Rating: 4.5 stars
When Indian film aficionados hear the name “Mani Ratnam”, they go into the movie theater expecting to be entertained and have some ideas to reflect on at the end. Needless to say, the award-winning director is back with a bang with his latest Tamil flick O Kadhal Kanmani (OK Kanmani), which has hit the cinemas with groundbreaking box office sales and great reviews!
Set in present-day Mumbai, OK Kanmani follows the lives and romantic adventures of video game designer Adi (Dulquer Salmaan) and architect Tara (Nithya Menen), who coincidentally meet at a train station in the first scene of the film. From there, it’s the typical boy-meets-girl romantic progression and development with some 21st century twists.
If I were to encapsulate the essence of this film in one phrase, it would be YOLO – you only live once. This carefree attitude is reflected in every action and behavior of Adi and Tara as they attempt to create a new meaning for their relationship. That being said, a main strength of this movie is the characters themselves, specifically the development of their personalities, their emotionality, and their innate humanness. One can expect to experience a myriad of emotions throughout this film as Mani Ratnam effortlessly weaves realistic situations and humorous dialogues into the script. Essentially, he takes the viewers on a journey through Tara and Adi’s relationship. From their playful naughtiness in the song Parandhu Sella Vaa to their denial of serious feelings in the climax, we experience the couple’s ups and downs, their escapades, the arguments and compromises, but also the most important part – their love for one another.
There is juxtaposition galore in this new-age Tamil rom-com. In terms of characters, the elderly couple – Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) and Bhavani (Leela Samson) – with whom Adi is a paying guest serve as a great role model for Adi and Tara to understand the value of a committed long-term relationship. It was particularly delightful to see the veteran Kalakshetra dancer Leela Samson play such a dynamic role in a mainstream film! This contrast in generational relationships was mirrored in A.R. Rahman’s music and background score, in which he blends Carnatic and electronic musical elements.
What 21st century Indian romantic-comedy can be made nowadays without addressing feminine expectations in relationships! Throughout the film, we see Tara conflicted between choosing Adi or her career. I particularly liked that Mani Ratnam chose not to compromise on showing aspects of Tara’s career as she travels to other cities for her job. At the same time, he implicitly questions why the woman always has to compromise on her own career ambitions and desires in order to protect and preserve the romantic relationship. There is one scene where Tara is sitting on a balcony contemplating her future and upon being asked if she wants her career more or Adi more, she responds by saying she wants both and should not have to choose one over the other. It is poignant moments like this when the characters are in some sort of dilemma that we feel emotionally connected to them on a deeper core human level.
Mani Ratnam has done a fine job depicting a typical working couple’s live-in romance with all the elements of fast-paced Mumbai lifestyle. P.C. Sriram’s cinematography is absolutely brilliant, especially in the scenes where Tara is examining architecture in Ahmedabad. It goes without saying that despite being Malayali actors, Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen did a fine job essaying their roles to perfection. Prakash Raj also added a bit of natural humor that accompanies his role as an elderly married man. Special mention must be given to Eka Lakhani for Tara’s gorgeous Indian, Western, and Indo-Western outfits in the film!
Final Verdict: O Kadhal Kanmani is a clean, realistic, relatable, and charming Tamil flick that challenges traditional values about marriage and relationships. If you loved Alaipayuthey, definitely don’t miss this one!