version, Aayutha Ezhuthu.

It began with a phone call from director Mani Ratnam's actor-filmmaker wife, Suhasini, who insisted on speaking with her in Tamil. Esha answered her in the same language.

Then, she asked Suhasini about the choice of language. And was more than surprised when she replied, "I wanted to offer you a role in Tamil and wanted to see how well you know the language."

Esha laughs now as she shares the memory with Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

"But I was really taken aback when he asked me to do Yuva as well," says the thrilled actor.


What was your first reaction when Mani Ratnam called you?

Actually, his wife [actor-director Suhasini] called me. She wanted to know whether I could speak in Tamil. I said yes. We chatted in Tamil for a bit.

She then told me the reason: she wanted to check my Tamil because Mani Ratnam wanted to sign me for the Tamil version of Yuva.

I was very happy; I promptly called my mom [actor-politician Hema Malini] to tell her what had happened.

Can you describe your role in Yuva?

I am playing a girl who returns to Kolkata after studying in New Delhi. I am today's woman, very independent.

My character's name is Radhika. One of her oldest friends is the boy-next-door, played by Ajay [Devgan]. I have been in love with him since my childhood. He is the guy I want to marry.

It is a very bindaas role.

What was acting in this film like?

It was a great experience because I worked with Ajay and Mani Ratnam together.

It makes a big difference when you work with an experienced star like Ajay.

And Mani Ratnam is like God for me. I have always been a fan of his. I have seen all his films. Doing this role is a dream come true.

I am happy I had the opportunity to do the Tamil [Aayutha Ezhuthu] as well as the Hindi version, Yuva.

Mani Ratnam pampers you and also brings out the best in you. You will only understand this if you work with him. That is why actors give such a natural performance in all his films.

You are the only actor doing the film's Hindi and Tamil versions.

I started working in the Tamil version first. We shot in Chennai for a month. At that time, someone else [south Indian actress Simran] was doing the Hindi version. One fine day, Mani Ratnam asked me whether I wanted to do the role in Hindi as well. I was so happy, I could not ask for anything more.

What's the difference in the two roles?

It is the same role. In Tamil, I am cast opposite Surya instead of Ajay. The only difference is the language (laughs).

Was there any difference in Tamil and Hindi film set up? Was one better than the other?

I am a south Indian. I have a house in Chennai. I have lots of friends there.

Shooting for the Tamil version was just as good as shooting the Hindi one. I became great friends with Trisha and Siddarth, the other actors in Aayutha Ezhuthu.

In Hindi, Abhishek is a good friend. So it was great to be in both films.

Wasn't it boring to shoot the same role twice?

Not at all. I would have loved to do the Telugu and Marathi versions with him [Mani Ratnam] as well.

What kind of interaction did you have with the film's technical team?

While filming Yuva, all of us -- the people behind the camera, Mani Ratnam and me -- would speak in Tamil and all the other actors on the sets would feel out of place (smiles).

What was working with Mani Ratnam like? You must have had to concentrate harder because you were working in two films simultaneously.

Actually, I finished shooting for Aayutha Ezhuthu before I began Yuva.

It was like doing two different films.

In Aayutha Ezhuthu, I had to speak Iyer Tamil; at home we speak Iyengar Tamil which is slightly different. So I had to work on certain pronunciations.

Mani Ratnam's assistant, Mr Kannan, would sit with me for hours and explain the nuances of the language. A lot of hard work went into the Tamil version.

What is the difference between working with Mani Ratnam and working with other Bollywood directors?

I think it is the timing. He used to get up at 5 am. He is very disciplined compared to our Bollywood culture which is not very disciplined in terms of timing.

Besides, he has a fabulous cameraman [see Ravi K Chandran's take on Yuva]. I did most of my scenes without make up and look at the way he made me look.

It [working with Ratnam] is a dream come true for all of us.

Yuva is the story of three male characters who meet on Kolkata's Howrah Bridge. Their lives change from that point. Does that leave you with much of a role?

I am Ajay's girlfriend. He is into politics. I am his moral support and this is shown in the script. I have a montage song, Badal, and the title song, Yuva, which has been nicely shot.

Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor are the other actresses in the film. Do you interact with them?

I only interact with Ajay, Ajay's mom and his sister. The only other actor I see in the film is Abhishek, but I don't interact with him either.

In real life, he is a family friend. I have known him for long time. So it was very comforting for me to see him and we were happy in each other's company.

What does your dad [Dharmendra, actor-filmmaker and MP from Bikaner] think of you in the promos of Yuva?

When I showed him the booklet, he told me I look like a doll. I think only my father can say that to me at this age.

What will you be doing on May 21, the day Yuva is released?

I will be flying to Singapore for the IIFA awards if I can complete my shoot, which is happening in Goa right now. But I will nervous on that day, even though I am generally a very happy-go-lucky person. Every artiste feels that way. I hope the films do well. A lot of people are expecting a lot from me in these films.

Are you open to doing Tamil films now?

(Laughs) Right now I am concentrating in Hindi films only. But if Mani Ratnam approaches me again for a Tamil film, I will do it.

Why Surya wants to watch Ajay Devgan in Yuva

Why Surya wants to watch Ajay Devgan in Yuva

Surya | May 19, 2004 17:40 IST

Surya, one of Tamil cinema's most successful stars, delivered two blockbusters in 2003: as a tough cop in Kaakha Kaakha, and as an illiterate villager in Pithamaghan.

In Mani Ratnam's Aayitha Ezhuthu (Yuva in Hindi), Surya essays the part of a young idealist.

It was a 'dream come true' role for the actor, he tells Siddhu Warrier:

I owe my career to Mani Sir. He was my first producer [in Neeruku Ner]. He gave me the opportunity to act.

It was a dream come true for me to work with him [Ratnam].

Mani Sir thinks in English. Then he translates his dialogues into Tamil. His dialogues are thus much shorter and crisper.

He is totally different from other directors in the way he thinks about a scene. The way he explains things to the artist. The way the scene is made. The way the artist enters the frame. The way the scene ends. He always gives an actor the freedom to do what he feels is most convincing.

He never pressured me to act in a particular way.

I am very different from the character I play in Aayitha Ezhuthu. I have a lot of friends, but I am not really talkative.

In this film, my character is based on a real person in Andhra Pradesh. I read a lot of books and collected a lot of information before the shoot.

Usually, my performances are realistic and I try to avoid overacting or playing hyper. Mani Sir told me to underplay [my performance] even further. He felt that playing it [my character] mild would have a greater impact. It rings true [to me].

The film is a visual treat, thanks to [cinematographer] Ravi K Chandran. He is the most brilliant cameraman I have seen. This film will definitely stand out among all the other Tamil films being released.

I had almost finished shooting for Aayitha Ezhuthu and had began shooting for Per Azhagan. That's why I was unable to go on the sets of Yuva.

I did meet Vivek Oberoi and Abhishek Bachchan, though I couldn't meet Ajay Devgan, who plays my role in Yuva. I am eager to see how he [Devgan] has acted and reacted to different situations.

Aayitha Ezhuthu used sync sound. Though pronunciation was never a problem for me because my mother tongue is Tamil, I had to ensure that the stress and modulation were perfect. I also had to speak a little louder, which was a little tough.

I have known Madhavan [one of the male leads in Aayitha Ezhuthu] for a long time, even before he started acting. He had accompanied me to the theatre for my first release. We have been friends ever since.

Siddharth [the other male lead of Aayitha Ezhuthu] was already part of Mani Sir's unit. He assisted him on Kannathil Mutthamital. The atmosphere on the sets was fun. We were all friends.

But the youngest at heart on the sets was Mani Sir.

Abhishek Bachchan: It is a great honour to be in Yuva

The Rediff Interview/Abhishek Bachchan

Abhishek Bachchan: It is a great honour to be in Yuva

Syed Firdaus Ashraf | May 17, 2004

There is an interesting story behind how Abhishek Bachchan bagged Yuva.
Apparently Bachchan Jr does not answer phone calls from unidentified numbers. So when Mani Ratnam called him up, he didn't take the call. Thank God for Bachchan's friend and Ratnam's former assistant Shaad Ali (Saathiya), who intervened and got the two talking.

That's how Bachchan landed a plum role in Yuva.

The 28 year-old's rustic and intense look as Lallan Singh, as seen in the promos of this much-awaited film, has come in for much appreciation.

Will Yuva be that elusive hit he has been waiting? The actor doesn't know. What he does know is this: try and try until you get it right.

In a candid interview to rediff.com, Abhishek Bachchan tells Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf why it is an honour to work with Mani Ratnam and about Yuva.

In Part II of the interview, which we will carry tomorrow, he talks of that elusive bird, success. Don't forget to log in.

Was Yuva made in Tamil and Hindi simultaneously? Were you involved in any aspect of the Tamil film?

The Hindi and Tamil versions of Yuva are separate. The only common things between the two are Esha Deol and the technicians. Both the films were shot separately and have a different star cast. They were not shot simultaneously. Yuva went on the floors first and then Tamil version too went on. But we never shot together.

What was working with someone as reputed as Mani Ratnam like?

Nothing short of GREAT! Mani, as we all know, is a highly acclaimed and respected director. It was definitely my dream to work with him. I am happy I worked with him early in my career. He is just brilliant. I do not have enough words to explain the experience of working with someone like Mani. It is a great honour to be in his film. Apart from what he does in films, he is also a great guy.

How did you bag a role in Yuva?

Mani was calling me and I didn't pick up the phone. I don't take a call unless I recognise the number that flashes on my screen as people uselessly call and disturb me.

Then Shaad [Ali], a dear friend of mine and his [former] assistant, called me. He told me Mani Sir wanted to get in touch with me. I asked why. He said Mani Sir wanted to meet me as he was in Mumbai. I said okay. When we met, Mani narrated the story of Yuva. He then asked me whether I would like to work with him. I thought that was bit weird [laughs]. I agreed immediately. That is how it happened.

What is Yuva's basic plot?

It is a story of three individuals -- Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi and my character. They live separate, independent lives. Until one incident brings them together.

From then on, destiny takes them in a different direction.

I cannot classify Yuva as an 'action film', a 'romantic film' or a 'dramatic film'. The only thing I am sure about is: it is a 'Mani Ratnam film'. He was behind the camera. So, obviously, it will be a good film. I hope Yuva turns out to be a good film for audiences too.

Tell us about your character in Yuva.

I play Lallan Singh who belongs to the streets of Kolkata. He has to fend for himself from a very young age. He has no parents, only an elder brother. Having grown up on the streets, he has developed certain traits. If he needs something, he does not ask for it. He goes and grabs it.

His main concern is his own survival. He does not bother what people say about him. He is a rugged character.

He is a very passionate person, regardless of what he is doing. If he loves you, he loves you to death. If he hates you, he can probably kill you. He is a very interesting and complex kind of person. It was enjoyable to portray this character.

Coming from well-to-do family background, how difficult was is for you, as an actor, to play a street guy without seeing the harsh reality of street life?

We are actors. Our job is to act. At the end of the day we have to remember we are acting.

I try to bring in as much realism as possible. I do that by becoming observant. I sit with the director and understand my character and what I need to bring out in that character.

If I come from a privileged family, it does not mean I cannot understand that character. Besides, Mani was very clear about Lallan Singh. It was not tough at all because he knew what he wanted from me in this film.

A R Rahman's music for Yuva is a hit. Which is your favourite number?

I like all the songs. Two songs have been picturised on me.

Mani and Mr Rahman have come up with a new sound and style.

All the songs are my favourites. It is very difficult to choose one among them. It is an enjoyable album.

How different is Mani Ratnam's style of working in comparison with that of Bollywood directors?

A director is a director.

Like every actor, each director has his own unique way of working. They have unique approaches to their art and craft. Mani is no different. Like other directors, he has his own style.

Every time you sign with a new director, you have to adjust and find a rapport with them. It is just that it takes time a rapport to form between an actor and a director when they work with each other for the first time.

There is no difference between a director from the south and a director from the north. We all are making a film.

This is an entertainment industry. We all want to make good films.

Any particular shot in Yuva that satisfied you immensely?

The whole film was creatively very satisfying. There is no particular day that I can remember [as being better than the others]. The entire making [of Yuva] is memorable for me.

Generally, Hindi films aren't shot at Kolkata. How come Yuva is set there?

I don't know! I guess, visually and cinematically, Kolkata suited the background for the film.

What was working with Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor and Esha Deol like?

It is wonderful to work with so many cast members. They are all my good friends.

In this film, I only had the opportunity to work [shoot scenes] with Vivek, Ajay and Rani.

I have worked with Rani in my earlier films. She is a good friend. Ajay is like an elder brother. This is the first time I am working with Vivek. He is a great actor.

It was one big team. It becomes like a family when you shoot a film outdoors. I only hope this reflects on the screen.

There was a great sense of camaraderie on the sets. If you have people like Ajay and Vivek on the sets, it will be fun. We kept fooling around.

But it was tragic when Vivek got hurt. We were supposed to finish the film in that schedule. We all were concerned about him.

Log in tomorrow to find out why success is still eluding Abhishek Bachchan. What are his plans for the future?

'Hits and flops are not in my hand'

The Rediff Interview/Abhishek Bachchan

'Hits and flops are not in my hand'

Syed Firdaus Ashraf | May 17, 2004

Abhishek Bachchan began his career as an actor in 2000.

Big films. Big banners. The Bachchan surname. He has it all.

And yet, after 12 releases and four years in the industry, the actor is yet to deliver a hit.

Where did he go wrong?

"Hits and flops are not in my hand," he tells Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf in this concluding part. Yesterday, he talked about Yuva, a film that could be his first hit.

Read on:

You seem to have a huge fan following in the United States. What do you attribute that to?

Is that so? I didn't know about this. If it is true, then it is very sweet of the people there to love me. But, honestly, I have no idea of my fan following.

What other films are you working on?

There is a film called Phir Milenge. Then there is Dhoom and Naach.

I have a lot of releases this year. I am keeping busy. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Though the critics appreciate most of your films, they don't do well at the box office. Why do you think that happens?

Hits and flops are not in my hand. If I knew the reason, you would have not asked me this question.

We do our job to the best to our ability and leave the rest to the audience. Whatever the audience decides, we humbly accept it.

I don't agree that the critics have praised me but the audience has rejected me. I have always maintained that if I were good in my film, even the audience would have liked it. I feel it is just matter of luck, time and destiny.

Is there any particular film whose failure really disappointed you?

An actor is disappointed when any film of his does not work at the box office. It's your film. You work hard on it. If it does not do well, you are bound to get upset.

Do you analyse why your films are not working?

Obviously. You try and analyse what went wrong. You try your best to identify the problem and rectify it. Like I said, you make a film with your point of view, perception and sensibility. But the audience may not agree with it.

The judgement of the film -- as far as its commercial success is concerned -- depends on someone who has nothing to do with the film. The audience has got nothing to do with your perception and your film. They have paid their hard-earned money to see it. They will decide its fate.

It is difficult to judge why my films didn't work. You have to keep trying and trying. Hopefully, you will click one day. But you have to keep trying.

You are extremely close to your father. His films have worked very well at the box office. Do you ask him what went with your films?

He says the same thing. He says that apart from your hard work, it also depends on your luck. There is no particular formula in films that will click. You just have to hope that the audience will like your work. There is no set formula for films to click. If there was one, everybody would have made a hit film.

Your father delivered many flops before becoming a star. When do you feel success will come to you?

I feel success comes to you when it is due [pauses]. It is as simple as that. It is not in my hand as to when success will come to me. I cannot say this film will be a success or a failure.

Is Yuva a different kind of film? The kind that will get you success?

I would like to believe all my films are different from each other. I have not consciously gone out to see whether I should experiment with this film or not. I just got the films I did.

I agreed to do those films because the script or the director inspired me. I have never looked into details. I never felt 'Oh, this is a safe script' or 'That is a risky script'. I never thought about it that way before accepting a film.

But you are still popular...

That is because of the audience. I am dumbfounded and grateful [pauses]. The audiences have stood by me for so long. I hope I can repay them one day. I know it is tough. The only way I can repay my fans and the audience is to continue entertaining them. And that is what I am trying to do.

Did you give yourself a time frame? Like if you didn't make it big in films within a certain period, you would reconsider your options?

I never give myself a time frame. I don't believe in setting a deadline for such matters. I believe in putting my heart and soul in whatever I am doing and making it success. I keep trying till I do it right.

Any film you are looking forward to particularly?

It is very difficult to prioritise a film. I cannot do it. I cannot and I will never be able to do that.

What is the status on Rajkumar Santoshi's Ranveer, in which you co-star with your father Amitabh Bachchan?

It will go on the floors in June. We have just finished the script. Now we are in pre-production.

Aren't you nervous about this project?

We will put in a lot of effort and hope the audience enjoys the film. I understand that people are really looking forward to Ranveer. There will be lots of expectations. I hope we don't disappoint people. We will give more than our best and hope people like our work.

Apart from working with my father, I will be working with Amitabh Bachchan, the greatest star. Anybody will get scared and nervous about that. You are working with the best. I have to keep this in mind while shooting for this film.

Your father was dubbed 'the angry young man'. Do you ever feel the need for such an image?

No. I don't think any actor would like to be categorised or slotted. They would like to believe they are versatile. I would like to believe the same. But the audience categorises us. We have to deal with that. As of now, I am lucky to not be categorised.

What about comedy?

I would love to do comedy. But no such script has come to me so far. I am dying to do a comedy. I think it is hardest thing to do in acting. Hopefully, something will come my way later on.

kareena:mani ratnam is in a class of his own

The name is Kapoor. Kareena Kapoor.

The 23 year-old, who began her career in 2000 with J P Dutta's Refugee, has already worked with the industry's best filmmakers including Karan Johar, Sooraj R Barjatya and Subhash Ghai.

But Mani Ratnam's name was missing from her oeuvre. With Yuva, this dream too has been realised.

In a conversation with Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf, the Kapoor girl gushes as to why Ratnam is 'in a class of his own'.

"I always wanted to work in the Mani Ratnam school of [making] films. I wanted to know what it is like to work [with Ratnam]. I am satisfied to be a part of it.

The girls [Rani Mukerji, Esha Deol and Kareena] don't have much of a role in Yuva. I did it [the film] because of Mani Ratnam.

Design: Uday Kuckian

Maniji is a great director. Irrespective of the fate of Yuva [at the box office], people will say it is a good film.

Maniji is a director of few words. He does not give lectures or talk big. He is very real -- in life and cinema.

He can even make a road look beautiful.

He never constructed a set of, say, Rs 20 crore. Still, he makes things around you look so beautiful.

Isn't that amazing?

Take the Anjanee [Khuda hafiz] song for example. It was shot in Chennai in one day. It has come out so different. Everyone is talking about Anjanee. It was shot so beautifully. Nobody believes that we shot that song in Chennai. I am happy it [the song] is doing so well on the music charts.

I cannot understand Tamil. It is a tough language. We [Ratnam and Kapoor] used to interact mostly in English.

I had seen Maniji's Roja, Dil Se.. and Thiruda Thiruda before signing Yuva. They are all beautiful films. He is in a class of his own. Even if he calls me to do a small role in [a] Tamil [film] today, I will do it. Just for him. He is exceptional.

I am paired opposite Vivek [Oberoi] in Yuva [for the first time]. He is a great guy to work with.

The two actors in the [film] industry, besides Shahid [Kapoor], whom I can really associate with are Fardeen [Khan] and Vivek.

I like Vivek. People tell me that my chemistry with him on screen works very well. He is a fabulous guy and a wonderful person. We have become good friends after Yuva.

Sabu Cyril created cities for Mani Ratnam

Sabu Cyril created cities for Mani Ratnam

Sabu Cyril | May 19, 2004 12:52 IST

Art director Sabu Cyril's first major success was the Malayalam film, Kaalapani.

His work in films like Kamal Haasan's Hey! Ram and Shankar's Boys have also been impressive.

Like cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, Cyril also worked with Mani Ratnam on his last release, Kannathil Muthamittal.

He tells Shobha Warrier why working on Yuva and Aayutha Ezhuthu was a "challenge" for him.

The director [Mani Ratnam] had drawn three protagonists from three different backgrounds.

I had to create everything differently for each of these characters.

I studied each character in depth. I gave them [the three characters] a distinct colour, mood and background to suit their temperament.

The character played by Ajay Devgan [played by Surya in Aayutha Ezhuthu] is a Christian. To create his house, I followed [the arrangement] my own house. I used some of the photographs in my house. The photo of the 'first communion' is very common in a Christian house. You will not find it anywhere else. I placed a lot of plants near the window. The refrigerator [used in the film] is an old Alwyn model.

Siddharth's [played by Vivek Oberoi in Yuva] house is modern with a lot of blue [coloured objects].

On the other hand, Madhavan's [played by Abhishek Bachchan in Yuva] house is rugged. The plastic in the house is rough. The walls are bare.

Shooting in the crowded areas of Kolkata was difficult. I recreated the streets of Kolkata in Chennai. That was a very big challenge.

Unless the work is challenging, we [creative artistes] don't get satisfaction.

Everything about Kolkata had to be correct, including the name boards on the streets. I bought two hand-driven rickshaws from Kolkata and made four more here [in Chennai].

I had to recreate Chennai in Mumbai for the Tamil version [Aayutha Ezhuthu]. We wanted to shoot at the harbour [in Chennai]. We were not given permission. I had to recreate the Chennai harbour in two days.

I do not know if anybody knows this: I recreated Sri Lanka in Kerala for Mani Ratnam's Kannathil Muthamittal.

In Yuva, I constructed a set between two huge European buildings. I transformed one room into six sets. One day, it would be the principal's room, then the library, then a house and then a court.

We also put up a set for a song [Fanaa]. Mani Ratnam was shooting a song on a set after a long time.

It [doing the art direction for Yuva and Aayutha Ezhuthu] was difficult because I had put up a lot of sets in a very short period.

I really enjoyed working with Mani Ratnam. He is very good at heart. I could vibe very well with him.

Why Ravi K Chandran prefers Yuva over Aayitha Ezhuthu

Why Ravi K Chandran prefers Yuva over Aayitha Ezhuthu

Ravi K Chandran | May 17, 2004 17:42 IST

Ravi K Chandran is one of India's leading cinematographers.

Witness his imaginative camerawork in Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai and Rakesh Roshan's Koi… Mil Gaya and you'll know why.

He also won acclaim for his work in Mani Ratnam's last release, Kannathil Muthamittal.

Chandran, who is currently filming Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, shares his experience of working on Ratnam's new film -- he is part of both the Hindi and Tamil versions -- with Shobha Warrier.

Mani Ratnam's new film [Yuva and Aayitha Ezhuthu] has three protagonists from three different stratas of society. I shot them differently. One is socially conscious, one very angry and violent and the third very self-centred.

Take Madhavan's character [played by Abhishek Bachchan in Yuva]. He is from the slums. He is very violent. I have kept red as his background colour. We shot this character with a hand-held camera with quick cuts because we wanted to show his edginess through the camera. His shots are not glamorised at all. It is supposed to hit you hard.

On the other hand, Siddharth [played by Vivek Oberoi in Yuva], the son of an Indian Administrative Service officer, wants to go to the United States. He is not bothered about what is happening around him. He is only concerned with his life. I shot him with long lenses and made all that was around him out of focus. His colour scheme is blue. Everything about him is shot very stylishly.

Soorya [played by Ajay Devgan in Yuva] is an idealist. He is the son of a widowed mother. His father was also an idealist and a revolutionary. He is a born leader and fully aware of what is going on around him. I shot him with wider space and with a lot of people around him all the time. Students, members of various unions and ordinary people always surround him. His background colour is green.

I shot all the three [characters] in three different negatives to get a distinct effect.

The Tamil film is set in Chennai; the Hindi one in Kolkata.

I enjoyed shooting in Kolkata. The West Bengal government gave us permission to shoot wherever we wanted. I could picturise the ancient beauty of the city. Everything about the city is so beautiful that the Hindi version is visually more appealing. Even the colour of the taxis is so vibrant.

Initially, we had no plans to feature any songs in the film. But they [songs] were so good that we decided to shoot them too. After the songs started appearing on television, I received eight to nine offers.

The film was planned in a very tight schedule of 90 days. It got extended.

The good thing about Mani Ratnam is that he gives you the full concentration and energy required to shoot. This was very important as we wanted to shoot both versions of the film simultaneously.

Anurag Kashyap: Yuva has shaped up brilliantly

Anurag Kashyap: Yuva has shaped up brilliantly

Anurag Kashyap | May 17, 2004 20:50 IST

How does one translate Chakka lakka bukka in English?" wonders Yuva dialogue writer Anurag Kashyap, bemused.

Kashyap is holding a huge sheet of paper containing the Hindi lyrics of the songs in Mani Ratnam's youth-oriented drama starring Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol, Om Puri and Anant Nag.

He has to write the English subtitles of the songs for the print that will be screened at the Indian International Film Awards in Singapore later this month.

Working with the celebrated filmmaker was a trying but enriching experience for Kashyap. The writer of films like Satya, Shool, Kaun and Nayak gives Sukanya Verma the inside dope on Yuva and Ratnam.

Yuva is about these three characters from different walks of life and different social stratas. It is based in Kolkata. There is Michael (Ajay Devgan), a senior college student. He is doing his PhD. He has got scholarships abroad and his life is life laid out before him. He is also very affected by the political situation. So he chooses to be an active in politics. He wants people to take their own stand and not depend on others. He is socially conscious, aggressive, aware and intelligent; he is a man who wants to bring about change.

Then there is Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan), a refugee from Bihar. He has come up the hard way. He is a hardened man. How he looks at life; how he becomes a pawn in the larger game of politics -- the goonda element comes in here -- that is his story.

There is Arjun (Vivek Oberoi), a student who has everything decided in life. All he wants is to have fun and go to the US. He scorns public service. He wants to fall in love. He wants to have a lot of girlfriends and make a lot of money.

The film is about how the lives of these three guys crisscross each other and where this leads them. Their lives almost become irreversible.

It is a light-hearted film; at the same time it takes on serious issues. These three characters have a different hue and tone to them.

Mani Sir gave me the story and screenplay he had written. Everything was given to me completely in English. He gave me the opportunity to create a little atmosphere for Lallan's character because he is from Bihar. I know UP [Uttar Pradesh] and Bihar firsthand. So I gave a lot of inputs, the right lingo -- Hindi language-wise and attitude wise.

A lot of it was clear in Mani Sir's head before it came to me.

Mani Sir and Sujatha Sir -- a very senior and great dialogue writer in Tamil -- wrote the dialogues for Aayitha Ezhuthu. Sujatha Sir is a novelist who enjoys a cult following in Tamil Nadu. He writes the dialogues for all Mani Ratnam and Shankar films. So they [Ratnam and Sujatha] wrote all the dialogues in Tamil first. Then they were translated in English. Then they were given to me.

In some places, he wanted me to stick to the original dialogue because it was making a point. At other places, I was given a free hand. I was allowed to change things. Then the process was reversed. Whatever I wrote in Hindi was translated into English. Mani Sir would check it and ask for changes. It was a long process for Mani Sir, not so much for me.

Do the characters in both the languages -- Tamil and Hindi -- speak the same way? No, Aayitha Ezhuthu is different in many ways from Yuva. Structurally, they might be same but, issue-wise, the Tamil version is very different from the Hindi one. Issue-wise, the basic difference between the two languages is that Tamil is more aggressive and spoken very fast. Hindi is not spoken as fast, so it becomes very lengthy.

Secondly, the Tamil film is based in Chennai. Yuva is set in Kolkata. So the Chennai film has issues that are Chennai-based. The Hindi film has issues that are Bengal-based. That's the difference.

I was given the opportunity to create the atmosphere of Kolkata and provide the base that was not there in Tamil. But the design was always Mani Sir's. It was always redesigned [as compared to the Tamil version] and given to me. My contribution in this larger scheme of Yuva is very small.

If I take credit for anything, it Lallan's character, language and flavour.

Lallan has a very north Indian dialect. The language used in the film is a spoken language, which is why the characters look natural. The actors are also at ease with themselves. Mani Sir might not know Hindi but he senses when someone [the actor] is trying to make it [the performance] over-dramatic or go out of line. He knows how to hold it.

The film was very clear in Mani Sir's head. He knows exactly what he wants. He is a slavedriver [smiles]. He made me do so many drafts even after having so much clarity, which made me learn so much from him.

He had come down looking for a writer. I think Ram Gopal Varma recommended my name. Mani Sir saw Paanch as well. I was doing my own film [at the time]. I had written a film [Sangam Mail] for Shaad Ali. Shaad also told Mani Sir [about me].

I write very fast. And Mani Sir wanted someone who could do it [the Yuva script] very fast. I went down to Chennai for 20 days. I stayed in a hotel and did the drafts. I came back and started doing my own film. After that, he called me whenever he needed changes.

I don't understand Tamil. But I wrote for Nayak, which was based on Shankar's Tamil film, Mudhalvan. I watch a lot of Tamil films. I saw Sethu before it was made as Tere Naam. I have watched a lot of Bala's films.

The experience of working with Mani Ratnam was extremely rewarding. He pushes you to the limit and beyond. When I write for myself, I do a draft. I know where things are wrong. I formulate it in my head and make changes on the spot. I don't spend a lot of time on paper.

Mani Sir's working style is very different from everybody else's. He wants to design everything on paper. There is also a lot in his head that we don't know about till the final product comes out.

There is one spontaneous option: He says this is what is not working.

So I say spontaneously, this is how we can do it.

And he will say, "No, what if we do this?" He keeps pushing you.

There are as many as eight options he brings out of you; you end up being surprised with yourself. The thing is that you never realise that Mani Sir slowly manipulates you towards getting the best out of you.

He also makes you realise, "Don't think you are not capable of doing this."

Before working with him, I never thought I could work on light-hearted stuff. Everybody used to treat me as somebody very serious. He brought all these elements out of me. I realised I am as vulnerable and emotional as many other people.

He is a man of very few words. Mani Sir doesn't gossip. That's the best thing about him. There is no frivolous talk. There is always work. He is always the first one to reach the office. The man wakes up at 5 am, reads the paper, and goes for a one-hour walk and still has that passion for cinema after so many films. He lives and breathes films.

Work with Mani Ratnam again? Anytime. I will go down on bended knee [to do so]. I have all of Mani Sir's films on DVD.

I have seen Yuva. I have not seen the Tamil version yet. I want to.

Yuva has shaped up brilliantly. Technically, they [Mani Ratnam and cinematographer Ravi K Chandran] have done things that give the film a whole new style. He has shot the three different characters in different hues, tones and styles.

I want to wait and watch the reaction to Yuva. In form, structure and attempt, it is so far removed from other films. It speaks to the youngsters. It also shows the youngsters to the elders as they are.

Mani Sir constantly attempts to go into an area [subject] where no one has gone before. My expectations are very high. I want to be there in the theatre and see how people react to the film and write about it.