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“A genius is not the one who knows when to start but the one who knows when to stop.” My first date with Mani Ratnam was not that romantic. Enticed by the presence of the glamorous sisters in the lead and mesmerized my Maestro’s music, I had been to his commercial winner, “IdayaKovil”. To my misfortune, my Tamil teacher Mr. Susai with his family were in my back row and he promptly found out that my “balcony” ticket was sponsored from the Student’s Tamil Literary Association Fund, where I happened to be the Secretary. The day I was unceremoniously sacked from that lucrative post, I took an oath never to watch his films ever, a vendetta that remained only till his next… Mouna Ragam. To me, Mouna Ragam was a true milestone in movie making. The portrayal of a gentleman’ finesse through Mohan, toasted with the electric charm of Karthik with ultra–cute urbanite Revathy at her best, was a stunning effort. PC took cinematography to the next level and Ilayaraja composed his “sound of music”. As usual I repaid a major part of my poorva janma loan to the Kumaran theater owner (by watching it more than 30 times). Though I am accused of shamelessly watch anything projected over a silver screen (because of my grandmother’ DNA), my Hall of Fame has a superfine-Nano filter. I could sense another icon is born and without any hesitation, I immediately enlisted Mani alongside Mahendran, K. Vishwanath, Bharathiraja and Balu Mahendra. Then came the magnum opus. It’s a pedestal dream of every storyteller to emulate the legendary “God Father” in some form or the other. To me, Nayakan was the only attempt, even globally, which went very close in achieving it. By getting into the Time magazine s All-Time 100 Greatest Movies alongside Satyajit Ray (The Apu’s Trilogy) and Guru Dutt (Pyasaa), this master craftsman took Tamil cinema to the highest level. Though his subsequent films Agni Natchathiram and Idayathai Thirudathey (Gitanjali) were huge commercial successes, to me, his next best was ANJALI. Inspired by one of the greatest Spielberg works, the E.T. and joining hands with Ilayaraja on his glorious and golden era, Mani was absolutely brilliant. Next came the blockbuster “Thalapathi”, where he collaborated with the superstars of Kollywood and Mollywood. Though the painting was based on the underworld practices the canvas was obviously Mahabharath. This was the time, I and many of his fans started to doubt whether he is an original storyteller or an adopted moviemaker. Teaming up with another future legend AR Rehman, Mani responded to these doubts with Roja, where he made an exceptional script of a pulsating reality story, off from the fantasies. After a clumsy Hollywood-like adventure attempot in Thiruda Thiruda, the Roja pattern was followed in Bombay and Dil se, the former being a residue of a genius and the latter only a residue. Mani also experimented by chronicling the dark pages of the two bitter political powerhouses (Iruvar) and a business warhorse (Guru). Though studded with individual brilliances, these experiments got critical acclaim but bombed commercially. Mani bounced back with his favourite USP – urban romance - with “Alaipayuthey” and proved he is still a box-office mint reserve. But again his tryst with the nemesis prevailed and he came out with another reality-based-box-office bomb - “Kannathil Muthamittal”. Thereafter he had a heart attack and I had a heart-break in “Ayudha Ezhuthu”, which had an envious star cast but was a colossal disappointment. Whatever followed thereafter was even more disastrous. Raavan was disgusting and Kadal was sickening. Though OK Kanmani became a grosser, to me, nowhere it had Mani’ signature. Movies are etched deep inside my mind, body, heart and soul. In my life, I had done few shameless things. I had stolen money and pawned my father’ watch, to get the money for watching movies. Though I feel ashamed of my acts now, I had never felt the money got wasted. Yesterday, I self - drove around 80 km to watch “Kaatru Veliyidai” for the second show and for the first time in my life, I sincerely felt that, I had wasted my time, money and energy, over a movie. P.S The only solace in an otherwise 140 minute ordeal is the justification of Ravi Varman to his pseudonym and Kashmir to its priceless beauty and charm.