Camera Angles and Blocking: “Iruvar” by Mani Ratnam

Camera Angles and Blocking: “Iruvar” by Mani Ratnam

Iruvar is the story of two friends – Anandan,
a superstar actor and Tamizhselvan, a tireless political worker – who both vie for the
same prize – the chair of the Chief Minister. It is inspired by real persons, but most of
the events depicted are fictional and stray from history. The bottom line is, in my opinion,
this is the finest film ever made in India, in any language, in any period; period. In this video I’ll show you how the camera
and blocking helped tell the story of their friendship, and their quest for power. Blocking
is the art of positioning actors in the frame, and small changes in their positions can have
huge emotional impacts. Let’s take the first time the friends meet.
Anandan, a struggling actor, enters a sound stage, and we track and pan left with him,
discovering the splendor and size of a film set. The camera tracks forward, urging him
to sit on the throne. This is a story about the battle for the throne, and it signals
Anandan’s aspirations right from the beginning. The locations in Iruvar are important and
symbolic. This set is black and white, actually a dark green but you get the idea. Anandan
is wearing white, while Tamilselvan wears black. It’s like a chessboard. Throughout the film they mostly meet and interact
in arenas of political significance – pulpits, the leader’s home, the assembly, and most
importantly, the large hypostyle hall, it’s courtyard, and its terrace. For me, the hypostyle
hall represents the “corridors of power”. It’s like a battle ground, and the two friends
are already playing the game of thrones, even though they are not fully aware of it yet. In this first scene between the two, the camera
favors Tamizhselvan. Anandan follows him with both eyes and body, while Tamizhselvan guides
the movement, like a dance. He circles Anandan three times during this scene, he holds the
power. This circular movement is important, and I’ll tell you about that in a bit. At the end of this scene, they come face to
face. This is the position of equality, they are friends. Throughout all their interactions,
a scene ends with either Tamilselvan in the dominant position, or Anandan in the dominant
position, or both of them equal. In the initial scenes Tamilselvan dominates
most times. He is largest in the frame and closest to camera. He is bigger. When they
are on the terrace he is larger than life. Even when he is attacked at home, he is dominant,
in the foreground. When Anandan’s not doing so well in the film business, they meet in
the courtyard, where Tamilselvan is on the terrace, looking down. Even though he is small,
he is dominant. The angle of the camera tells its own story. After this in most scenes they hold equal
positions. Director Mani Ratnam is very careful not to let one friend attain complete dominance
over the other. It’s a delicate balance, and history has a place for both of them.
Throughout the rise of their political and cinematic careers they hold equal positions
of power. Later, when Anandan becomes a superstar, his fame eclipses everyone else’s, and he
gains prominence. Whenever the two friends are equal and on
good terms, they face each other, in a two shot. When they are having a confrontation,
they are in the over the shoulder shot. Most of Iruvar is shot in long shots, with slow,
elegant movements. This is on purpose, symbolic of the time in history when these events take
place. Cinema in Tamil Nadu was shot this way, and it is an homage to that. The camera
only goes into a close up for dramatic impact. Another important blocking technique is the
arrival and departure of characters in the scene or frame. In the first scene, Tamilselvan
arrives and he holds the power. In most of the movie, Anandan arrives late while making
everyone else wait. When he arrives the crowds go wild, and he does this so often it must
be on purpose. He knows his popularity and its power. When Tamilselvan arrives late he
is forced to wait. This popularity contest is not one he is going to win. Now let me tell you about the impact of the
circular movement. Initially, Tamilselvan circles Anandan. It is the circle of power.
Here he does it again, it is so subtle you will miss it. I love this shot by the way.
Take a look. Anandan enters and camera tracks right, until it favors Tamilselvan, then it
slowly moves back so they are equal. Tamilselvan crosses over to Anandan’s side, and then
finally the camera moves up, revealing the crowd behind them. I have not seen any other
Indian director with this much mastery over camera movements. Tamilselvan is most powerful in this scene
where he is on a pulpit, and the camera circles him. But it abruptly ends when Anandan arrives
and the fans go wild. This is the point where Anandan takes over the reigns of power. Later, when they are on the pulpit again,
we have the best shot in the movie, where the camera circles Anandan through one long
take. It is one of the greatest shots in Indian cinema, and it is so sad the acting is mostly
censored and replaced by music. I was in college when Iruvar was released, and I skipped classes
to see it five times in one week. I think it had a profound influence on my decision
to become a filmmaker. I didn’t know much about filmmaking then, but I remember being
upset whenever this scene played. Look at the acting, the camerawork, the setting, and
nobody in the audience appreciated it. In the very last scene, the camera circles
Tamilselvan as he goes into his monologue. Now he holds the power. It is not explicitly
stated through words, but the camera tells us the story. How do I know this circular movement is the
key to power? Well, there’s only one other time this movement appears in the film, when
Kalpana confronts Anandan in his office, and if you know your history you know who she
is and what she became. The story of Iruvar is basically an unfinished
story of three people, and now that twenty years have gone by the story has become more
interesting, more profound. It is a great time to make Iruvar Part II, and now that
two more superstars have finally entered politics, maybe we can answer the fundamental question
raised by the movie – does the popularity of superstars give them the right to govern? If you are interested in camera angles and
framing then be sure to watch my next few videos and please subscribe now if you haven’t
already. After you subscribe, don’t forget to hit the bell you’ll see on the right,
so that you won’t miss any new videos.


  • Rithik Menon says:

    Can you give your email address so that I can ask certain queries

  • Sridhar Venkatesh says:

    Brilliant video brother. Mani Ratnam is a pioneer of Indian cinema and this video essay does justice to his legacy. Thank you.

  • CINE SCOPE says:

    it's an awesome movie.. but not the best of Indian cinema.. maybe yours most favourite..

  • Anand G says:

    This type of film-making is rare in India. True. I believe Devar Magan, Sathriyan and many such movies had similar works, talking about those days. India's best… Ray would be disappointed.

  • balaram anand says:


  • Ashok kumar says:

    Iruvar 2 ennaku apde thala yellam suthiduchu…:-)

  • Srinu Bammidi says:

    Yes, iruvar might not done well but it is great movie .
    Mani sir is greatest film Maker

  • Theena Kumaragurunathan says:

    Very well done, man. Iruvar is my favourite Tamil film without a doubt, probably the only Tamil film I'd place along side my favourite films of all time. The 13 year old me in 1995 didn't understand what the heck I was watching – it took another 5 years and watching it with my dad to truly understand the historical context. And then there's the collective craft and skill on display: everyone from cast to crew is at the very top of their game.

    Santosh Sivan's framing and camera movements in this movie is breathtaking. I'd semi-agree with you on one count though – that astonishing long circular shot of Anandan, while incredible, was spoilt by the censoring and the ridiculously over-played sound of thunder (literally my only complaint in this film) ruin it.

    My choice would be at Thamilselvam's terrace as he guides Ananthan to see for himself the super stardom that he is on the cusp of. Everything, literally everything, about that scene gives me goosebumps, but it is when the people below rush to the centre of the frame – and AR Rahman's score kicks in – that Iruvar graduates from good to great film. There'll never be another better crafted, ballsier film from Tamil cinema.

    On a related note: I am so glad that is someone doing video essays on Tamil cinema. Good luck to you 🙂

  • AmR 007 says:

    you are like a master to me 👍👍👍

  • Karthy சிவபூசணம் says:

    I still have this movie in my computer and will always be there! Thanks for analysing this great movie.

  • Back 2 life youtube says:

    and one of the finest performance from mohanlal❤️
    prakash raj

  • Jesse Sisolack says:

    360 degree pans must be a logistical pain. I wounder how many times a grip accidentally got in the shot and ruined it, ha.

  • kiran dasari says:

    Wonderful dop 👏👏👏

  • Aravind Ramakrishnan says:

    Thanks buddy… It is MASTERPIECE of Maniratam Sir.. When ever I watch this movie again n again, get to know new thing about the movie.

    Through this video you share camera angle, so interesting and fabulous..

    Especially the circular shot.. Camera shot circle three times..
    1st time Cover Mohanlal n 2n finishing foucs Prakash Raj n back to Mohanlal.
    Mani sir and Santhosh Sivan both are great..
    I loved your channel very much…

  • Nilu Roy says:

    Thank you so much again Sareesh. But I think we have to give credit equally to Santosh Sivan for this masterpiece.

  • Mahesh M says:

    a classic in its true sense..a film which shares shoulder to panther panchali..heavenly act by mohanlal… it should be included in curriculum of film schools

  • aditya prem kumar says:

    Its just great mind at work that I observed in this video
    You are an inspiration keep up the good work

  • Vinod Kumar says:

    This movie is phenomenal in terms of Story telling, Acting, Cinematography, music…. Mani sir and Santosh Sivan both are legends🙏

  • Gorilla Maker says:


  • Alex Murphy says:

    Excellent .

  • uma mahesh says:

    i don't know how they made it, the visuals of this movie is always fresh and pristine.
    I remember maniratnam once said, artists faces are the paintings thats is why camera is mostly on their faces.
    Your analysis made me to love this movie even more. i wish movies are made like this.
    I hate the style of movie making in most of indian films these days with lot of junk both visually and story wise. Maniratnam is GOD.

  • childlogiclabs2 says:

    totally disagree with this video, Iruvar is a piece of crap. The cinematographer just used wide angle lens through out the movie. No framing, no staging, it sucks to this day

  • Arul Alagan says:

    Now A Days, I mean Last Few Months Many People With Brilliant Review About This(IRUVAR) Movie Globally. Each And Every Time Once I Saw the Review and Comments It Could Be Stunning. And I Too Love The Movie Most & All the Mani Sir Movies… Even I Dont Knew About Cinema

  • Pradeep Kannan says:

    To do this movie into part means rajinikanth and kamal hassan not much powerful while comparing to ramachandaran and karunanidhi .. no offence its my opinion

  • saravana says:

    Thank you for the video. Helpful.

  • madhu b says:

    I feel the photographic effect is inspired frm Kurosawa's movies for exmple: seven samurai. Try to do a video in that pov.

  • Emboss says:

    This video was worth waiting for and defo worth watching! Well done and thank you!

  • Paul Szilard says:

    Fantastic narrative tutorial. Best I've seen to date. Thanks for this.

  • Prabhu Ram says:

    Magic of the Film is Story, Frame, Blocking, Music and Energy in the Scene. So lets not deflect any. Thats where the Magic is – sum is more than the parts !

  • Draco Dwarf says:

    ഹാ ഇത് എന്തു മറിമായം, ഞാൻ ഇതുവരെ ഇത് ശ്രദ്ധിച്ചിട്ടില്ലലോ.

  • P Charles says:

    You paid a good tribute to one of my favourite movie. Was a teen when it was first released and watched it four times in a row. The theatre was empty annoying me. The bgm is another good mention. Both the friends played by Mohan lal and Prakash Rai acted remarkably. This was actress Aishwarya Rai's debut movie.

  • Richard Parker says:

    Most of the shots and LS because the story happens in the early 20s and 30s, and those times most of the shots used were LS.

  • Vishnu SK says:

    A much awaited video. Thanks. 🙂


    Of course iruvar is a great movie but you cannot say it is the finest movie ever. There are so many other brilliant movies in India especially in South India. Just watch other maniratnam movies like thalapathy, nayagan etc.. And the best movies in India are made in the southern most state which is kerala. Just watch malayalam classics of great film makers like bharathan, padmarajan etc..

  • jeevagan Jag says:

    I just shocked by seeing this … I watched the movie more than two or three times but I never noticed this things but you are awesome bro keep doing this type of movie camera analysis …now I am big fan of you bro

  • hari haran says:

    good information

  • surya prakash says:

    Very nice review. Thank you !!!!

  • Muwex Tech says:

    Man i love your videos, you make me understand just so much! Subbed and notifications on!
    Cheers from Finland!

  • kamalnadh ramasani says:

    Pentastic camara work

  • robochitti says:

    9 years ago I admitted to myself this is the best Indian film ever. But back then none were talking bout it. Now, its history…

  • Amuthan Vethanayagam says:

    I would fully agree on your opinion. This is THE FINEST!! period.

  • Jithin Jayachandran says:

    Hi nice to see that somebody noticed all these's amazing how iruvar is shot, directed and acted and the background score took the whole movie to an another level..People around me never understand when I tell all these things…finally saw ur video and felt happy that I was right…

  • RAPID STUDIO says:

    Say something abaout Mohanlal's acting!

  • Ravi Bal says:

    really genius…

  • Shiva Chandrasekhar says:

    Amazing insights

  • Saurav Suresh says:

    Please make more such videos on detailing the scenes of great movies….

  • Adithya Prakash says:

    I've been searching for an analysis video for Iruvar for a LONG time. Thank you soo much! !

  • I Myself says:

    you should have commented on Mohanlal's grounded, subtle realistic acting as opposed to praksh raj's and other's dramatic acting!

  • sandeep ventrapragada says:

    A great research on evergreen masterpiece!

  • jithin sankar says:

    Mohanlal at his best. Mani ratnam will never cast him in any movies because he doesn't have a script good enough to exploit mohanlal's acting. (Mani sir's own words). Iruvar nayakan dhalapathi all are cult classics. One and only one mani ratnam.

  • R Harish says:

    4:21 I've not seen any other reviewer with this much mastery over (re)interpreting shot divisions, most of which are quite simple (to be honest).

  • Aravind Kumar AE says:

    Iruvar, the best for indian cinema.
    Thanks for sharing Ur views.

  • aneccentric geek says:

    u r awesome

  • pradeep mail says:

    This what happens when anytime anyone overanalyzes everything.
    Too much of overanalysis and over interpretations leads to real intent of filmmaker or cinematographer.

  • Naresh Sriparasara says:

    Great Analysis. I felt the same with that circiling shot around anandan.

  • Shan Satish says:

    main reason that director didn't deliver the simple story line into a perfect movie. He missed the smooth flow into touching end. Without a good foundation, a building even with inspired architecture won't survived

  • Rakesh Ravisankar says:

    @wolfcrow slice and dice Hey Ram please. Sure you’ll find it interesting

  • Syam Krishnan says:

    That shot during the speech is pure cinematographic brilliance as you cannot find any white balance issue even though there is an exterior crowd and a lighted interior in a 360 shot. Every shot in this film has something like this. Best ever Indian movie for me.

  • Deekshitha R says:

    Many maniratnam movies have this circular camera angles in many of his movies…that s how he deliantes crucial scenes when there are two or more characters involved….you should also watch Talapathi Nayagan…mounaragam….yes Iruvar was one of the most underrated movie….May be it was ahead of its time…and it s a fiction derived from real life political leaders…mgr and karunanidhi…I always feel mouna ragam was his best…

  • MANI kandan says:

    so many camera men use around the artist. for romance and fight scene. so it is so familiar not new . but other things are great. that is manirathnam

  • JAWA Deepak says:

    4:55 So, you are older than me 😈💥

  • JAWA Deepak says:

    I'm tempted to watch this movie again because of you. Of course, it's one of my favourite movies 💥

  • Niloufer Hakim says:


  • Shubham Sengupta says:

    Very insightful.

  • Cristian Soto says:

    Quality video as always (y)

  • Gautam Ashok says:

    Brilliant commentary wolfcrow! I think you should've mentioned the cinematographer's name – Santosh Sivan. He also helmed the camera for Mani Ratnam's film after Iruvar – Dil Se (dubbed as Uyire in Tamil). That film is also laced with many symbolisms but failed at the box office and rightly so IMO due to a faulty storyline.

  • A A says:

    Woh! Woh! Woh! Have I ever seen a clip like this depicting Tamil Cinema director's genius ? .. and a Caucasian voice adding poise to it? Answer is never never never. I am baffled. Just like how Trump won this Presidency albeit a Positive baffling though.

  • Anoop M T says:

    Amazing.. never noticed it before.

  • M.N.M.Samri says:

    detailed analysis. we need more videos like this. you have much knowledge.

  • iireply says:

    now camera movies around the cars, and bullshit actions

  • Ankit Koushal. says:

    Surely it was one of greatest Indian film but in my opinion "Gangs of wassepur 1&2" are the best indian Films.

  • Tell Me More About it says:

    Best film in India? You my friend, are an idiot.

  • vasilisathewise says:

    Good analysis. I agree it is one of the finest movies of Indian cinema. I have also seen this many times and wondered what attracted me to the movie. Now I get it. Wish you success as a film maker.

  • Ranbir Ningombam says:

    Ye accent kaha ki hai?

  • daniel prabha says:

    Hi bro which state u r from..

  • dev4911 says:

    Your videos make me realize that cinema has its own language. Just like literature uses the power of words to create the desired effect upon readers, cinema uses the power of cinematography to create the desired effect on viewers. But the problem is that most viewers miss the subtle 'language' of cinematography, because it is something that is not stated in words in the film. We are more attuned to understanding things/concepts that are orally/textually articulated and explained. It requires one to understand the language of cinema to appreciate what you are explaining here through words. Now since most of us don't understand this unique language of cinema, your narration greatly helps. Your videos really make me revisit these films and see them with new eyes. In this context, I am reminded of a scene from Vidhu Vinod Chopra's "Parinda". The flute-playing goon played by Suresh Oberoi in the film at one time wipes his eyes with his thumb after playing a tune on his flute. Reason? The tune for a moment reminded him of his homeland! Many viewers, including myself, missed out this detail. I came to know this only after I watched an interview of the director, where he stated that the scene and the subtle act of wiping a tear were missed by viewers because they were more interested in knowing what will happen in the next scene.

  • Ajay Sabarish says:

    excellent video,liked and subscribed. Eagerly waiting for next video.Pls do more videos on mani ratnam's movie,he is the most under rated film maker.

  • Janardhan Mourya says:

    wow super sir

  • Dopa addicts says:

    Iruvar 2 is must

  • GIRISH KUMAR says:

    Anyone have the link of this film in hd print?

  • Rajeev Paul says:

    Woow great work

  • K.Anjaneya Sastry says:

    Have you ever watched Mayabazar

  • Pavan Daggupati says:

    You should've given some credit to Santosh Sivan the DP of the film. Good analysis though.

  • Aravind Aravind says:

    Iruvar was originally titled anandhan but name was changed to iruvar for reasons best known to Mani Ratnam

    I have seen it a few times and liked it but dont consider it the best Indian movie ever. It is a good movie in its own right.

    Before its release the real life persons [who were portrayed as fictional characters in this film] forced Mani ratnam to cut a lot of scenes and what the public saw was an incomplete film and as the public saw an incomplete film I dont consider this the greatest Indian film.

    Most of the the protagonists in Mani Ratnam films are usually negative or grey characters glorified to look good or acceptable.

    Amongst the best photographed movies of Mani Ratnam are Geetanjali [Idhayathai Thirudathey DP PC Sreeram] and Thalapathi [DP Santhosh Sivan]. This movie had good photography but not in the level of the aforementioned films. Almost all scenes in this movie were brightly lit. I also wish this movie was color timed according to the periods depicted. Like they could have photographed the events of the early stages of the main leads in black and white and followed by eastman color during the period from 60s to 70s and then used film stock depicting the 80s for the last segment. As this movie was made in the 90s computers were not used but today if it was made this could have been done. Hope some fan out there with lots of time to kill color corrects the movie to match the time periods in the film.

    I read somewhere Kamalhasan and Madhavan were initial choices for the roles of Anandhan and TamIzhchelvan. No clue why Kamal didnt chose to act but Madhavan was dropped as he looked too young at that time for this role.

    I am a fan of Mohanlal and consider him to be one of the best actors but he was not the right choice for the role of Anandhan. Another baffling choice was Aishwarya Rai. Sure she was very pretty but a bad choice for a role which needed lot of emotional depth. Finally none of the main leads in this movie were Tamilians!

  • Travel Hopefully Photography says:

    Man you rock. Keep them coming

  • shun vel says:

    in my age 17 saw this movie at opening show in Madurai. In 70mm screen A 35 mm movie. my eyes widely from beginning to the end. till date, I can't forget the all time favorite movie.Thanks, MANI sir.

  • Cini Man says:

    I think even mani Ratnam wasn't aware of what you said. He just made this film with good team.

  • Batman From India says:

    Thank you for proving ur dumbness… I can stop watching you now… If u think it's the best movies ever made in india, i m quite sure u haven't heard about Satyajit Ray… Please go watch some of his movies… u ignorant idiot… How can u comment such thing…. Mani rayhan is undoubtedly good… But there's just no comparison… Satyajit Ray , Ritwik Ghatak… Have u heard of them u MORON

  • Bobby Lewis says:

    The Greatest Indian Movie ever made is Pather Pachali. There is and should be no doubt about that. It is a fact widely acknowledged. Even in the recent BBC list of the greatest 100 foreign language movies ever, Pather Pachali was placed at the 18th position and is the only Indian movie in the top 100 list.

  • LK S says:

    Prakash Raj turned out to be real life asshole, taking iruvar's dark approach to gain power.

  • LK S says:

    Not demeaning iruvar's movie making excellence a bit, your views on iruvar is biased. There are many movies with unique and exemplary camera movements for defining scenes.

  • Sync Shot says:

    3:13 I saw boom pole, is it mistake?


    I liked your presentation with your own interpretation being constant, revealing and in itself educating and inspirational. Well done to you. Explaining blocking is not so easy as people think but understanding its importance is vital. Like cinematography, blocking is always there even if the production team are not aware of it, so understanding its principles is the first step for any director or actor. Keep up the good work…. Bill

  • seon simon says:

    One doubt bro.. is it Imax ratio!?

  • SUHAID PP says:


  • anil pad says:

    None of my friends appreciated the awesomeness in this movie when I call it as a masterpiece 16 years back. Finally people with good taste towards Cinema started talk about it…

  • kalai mani says:

    Just make a video for SUPER DELUXE Tamil movie

  • Master V says:

    Absolutely sick content

  • Karuppa Samy says:

    u from??

  • sanju b says:

    I am a beginner so a silly question….who decides on blocking & character movement…is it the director or cinematographer…or both…?

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