Suggest to him that he’s the best director with an eye for romance in a movie and Mani Ratnam is sure to push back with, “My films are about relationships, romance is just incidental”. We agree and back that up with some scenes from his movies that bring out the beauty of human relationships, beyond lovestruck boys and girls or lovelorn men and women.

It gets interesting when you observe that in most of these situations, acquaintances and strangers turn father-figure, adopted mothers or siblings by proxy. This switch alone effortlessly nudges his characters closer to our heart.

 Alert: If you’ve not watched any of the films listed below, the scenes could be have potential spoilers. 

Thiruda Thiruda
A CBI officer (SPB’s finest acting role) believes he’s finally made his wife’s get-away to Srirangam, only to have the missing “villain” inserted. It takes Mani Ratnam just over a minute (yes, we clocked it) to walk us through the history of a pair. Of course, it is powered by dialogues by a certain Sujatha.

 Triva: Mani Ratnam co-wrote ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ with Ram Gopal Varma (hint: Varma-gaaru finds a reference by the Rao-gaaru in the scene). Mani returned the favour by writing the story for RGV’s Gaayam 

Three characters in proximity and no exchanged words, is all it takes for Mani and Illayaraja to send you bawling inside. Two people who share a common history but unaware of it, even in each other’s presence. The third, who sees it all, is just too loaded.

Manik Dasgupta (read Ramnath Goenka) decides it’s time to put away his fatherly affections for his protege Gurukanth Desai (read Dhirubhai Ambani) and subject him to the stick (Madhavan playing Swaminathan Gurumurthy) to offer some tough love.

Kannathil Muthamittal
A lengthy scene involving most major characters (a Mani Ratnam standard for a climax), it slowly unravels the emotional weight of affections exploding, this time between daughter and mothers. It helps to have five fine actors bearing a single task – to eek out the last emotion from every cell of yours.


Nayar (Azhagam Perumal) is a landlord who takes in the married for some time, but newly homeless Karthik and Shakthi. He takes a sweet turns playing brother to a guy he seems to be more at odds, especially when they don’t exactly kick it off well.

When Angali’s father (Raghuvaran), blinded by his rage exits a senseless suggestion, it is Prabhu (an ex-convict and an apartment colony pariah) who stands up for Anjali.

Agni Natchathiram
The step-brother gets into a situation that brings out his real affection for his sister from the same mister.

Dil Se
An example from the master that breaking ice between characters and forging an instant relationship does not require the span of a song and dance.

Nothing can get more dramatic than old friends fighting it out, but them doing it with utmost respect for each other is priceless to watch.

Kannathil Muthamittal
OK, this is cheating, but another scene from KM is part relationsip between the leads, also part relationship (testy, at times) between brother and sister.

Mouna Raagam
For better part of the movie, the Sardarji is the butt of (Revathi) pranks, but at the stroke of the third act, he goes from the hapless bakara to a revered figure.

The scene that drives Veerayyian (Vikram) over the cliff; the Mani parallel to the Soorapanagai ‘maanabangam’ getting to Ravanana’s head(s).

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