OK Kanmani - powered by love

Every film maker of repute stands for something he believes in.. His success is in bringing that belief alive with craft and story telling that engages an audience .. The more successful the film maker he probes rather than engages , the story gets multi-layered needing repeated viewing and the craft becomes a signature propelling force... 

An immensely successful film maker called Yash Chopra passed away in 2012 . Although Yash Chopra had a repertoire much bigger than what he finally got remembered for , he was the king of romance . His last movie Jab tak hai jaan was an edifice to love in its self sacrificing form.. When Akira ( Anushka Sharma)  introduces herself as the instant love ,instant make out , instant break up generation to Shahrukh Khan , it's one generation speaking to another..  She wants his love but she won't get it.. That love so pure is an institution that Shahrukh and Katrina protect for eternity  , growing it through great pain.. This is the legacy , the institution that Yashraj wanted to leave behind from one generation to the air kissing Anushka generation amplified by the haunting AR Rahman song Saans mein teri ... Love that makes you breathe , love that defines your life ..

Mani Ratnam takes the same question - 'what is love for the what's app generation.. ?,

The generational shift is visible from the game type animation of the titles when OK Kanmani  begins .. 

And then we move into Mani Ratnam territory... Mani Ratnam's idea of romance hinges on effervescence . His frames will show it , his hero will be the whiff of fresh air who is extremely likeable,  there will be genuine warmth that the lovers will share , all slowly building up to the excitement of falling in love ... He manages to create that excitement easily with everyday situations and that is enhanced by the extreme like-ability of the 2 actors - Dulqeer Salman ( Adi) and Nithya Menon ( Tara) as a fresh pair. He captures the feeling of being together with someone and enjoying that feeling well..

Although OK Kanmani is compared to Alaipayuthey in the courting period of the couples ( the train scenes especially ) , it's more a fusion of the two love stories in Azhuthu Ezhuthu ( Yuva in Hindi) .. It imbibes the unbridled spirit of the song ( née ya na where Trisha and Siddharth will enjoy the short time before Siddharth will move to the US) and the deeper meaning in the song ( Nenjemallam where it juxtaposes love and lust as the driving emotion before surya and esha almost live in) .. 

In answering the moot question , how deep is this new found love , Mani Ratnam creates a frame of reference , a foundational layer by showing an older couple . The older couple owns the house where Adi  will stay as a PG.  Prakash Raj plays a retired bank official ganapathy married to a former Carnatic singer ( Leela Samson as Bhavani) who is now suffering from Alzheimer's disease .. Prakash Raj slams it in with a performance that is so mature and rock steady that Mani Ratnam gains further ground to recollect his lost form. Ganapathy questions the live in and gives permission only when he sees the girl is clear and in a selfish way relents because Tara can give Bhavani company in music. The scene where Tara sings in the house with Bhavani playing the tambura is a magical one , a Mani Ratnam special.

In the love stories of Mani Ratnam, there will be that moment , that existential moment where the woman will let go ... Unlike what Dipika will want us to believe , there is a yoke for most women that they put up with - some psychological , some conservative culture of parents , some more deeper even if they are well educated and extremely sure of themselves . That yoke breaking is a recurring motif in Mani Ratnam movies .. The biggest being the ships anchor that holds the veil of a Monisha Koirala in tu hi re  providing that degree of freedom for her to say le me aayi ho tere liye... It  occurs in a less dramatic fashion when Shalini overcomes that the love is not a waste of time for losers and rich people and she needs it too in Alaipayuthey .. 

In an upper class world where that yoke doesn't have a firm footing how do you show that overwhelming emotional excitement of being with the right guy and being free spirited with him..the joy of love .. Watch out for this moment in OK Kanmani .. Nithya Menon drives this moment with aplomb playing a character who is fiercely independent( she has a authoritative mother and riches but chooses to pursue architecture)  but warm and vulnerable .. 

This is the singular emotion that Mani Ratnam works on for the entire movie - the feeling of being in love and being loved . He hunts for that like a Sachin Tendulkar Sydney test match innings where any distraction is deflected.. Like in Raavan , conflicts that he has shown before get little attention.. Yes there is Adi's sister in law who finds the live in and rebukes Tara , there is economic divide - Tara is rich and Adi is middle class , but there is really no drama like in Alaipayuthey.. In being focused , Mani eschews almost everything he doesn't want to handle in this attempt giving us his most non layered movie till date. It's almost him saying to viewers , let me find my free spirit so that I can love movie making again.. By taking this stance and giving a very simple frame of reference , the movie is borderline frothy , convenient and laborious in parts 

But every time you see the deft strokes -- , crunchy short dialogues , everyday realism ( watch out for the scene where Prakash Raj is making rasam) , deft art touches ( the clock in Tara's room showing her interest , the rain scenes) , comic tension ( when Adi,s brother pays him a surprise visit), his ability to shoot only in India but make it magical ) and Rahman's music permeating the camerawork of PC Sreeram, you know this is the territory that the director owns... By making the lead actors being the driving force of the movie , and they delivering magnificently , he wins half the battle... It's like him indirectly saying - look this guy is a budding game designer who can be in the US and this girl is the daughter of an industrialist who wants to pursue architecture in Paris, they will know what they want , I am capturing their emotions only when they encounter a different couple in front of them - who have moved beyond the mundane marriage problems into a deeper meaning of togetherness..  he relays more , directs less,  he is not telling a story but he is capturing emotions and thoughts.. He is playing it immensely safe .. 

And playing safe he must , because this movie is about the director safe guarding his own institution .. In a scene in the movie , Tara as an architecture student meets an old professor , who explains lighting and choice of structure vs space.. In a movie that had no metaphor , I am taking this as the one , Mani Ratnam the aging professor is preserving his cinematic architecture... Watch out for his next movie , it's going to be his best ever ... The man is not out of steam yet although this movie runs pretty much on standby power he is generating by sheer focus...


Outstanding review! A really nice coming of age romantic film.from the master of romantic films.
Outstanding review! A really nice coming of age romantic film.from the master of romantic films.
Bharat said…
Good review. The lack of drama and the light, breezy narration is a deliberate attempt. It is more a reflection of current generation's take-it-easy nature of handling anything serious. The movie will stand as a reflection of generation shift in Mani's view from the Alaipayuthey generation where we saw couples fighting and breaking out, getting married before they live together, Maddy's searching the missing Shalini across the city including reporting to police (here Tara doesn't go to police in search of Aadhi when he's missing) etc. mantarinaM with a bang ;)
Anonymous said…
Enjoyed reading the review! Your love of cinema and analytical abilities blend very well!