In the interests of full disclosure, I must state upfront that I have interviewed both Baradwaj Rangan and Mani Ratnam for my forthcoming biography of Rajnikanth, that is also being published by the same company as the book under review.
Rangan says in his beautifully rendered introduction that he belongs to the generation that came of age with the films of Mani Ratnam. I too belong to the same generation, and have also grown up with his films and remain a faithful follower of his work, though I may not like some of it. Since I first became aware of Rangan’s writings on cinema, I have followed it with the same zeal with which I follow Ratnam’s work. In my considered opinion, he is one of a handful of people writing on cinema in India who can lay claim to the exalted position of ‘film critic’, as opposed to a mere reviewer, given that he not just expresses his opinion, but also provides a detailed analysis of a film, even if the work in question is so much dross.
Conversations with Mani Ratnam is one of the finest books on Indian cinema ever. It follows the Q&A format employed in Hitchcock: A Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut and Conversations with Scorsese by Richard Schickel and can take its rightful place alongside those paragons of the genre. Ratnam has the reputation of being an introvert, but that’s mainly because he does not suffer fools gladly. Ask him a stupid question and he’ll give you a brief stock answer, thus cementing this reputation. Rangan’s questions are anything but that. He starts off by treading the water lightly and circles around Ratnam by asking some general questions. The questions make for as much delightful reading as Ratnam’s answers, given that they are incredibly informed and analytical. When Rangan dives in and throws in the occasional bouncer, Ratnam is more than equal to the challenge, choosing either to dead bat it or knock it out of the park. Too many reviews of this book have reproduced some of these delicious exchanges and I’m not going to spoil your reading pleasure by reproducing them here. The book does demand a fair knowledge of Ratnam’s work. On the other hand, for the uninitiated, it’s a great starting point for Ratnam’s brand of cinema.
(Naman Ramachandran’s biography of Rajnikanth is out in December)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
What is amazing is that 'Tango Charlie' is a Mani Ratnam movie. Nothing can say anthing more about his association with movies. 'Roja' is a markedly Tamil movie, and I appreciated a Tamil movie, in that language, without understanding the movie.
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