Director: Mani Ratnam Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Nithya Menen, Prakash Raj

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There are a hell lot of stories when it comes to Tamil cinema. This is a region that has somehow come into a state of understanding that cinema is a medium used only to narrate stories and stories and stories and stories. A good film here is defined by the weight of its story/content. Maybe not? Mani Ratnam now establishes himself as one of those very few Tamil directors who differentiate a ‘filmmaker’ from a ‘storyteller’, exploring those basic possibilities in filmmaking that have always been too far away for Tamil cinema.

Strengths:
The overflowing energy in the film. Every department reflects that. This energy is so infectious it even catches hold of you, makes you fall in love with the film and its characters in a moment. There is almost not a moment when the film gets on to a slow, sluggish or lethargic track. If it does, the next moment it bursts out with energy. There is no way you can hold that ball of air deep in the water. It is exactly this aspect that makes the film a highly engaging affair to the Tamil audience, despite a lack of strong story, few flaws, and scenes they have been watching for a long time.

The youthful crew:
These five artists make sure the film stays energetic as said above- Mani Ratnam, PC Sreeram, AR Rahman, Sreekar Prasad and Vairamuthu. Four out of those five are around the age of 60. The youngest of the lot, AR Rahman, is close to 50. The film looks like one made by a young crew who have just crossed their teenage.
These five have magically put things into place while Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen just had to complete the rest of the puzzle. The young man who deserves attention first is Mani Ratnam. He has come out with an extremely new style from his recent movies, and has made a statement here, writing, directing, and producing by himself, this bubbly, youthful movie. He has made sure this ‘youthful’ element stays alive in every single aspect of the film, right from the beginning. This time, he made sure the film was promoted highly on social media. It was made sure the film was always being talked about right from the production to release. There was more innovation. Love stories from real life were shared online to spice things up. (Link to those stories- https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1563664117184517.1073741828.1563516093865986&type=3) This attitude is clear right from the first frame of the film. Animated visuals designed for gaming form the title song of the film. The film’s hero is a gaming designer. Isn’t that enough to make the film look very appealing and modern to the audience? Both the hero and the heroine work in corporate offices.

OK Kanmani adds more reasons to doubt whether it was PC Sreeram behind the camera in ‘I’. Here is what we call a true ‘PC Sreeram’ visual treat! No, do not mistake that for the film to be colorful to the core. The film has indeed used fewer colours. But, it is vivacious. This man knows how to make the viewer fall in love with the events and characters in the film. You could see leading artists from the industry, expressing in social media, their thrilled feelings about the innovative, amazing shots in the film. (One such shot that deserves mention is when the camera rolls around and captures the moments of two couples, from the narrow gap between two doors.)
Also, this time you don’t see those slow and steady shots and still frames you see in usual Mani Ratnam films. You don’t see Mani Ratnam’s “orthodox filmmaking style”. Break the rules! Editor Sreekar Prasad’s contribution to bring alive this aspect was evident right from the first trailer of the film. It continues in the film too. His work is even more crucial in such a film, which has no proper storyline or sequence of events.

One can observe something about background music in Tamil cinema. For every film there is one ‘main theme music’. It is used as the BGM for important scenes. For other scenes, some usual tracks are added to fill up the voids. However, in this film there is no such main theme music. All important scenes have the songs of the film playing in the background. Mostly the songs serve the BGM’s purpose. The song ‘Maula wa sallim’ sung by AR Ameen, ARR’s son, was received positively the day the audio track was released. It has been used well in the film, at the right place, with mesmerizing visualization. The theatre and the audience float around for 3 minutes. In such a modern film with adrenaline-pumping treatment and BGM, it is a laudable effort by ARR to have used carnatic music equally on a parallel side. There is also the AR Rahman touch (?) that makes you wonder what the lyrics in the songs are, in quite a few places.

Usually Mani Ratnam’s films use BGM in fewer places and those places are ones that you can never forget. In all other places, when the characters speak, you can feel the ambient atmosphere around them by sound. Surprise! This film has some usual music tracks running in the background in most of the scenes. You miss that ambient atmosphere terribly, and that often gives you the feeling of watching yet another mediocre film.

A fairytale:
There is something important you should be prepared for. This is not just a love story but more of a fairytale- one like ‘Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess and a handsome prince, they lived happily ever after’. The elements of a perfect fairytale overshadow anything else in the movie. It is that wonderful joyride Willy Wonka gives in ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory’- you enter a dream world of endless joy, fun and ecstasy, tasting the best chocolates and candies through the journey.

Is such a love story even possible? Is it practically possible for people in love to roam around with such intimacy around Mumbai where a party like ‘Shiv Sena’ is active? Without facing problem at least once? They hug, smooch and kiss at any public place without inviting attention? How do they never get into a fight between themselves? How do they never have any misunderstanding?

All those questions become meaningless once you get into the ‘fairytale’ point-of-view. The entire film bubbles of joy. There is not a pinch of distress. If there be something, the characters take it lightly. There is no melodrama. There are no wicked people. Everybody is full of love. There is not hatred. No villain. No goons. There is nothing negative. No suspense. No twists. And no compulsive realism! It is just the ‘ideal love life’ that every one of us wants to live.

So there are larger than life incidents happening frequently. The moment Aadhi and Tara meet, they exchange contact numbers. Every moment they jump gleefully and ooze out joy. They live in their own ecstatic world. It is only their point of view throughout. The camera only revolves around Aadhi and Tara whatever the situation. The world around them, the people, environment nothing really matters. There is no point on how others see them. It is only Aadhi-Tara and their point of view of Aadhi-Tara. Sometimes, Ganapathy uncle and Bavani aunty, and that is all.

The entire film comprises only on the love, tease, coax, lust, fun, quarrels, tussles, pranks, mischief and endless conversations of the couple. Halfway through the film, we get so close, we can understand what’s going on in their minds before they speak a word- such is the performance from Dulquer Salman and Nithya and the visualization from Mani Ratnam. There is no big story going on; it is only a film woven on a string of incidents in a couple’s love life- pure genius!

Few distractions:
This time, you can see it clearly, this film has been made with one prime motto- provide maximum entertainment to the audience in every frame. That always gives way to a lot of compromises and defects. You can feel in few places, the makers deliberately trying hard to the core to satisfy the audience. You sense a bit of overacting and scenes that look like those in mainstream cinema. There are dialogues that don’t go well with the movie. For example, few moments after Bavani aunty is introduced, you can recognize her problem of mental health. However, the very next scene you see Prakash Raj explaining it with a dialogue- “Alzheimer’s… It is just the beginning stage…” Now, is that a dialogue placed there by Mani Ratnam or the mainstream audience?

A few important plot points and character backgrounds are conveyed in dialogues- you see the heroine narrating her family’s background in few dialogues; the heroine’s mom recites dialogues you see in television dramas- “Oor la evlo sothu iruku… anga vandhu adha paathuko nu sonna kekriya ne..? edho architecture, padippu nu sollikittu…!” (“You know how rich we are back home… You never listen when I ask you to come there and take care of our business… It is always some architecture and higher studies for you…!)
(The one scene that garners expectations from the beginning is how the strict, conservative Ganapathy uncle permits Aadhi to have a girl live along in his room. And how does he? The ultra-modern femme sings a song in classical music while Ganapathy uncle enters the scene in slow-motion, filled with tears!)
The film as said earlier, rides only on moments from a couple’s life. With that aspect, the song ‘Parandhu sellava’ doesn’t fit anywhere- or at least the way it has been visualized, as in a mediocre erotic film. Not to forget, the inconsistency in sound design that leaves a void in few moments.

This film is for…
If you are looking to watch a usual ‘Mani Ratnam film’, you will clearly be disappointed 15 minutes into the film. But, as the film goes on it begins to attract in its own unique style. Every 5-10 minutes, you can hear laughter and applause in the theatre. It is only not advisable for audience looking only for cheap entertainment and intense masala. Otherwise, you are in for a complete film experience. There are films that are good, that are boring, films that are unbearable, films that give mixed feelings, and then, there are films that cannot be hated.

The best chemistry and romance in OK Kanmani is the one that happens between the viewer and the film.

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About Author

Mahesh Raghavan

Mahesh Raghavan is a film buff and independent short filmmaker from Chennai. His interest for films of all genres and languages has grown over the years. One film a day is his thumb rule.

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