First Person: Six Favourite Films Of Pa Ranjith

From The Battle Of Algiers and City Of God to Parasakthi and Fandry, Thangalaan director Pa Ranjith on the films that speak to him.
First Person: Six Favourite Films Of Pa Ranjith

The Battle Of Algiers

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

This is the film I like the most. The story is about the Algerians who fought the invading French from 1954 to 1962 and the Algerian revolution. We take freedom for granted, and this film sheds light on the struggle for freedom and the hardships they overcame.  I saw the film even before I became an assistant director, and it has inspired me since. Everything about this film, from the direction, screenplay and characters to the symbolism and meanings are brilliant and influence me when I write.

City of God

Directors:  Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund

This movie  heavily influenced my storytelling style. It showed me my life, and I think of myself as the photographer in the film. The photographer comes out of his house and struggles to find an opportunity. There's a point in the story where he grabs a gun to take drastic measures when a bus conductor meets him and changes his mind. I love that scene. The film also had many different storylines in the same locality converging and influencing each other, only to end at the same point. This was new to me then, and really affected me. When this was screened in my college,  nobody seemed to understand it, and many walked out halfway. I've wondered why many people could not understand the film, and I think it's because of the extensive pain in the film. For instance, there's a boy going to school who gets scared seeing the police and runs. He's shot, and the police finds he is innocent. To cover up their mistake, they plant a revolver in the boys' hand and walk away.

This movie has been a driving force for me to make films. Whenever I write, scenes from City Of God flash before my eyes. I make it a point to not write those scenes in my films and, as a consequence, struggle with my writing. The film troubles me even today with its haunting visuals, but I love how it affected me as a person and as a writer.


Director: R Krishnan

This Sivaji Ganesan-starrer enabled political ambition in me. I loved the narrative style and how fearlessly the hero questioned injustice in society. The dialogues of the film were skillfully crafted to question society and the individual, which I admired. I saw this film with my late grandfather, who really liked it, and I remember him every time I watch it.

Udhiri Pookal

Director: J Mahendran

This is no doubt a drama, but what interested me was how the subplots moved the story forward. I really admire how this film was written. When I was in school, they used to air National Award-winning films on Doordarshan late at night and that's how I was introduced to this movie. It did not have an impact on me then, but when I re-watched it after deciding to become a filmmaker, it taught me a very important lesson. It taught me that dialogues can instigate human emotion to change perspective. Remember the climax where the antagonist says he used to be bad and everyone around him was good, but now he's turned good, but everyone else has become bad, and walks into the river? This one scene transformed the villain into the hero; it was an iconic statement.


This Marathi film is important because it openly speaks about the issue of caste, and also won unanimous acceptance from the audience. People managed to empathise with the pain of the characters, and this opened up cultural discussions. Even as just a film, I liked it. The characterisation of the boy, who speaks about how broken society is and how it is impossible for a human to express his love to the girl he likes only because of societal barriers, was amazing.

This is a film that raises many important questions in the current Indian scenario. I view Pariyerum Perumal taking the place of Fandry in the South Indian scene. Both are based in different time periods but  talk about the similar pains these characters experience because of their communities.


Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

I admire many contemporary directors, and never miss any of Alejandro G. Iñárritu's films. I have always had a fascination for magical realism, and seek out such stories. I view Birdman as a movie of magical realism, and think it is a brilliant piece of art. In my dreams, I tend to fly, and there are scenes in Birdman that seem right out of my dreams.

There's a scene where Michael Keaton is on the roof of a building and begins to fly, and it cuts to him getting out of a taxi when he lands. I like Iñárritu's narrative style, how he plays with music, his character designs and every aspect of his filmmaking, but never try to make films like him. I think Birdman is one of the greatest films of all time.

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