Top 7 must-watch Mani Ratnam romantic films: R Madhavan’s Alai Payuthey to Dulquer Salmaan’s OK Kanmani

On the occasion of Mani Ratnam’s 68th birthday, let us take a look at his top 7 must watch romantic films, right from Mouna Ragam in 1986 to OK Kanmani in 2015.

S Devasankar
Written by S Devasankar , Journalist
Updated on Jun 02, 2024 | 01:51 PM IST | 86.4K
Top 7 must-watch Mani Ratnam romantic films: Mouna Ragam, Alai Payuthey to OK Kanmani
Top 7 must-watch Mani Ratnam romantic films: R Madhavan’s Alai Payuthey to Dulquer Salmaan’s OK Kanmani (PC. IMDb)

With a career spanning over 40 years, the name Mani Ratnam is nothing short of a brand. The veteran filmmaker, who made his debut in 1983, has worked in multiple industries over time and continues to entertain fans with his versatile filmography. 

The mastermind behind the Ponniyin Selvan franchise is also known for his love for two genres in particular - romance and gangster flicks. In fact, in several of his films, Mani Ratnam has managed to put the two seemingly unrelated genres together as well. Today, as the legendary filmmaker celebrates his 68th birthday, let’s have a look at the top 7 must-watch romantic films made by Mani Ratnam. Bear in mind that this list delves into the tip of the iceberg when talking about Mani Ratnam’s filmography.

Top 7 romantic films by Mani Ratnam

1. Mouna Ragam

Mouna Ragam (PC. IMDb)

  • Cast: Mohan, Revathi, Karthik, Ra. Sankaran
  • Year: 1986
  • IMDb Rating: 8.4/10
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Mouna Ragam is arguably the first film that brought notice to Mani Ratnam as a filmmaker. The film forms the first part of an unofficial trilogy, which also includes Alai Payuthey and OK Kanmani, delving into the plight of the protagonists.

Mouna Ragam revolves around a college student, who is forced to marry against her will. The protagonist, played by Revathi, faces an internal dilemma between holding on to her past and coming to terms with her present. The beautiful performances by Revathi and Mohan, as well as the beautiful score by Ilaiyaraaja, make Mouna Ragam an amazing introduction to the world of Mani Ratnam. 

2. Geethanjali

Geethanjali (PC. IMDb)

  • Cast: Nagarjuna Akkineni, Girija, Vijayakumar, Sumithra
  • Year: 1989
  • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

In 1989, Mani Rathnam made his debut in the Telugu film industry with one of the best romantic drama films ever made, Geethanjali. The film which featured Nagarjuna and Girija in the lead, told the tale of two people in their early twenties who fall in love with each other, in spite of their deteriorating health conditions. The film also takes a rather philosophic outlook on life, highlighting the importance of living in the moment. 


Geethanjali also proved to be a turning point in Nagarjuna’s career, along with Ram Gopal Varma’s Siva, propelling him to be one of the most sought-after actors in the Telugu Film Industry. 

3. Roja

Roja (PC. IMDb)

  • Cast: Aravind Swamy, Madhoo, Nassar, Janagaraj, Pankaj Kapur
  • Year: 1992
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Roja is undoubtedly one of the most famous films in Mani Ratnam’s filmography. The film forms the first part of the filmmaker’s trilogy of films depicting human relationships against a backdrop of terrorism. 

The film follows the story of the eponymous character, played by Madoo, who gets married to a RAW agent, played by Aravind Swamy. Soon after their wedding, Aravind Swamy’s character Rishi gets a posting in Jammu and Kashmir, where he is kidnapped by militants. How Roja finds her way back to her husband forms the crux of the story. 

The film has earned a cult following over the years, with the cinematography by Santhosh Sivan, as well as the music composed by AR Rahman in his debut garnering special praise. 


4. Bombay

Bombay (PC. IMDb)

  • Cast: Aravind Swamy, Manisha Koirala, Nassar, Kitty, Tinnu Anand
  • Year: 1995
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

The second film in the trilogy which also includes Roja (1992) and Dil Se… (1998), is the 1995 romantic thriller Bombay. The film revolves around an inter-religious family in Bombay, who, unwillingly, get meddled in the Bombay Riots which took place in December 1992 and January 1993, following the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The film garnered highly positive reviews at the time of release, with fans and critics praising the film’s message, as well as the technical aspects including music by AR Rahman, cinematography by Rajiv Menon, and editing by Suresh Urs.

5. Dil Se..

Dil Se.. (PC. IMDb)

In 1998, Mani Ratnam made his Hindi directorial debut with the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Dil Se.., which remains as his only Hindi directorial till date. Over the years, the film has garnered a cult following, with the song Chaiyya Chaiyya becoming a fan-favorite.


Dil Se.. is the final installment in the Trilogy that includes Roka and Bombay as well, and tells the story of a journalist who falls in love with a mysterious woman (played by Manisha Koirala), who turns out to be a liberationist from Assam. How their love blossoms against all odds forms the basis of the story.

6. Alai Payuthey

Alai Payuthey (PC. IMDb)

  • Cast: R Madhavan, Shalini, Jayasudha, KPAC Lalitha, Vivek
  • Year: 2000
  • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

14 years after the release of Mouna Ragam came the second film in the unofficial trilogy - Alai Payuthey. The film, which marked the Tamil debut of R. Madhavan, was set in a more modern period as compared to the 1986 film and used an interesting narrative method including flashbacks. 

Right from the time of release, Alai Payuthey was a blockbuster, and R Madhavan went on to become a heartthrob of many. The film tells the tale of a married couple, the problems they face, and how their relationship grows over time. Alai Payuthey also has a philosophical undertone where traditionalism and modernism are pitted against each other.

7. O Kaadhal Kanmani

OK Kanmani (PC. IMDb)


15 years after the release of Alai Payuthey came the third installment in the unofficial trilogy - O Kadhal Kanmani or OK Kanmani for short. Similar to its spiritual predecessors, OK Kanmani also explored the relationship between two people, this time taking place in Mumbai. 

However, unlike Alai Payuthey and Mouna Ragam, OK Kanmani does not show a married couple, but rather a couple that is in a live-in relationship. The film explores the modern mindset of urban India and also brings forth several important conversations including themes like marriage, traditional values, and more. 

As the legendary filmmaker turns 68, Pinkvilla wishes Mani Ratnam a very happy birthday!

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About The Author

A graduate in Economics, with heart made of cinema, Devasankar is vividly in love with world cinema! A true



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