Who else is in it? The cameos are as interesting as the leads in Mani Ratnam’s movies

Given his track record, the rest of the cast of Mani Ratnam’s upcoming ‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ should be most interesting.

The title and principal cast of Mani Ratnam’s latest movie were announced on Friday. Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is bursting with big names – Silambarasan, Arvind Swami, Vijay Sethupathi, Arun Vijay, Jyothika, Aditi Rao Hydari, Jayasudha, Prakash Raj. Fahadh Faasil was reportedly cast in the role that eventually went to Arun Vijay. The movie is said to be a crime drama set in Chennai. It will be scored by AR Rahman and shot by Santosh Sivan, and will also be released in Telugu as Nawab.

Ratnam’s movies don’t always work – Raavanan, Kadal and Kaatru Veliyidai are some examples – but he has an unerring eye for placing the right performer in the right moment. Sometimes, Ratnam’s choice of the leads turns out to be a poor one, but he has resorted to imaginative counter-casting in many of his movies. Non-film professionals, technicians and artists have popped up in Mani Ratnam productions, prompting viewers to wonder which movie they have seen them in before. They haven’t – and that is the point.

RN Jayagopal, lyricist and director
Ratnam’s The Godfather-inspired gangland drama Nayagan (1987) spans generations and features a sizable cast led by Kamal Haasan. The major opponents during the formative years of the minor smuggler turned major Mumbai crime lord Velu Naicker (Haasan) are the Reddy brothers. The eldest among them, who orders the murder of Velu’s wife, is played with suitable menace by RN Jayagopal, the Kannada lyricist and filmmaker.

RN Jayagopal in Nayagan (1987).
RN Jayagopal in Nayagan (1987).

G Umapathy, movie theatre owner
In Agni Natchathiram (1988), one of Ratnam’s biggest and most stylish hits, Vijaykumar plays a judge with two wives and two families. When he isn’t maintaining the peace between his sons from different marriages (played by Prabhu and Karthik), the judge is heading an inquiry commission into the nefarious activities of Chidambaram, a corrupt businessman. Chidambaram proves to be useful – he becomes the cement that bonds the warring brothers. The character is played with elan by G Umapathy, the owner of Chennai’s legendary Shanti and Anand cinemas.

Karthik and G Umapathy (right) in Agni Natchathiram (1988).
Karthik and G Umapathy (right) in Agni Natchathiram (1988).

Pia Benegal, costume designer
Reputed costume designer Pia Benegal has a small role in Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) as a conscientious school teacher and owner of a dog named Mowgli. Benegal’s teacher unwittingly brings the hero Amar in the crosshairs of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Benegal’s character is knocked over by Amar (Shah Rukh Khan) in one of the subways at Delhi’s Connaught Place. Amar is chasing a man who is an acquaintance of his missing lover, Meghna (Manisha Koirala), but he is derailed by Benegal’s character and later has to answer many uncomfortable questions by the CBI team, led by Piyush Mishra in his first major movie role.

Benegal was one of the costume designers for Dil Se, and was among the production’s technicians who were recruited to play minor characters. Production designer Samir Chanda shows up in a scene too, as the owner of a music shop.

Pia Benegal in Dil Se (1998).
Pia Benegal in Dil Se (1998).

Manjit Bawa, artist
Another surprising cameo in Dil Se is by the renowned painter Manjit Bawa. He plays the owner of a photo studio in Jama Masjid in Delhi who generates false papers and identity cards for a group of terrorists belonging to a United Liberation Front of Assam-like organisation. Bawa’s character is later nabbed and interrogated by CBI sleuths.

Manjit Bawa (left) and Piyush Mishra in Dil Se (1998).
Manjit Bawa (left) and Piyush Mishra in Dil Se (1998).

Bharathiraja, director
Bharathiraja’s films are regarded as classics for their realistic depiction of rural Tamil Nadu and strong performances. Bharathiraja can sing too – as Kaada Potta Kaadu from his 1994 drama Karuthamma proves. And his acting abilities are on display in Ratnam’s Aaytha Ezhuthu (2004), which intertwines the stories of three disparate characters. Bharathiraja plays Selvanayagam, a venal politician who tussles with Suriya’s progressive college lecturer. Om Puri played the same role in the Hindi version, Yuva, but for once, the director proved to be the better performer.

Bharathiraja in Aaytha Ezhuthu (2004).
Bharathiraja in Aaytha Ezhuthu (2004).

Leela Samson, dancer
The classical dancer and cultural organisation administrator hadn’t acted before O Kadhal Kanmani (2015). Leela Samson plays Bhavani, a classical music performer who is losing her memory and her bearings to Alzheimer’s disease. Samson played the same role in the Hindi remake OK Jaanu (2017).

O Kadhal Kanmani also featured the celebrated architect BV Doshi, but as himself.

Malargal Kaettaen, O Kadhal Kanmani (2015).
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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.