Why did Mani avoid the Chennai media?

It is an old story that Mani Ratnam was banking a lot on the Hindi version of Raavan featuring Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Vikram.

The Tamil version Raavanan with Vikram doing Abhishek’s character and Prithviraj stepping into Vikram character was just an adaption of the Hindi version. Villain in Telugu was a dubbing of the Tamil Raavanan.

Before release, Mani Ratnam gave top priority to the Hindi Raavan and totally played down the Tamil and Telugu versions. Says a veteran Tamil journalist: “Mani sir totally ignored the Tamil press, and he refused to give interviews to the local media. He took his Tamil audiences for granted”.

At the same time, upcountry journalists were given interviews and pampered with choice sound bytes. Some of them residing in Patna or Ahmedabad were given phone-in interviews, while local journalists waiting outside his office in Chennai were shooed away.

In the mean time, the director took initiative to hold a press meet along with Aishwarya Rai, Suhasini, Vikram and Priya Mani in Hyderabad, where only a dubbed Telugu version was releasing!

It was Vikram who saved the day to a certain extent for Tamil and Chennai based journalists by giving non-stop interviews on Raavanan.

Once Raavan released, the film was savaged by North Indian media, who said it was not only “boring but also had no content.” Noted trade analysts like Taran Adarsh and well known television critic Rajeev Masand gave only 1.5 marks out of 5 and trashed the film.

Another noted columnist called it “Mani Ratnam’s Aag”, a reference to one of the biggest flops of the decade Ram Gopal Varma’s Aag!

At the same time, critics and the press down south who Mani had ignored in his eagerness to pander to the North Indian media, were far more kind and also respectful towards the filmmaker and his Raavanan.

Once it became clear that Raavan had bombed and Big B blamed the director “for bad editing”, Mani Ratnam’s Bollywood dreams turned into a nightmare. The media especially the internet is full of Raavan jokes, and how Abhishek ended up with egg on his face.

Meanwhile as a damage control measure, Mani did a U turn and is now trying to woo the local Chennai press by giving selective interviews on Raavanan, three days after the film’s release.

But by then it was too late as Raavanan too has started showing symptoms of an imminent fall at the box-office, as collections started plummeting in Tamil Nadu from Monday onwards.

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