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In Mani Ratnam’s ‘Iruvar’, a world of mirrors and illusion


Mani Ratnam’s films have several recurring stylistic elements. Love will immediately follow the first sighting of the beloved, whether at a railway station or a wedding. Song sequences will have elaborate choreography and complex camera movements. The leads will look dazzling. The cameos will be memorable too. It will rain.

And there will be mirrors, lots of mirrors. Is a Mani Ratnam movie complete without a scene or two of characters gazing upon their own reflections?

Sometimes, there are one-way conversations with the image in the glass. More often, key players will be framed within the borders of the mirror looking at themselves and each other – a symmetrical and arresting composition by a filmmaker known for creating imagery that is both gorgeous and precise.

In Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar, mirrors play more than an ornamental role. Among the themes of the Tamil-language production is the illusion of transformation produced by cinema and radical politics – the chasm between what is seen and what actually transpires.

Iruvar (The Duo) is a fictionalised account of the friendship and fallout between Tamil Nadu’s future chief ministers MG Ramachandran and M Karunanidhi. The camaraderie that is forged on a movie set between the actor Anandan and screenwriter Tamizhselvan extends to the political arena. The movie,…

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