I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again. There are films and then there are Mani Ratnam films. The same man who has created masterpieces like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se & Saathiya is back with the much awaited ‘Ok Kanmani’. And like with any of his films, the ‘hype’ was tremendous. But, then again, why wouldn’t it be? He’s the Picasso of romantic films. No one depicts love on celluloid quite like him. With that said, this is not by any means a ‘chick flick’ or meant purely for romantic film lovers. If you love drama, you’ll love this. If you love humor, you’ll love this. If you love suspense, you’ll love this. This film has it all.
I’ve read reviews saying ‘”O Kadhal Kanmani celebrates romance, an emotion that is as old as creation itself. Mani Ratnam is back, with a 21st century love story that will charm you”. Contrary to this, I’ve heard, by word of mouth, that it is a very average film. My uncle summarized it by simply saying, ‘OK Kanmani is just OK’. With such extreme contrasts, I had to watch the film for myself. And after watching, I must admit, I disagree with the latter view. Ok Kanmani is anything but, just ‘OK’. It is stimulating in every sense of the word.
Ratnam is unapologetic in his transparent portrayal of young love: its clichés, nuances, and every shade between first kiss to first fight. His strength as a filmmaker comes from his ability to show life, as it is. He extracts some of the best performances and shows intense emotions in situations which are far from picture-perfect. In Roja, it was an arranged marriage. In Saathiya, it was an elopement. Here, Ratnam explores the topic of live-in relationships.
The story follows the life of Adi (Dulquer Salman) & Thara (Nithya Menen). Both decide they like each other and want to move in together. Adi rents a room in the home of Ganapathy (Prakash Raj). He asks Ganapathy if Thara can stay in the same room as him, though they are not married. After the initial disapproval of Ganapathy, they are granted permission and so begins their relationship free of inhibitions and filled with love, lust & child-like happiness.
But not everything is what it seems. Though both are against the institution of marriage, Adi & Thara soon realize that their feelings for each other require much more, than ‘living together’, to be of substance. Due to their careers, both have to part ways as Adi is leaving to the US & Thara is leaving to Paris. They decide to spend the last 10 days together and love each other madly, passionately and without regrets. However, as the time for them to part approaches, disagreements, fights and realizations force them to make the most important decision of their lives.
Ratnam has casted two of the finest young actors in Indian cinema. Both have done complete justice to their roles. Dulquer delivers a hard-hitting performance and sheds his usual chocolate boy avatar. Nithya, looks absolutely radiant and even with little to no makeup on her face, puts every ‘glamorous’ heroine to shame. I still get chills when I close my eyes and picture their onscreen chemistry. Not once did I feel that either were ‘acting’. As an actor, I’m sure that’s the goal: to act without overtly ‘acting’. Both have accomplished this and much more. My expectations were far surpassed. Prakash Raj (as Ganapathy) was brilliant, as always, and his wife Bhavani (debut actress, Leela Samson)…WOAH! Where did they find her? She acted so effortlessly in a role (some may consider minor), but in actuality is so crucial to the plot. Hats off Mani sir for such an impressive cast!
The music was by A.R. Rahman. That, in itself, speaks volumes. He alone is genius. But him and Ratnam together? Untouchable. This, by far, is one of my favorite soundtracks. Every song from the classical ‘Malargal Kaettaen’ to the party track ‘Mental Manadhil’ is bang on! And the beauty of this soundtrack is that it blends perfectly into the story. Not one song was out of place or felt excessive. I remember listening to the song ‘Maula Wa Salim’ weeks ago and thinking ‘how in the world does an Arabic song have a place in a film like this?’ Watch the film and you will see. That’s the magic of this duo.
This leads me to the cinematography by PC Sreeram. One word: breathtaking. I remember texting my friend during the film saying ‘this is shot so well! I’m seeing parts of India I didn’t even know existed’. They exist alright! But sometimes, as humans, we tend to pass the same spot a dozen times and never actually take notice. Leave it to a good cinematographer to magnify the beauty of even the simplest locations and have you do a double take. Take for example the song below called ‘parandhu sella vaa’. It’s shot entirely in a bedroom. How appealing can that possibly be right? Wrong. Have a look for yourself.
All in all, this was a fantastic film! It was a clean, family entertainer. It could have easily been 15-20 minutes shorter, but it was not terribly long. Mani sir, you’ve done it again!
By: Jessica P. Thomas