Published By: Jayati

Bollywood beats: Iconic Indian backdrops in Mani Ratnam's songs

Let's look at how Mani Ratnam skillfully nailed the essence of India in his blockbuster songs, raising them to utter magnificence!

When you settle in for a Mani Ratnam movie, you're in for a unique cinematic experience. Unlike those Swiss mountain valleys or the CGI-packed spectacles of Marvel and Star Wars, Ratnam keeps things grounded in India. His films beautifully capture the essence of the heartland, using natural light and authentic locations to make a lasting impact. With cinematographers like V. Manikandan, Rajiv Menon, Ravi Varman, Santosh Sivan, and PC Sreeram behind the lens, each film has that unmistakable "Mani Ratnam" look. Let's take a closer look at some of the iconic backdrops from his movies!


Back in 1995, this amazing movie really captured the essence of love and all the complexities that come with it. It became a huge hit, especially because of its unforgettable songs and how beautifully they were filmed. They shot the indoor scenes in a cozy village in Tamil Nadu, while for the outdoor shots they picked a charming town in Kerala. And let's not forget Bombay, where they captured some really intense scenes. One of the standout moments was the song "Kehna Hi Kya," set during a wedding where Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) and Shaila (Manisha Koirala) first locked eyes. That scene was shot at the majestic Thirumalai Nayak Palace in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. And who can forget "Tu Hi Re," where Shekhar waits for Shaila? It was filmed against the stunning backdrop of Bekal Fort in Kerala. This movie is a classic for a reason. It's got romance, drama, and music that still gives you goosebumps.

Dil Se 

Dil Se, that iconic 90s blockbuster, marked Mani Ratnam's Bollywood debut. It's remembered for its powerful themes, brilliant direction, and stellar performances by Shahrukh Khan, Manisha Koirala, and Preity Zinta. The film beautifully captures the cultural contrast between North and South India through its locations, expertly filmed by cinematographer Santosh Sivan. Who can forget the electrifying song Chaiyya Chaiyya, shot atop the Blue Mountain Express in Ooty, Tamil Nadu? It became a massive hit not just in India but also internationally, even featuring in Hollywood's 'Inside Man' (2006). And then there's Satrangi Re, with scenes at the breathtaking Pangong Lake in Ladakh, adding to the film's musical charm.


This Mani Ratnam movie really captures the essence of visual storytelling, with cinematographers V. Manikandan and Santosh Sivan painting each scene beautifully. Whether it's the intense moments like Ragini's kidnapping, Beera's mysterious hideout, or the gripping climax, the film's visuals span across South and Central India, showing a rich kaleidoscope of landscapes. The scene at Athirapally Falls in Kerala, where Beera and Ragini are seen together, gets a fresh perspective under Ratnam's direction. "Khili Re" brings alive the elegance of Saheb Kuthi in West Bengal, a gem near Kolkata. And Beera's daring plunge into the waters at Hogenakkal Falls in Tamil Nadu, often likened to India's Niagara, adds a breathtaking touch to the film's narrative.


In 1989, Mani Ratnam gave us a heartwarming love story that's still cherished today. PC Sreeram's camera work was simply magical, especially in the stunning settings of Ooty and Jaisalmer. Remember that beautiful song, "O Priya Priya"? It was shot amidst the breathtaking Jaisalmer Sand Dunes in Rajasthan. And that touching scene where Geethanjali confronts Prakash about his illness? That took place in the tranquil Ketti Valley of Ooty, Tamil Nadu.

When you watch a Mani Ratnam film, it's like he adds his own special touch to everything. He has this magic knack that turns India's already stunning scenery into something even more mesmerizing. It's like he sees beauty where others might overlook it. Here's to the one and only Maestro Mani Ratnam!