Disclaimer: I’m an unqualified reviewer. For a list of people who are qualified to write about OK Kanamani, please consult Suhasini Maniratnam
Despite how old you’ve gotten watching Mani Ratnam, the excitement of watching his next never diminishes. Especially, when the movie works – part experience and part nostalgia. OK Kanmani is as simple as Mani Ratnam gets and as profound as any of his classic films on love. No non-linear timelines, no metaphors, no value judgements and no message, just a straight love story from the Mani Ratnam we thought we’d lost.
Yes, OK Kanmani is going to be branded by many as an update on ‘Alaipayuthe’. While there’s superficial merits to parallels, any such comparison is missing a larger point. OK Kanmani is an affirmation that love endures anything, even the age of instant gratification, fleeting relationships and self-centered ambitions. A reassurance that love, like an stubborn virus evolves and trumps even the most testing environments.
Many filmmakers find the divisions in an ever-changing India. Mani Ratnam finds his in the grind between a conservative past and the liberal ideas of the present. O Kadhal Kanmani balances a society that holds its nose to anything unconventional against the attitudes of millennials for whom living together is a convenience and signing up for a commitment is a shallow formality – an after-thought.
Aadi (Dulquer Salman) and Tara (Nithya Menen) rush into an open relationship and a live-in arrangement with no intent of settling down. Her architect scholarship’s about to take her to Paris; his gaming-dev skills have currency in the US. Can their casual, time-boxed courtship fall turn into a commitment they both dread and declare taboo? Sounds very time-worn and ripe for sentimental pickings. Mani Ratnam, of course, dresses it up with his unwavering sense of aesthetics and his insane level of insight into the Gen Y’s mind.
For multitudes of us, falling in love or cherishing the feeling of love is a brief high, a phase of life that we leave behind, in our rush to get on with the challenges and rigours our life; not for Mani Ratnam. He is that rare director who can lead you back into that corner of your heart that once used to throb with the excitement of living the moments of love. His comfort with dealing a romance can give any young or even semi-seasoned (uh hmm, GVM) director a complex.
Mani Ratnam’s been repeating his rule on casting for decades now – “50% of the film is casting”. Although, at times we’ve felt he doesn’t follow his own advice. Not with OKK. There are four primary characters and each one of them pivots the story with maturity and confidence. Prakash Raj, Nithya Menen & Dulquer (in that order) light up the screen with such familiarity and freshness, like regular folks plucked from their living rooms, their pajamas still on. Prakash Raj’s hamming could have been a major problem ’cause he shoulders a sizable portion of the movie and is the emotional core of OKK. He’s in a league of his own here – a completely winsome performer.
Rahman’s presence in a Mani Ratnam film cannot be anything along expected lines. As with all Mani Ratnamm movies, none of the songs you’ve heard going into the movie remain the same (shortened, remixed and reimagined) and there’s the on-screen-exclusive thukda songs that are used aplenty here too. Waiting to get my hands on the background classical-funky fusion track (Kalyani’s theme), in particular.
As if to mock folks calling out Mani’s pattern of using of trains and stations, almost every scene features a loco compartment. The opening scene, staged on the platforms of Mumbai’s CS terminus is a kicker, Mani goes one better on his usually impressive starting sequence. Mani and PC Sriram put on a show that reminds us why people still whistle to title cards bearing their names. Same with the rain too – no shying away from them, plenty of emotions drained and drenched under it. The MR-PC combination pulls off magical moments on screen that should lay to rest any claims to “next Mani Ratnam” or “next PC Sriram”.