I watched OK Kanmani along with my wife here in Geneva yesterday. Once in a while a movie or a technician or an actor/actress will come and redefine one dimension in filmmaking. In recent times — Mysskin’s movies, Gautam Menon’s VTV, Dhrishyam, Bangalore Days, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kanom set new trends either in narration or in visuals or in script and so on and so forth. ManiRatnam used to set new trends with every movie starting from Mouna Ragam until Alai Payudhey and through this movie, he set a new trend and probably, the most difficult to emulate — Simplicity.
In OK Kanmani, ManiRatnam takes a social stigma around ‘live-in relationships’, challenges the status quo around ‘marriage’ and provides the audience a space to think and judge for themselves whether this idea is good or bad. The refreshing aspect of this movie is that the protagonist in this movie is the ‘Youthful passion & Experimentation’ and the antagonist is ‘Status-quo & Stigma’.
It shows the advantages and disadvantages of ‘marriage’ through the ‘old couple’ and the same for ‘live-in relationships’ with the ‘young couple’. This movie handles a paradox — between an individual’s need for freedom & an individual’s need for dependence. It is a paradox between the youthfulness of the present and the fear of ageing in the future in the context of social stigma and parental failures from the past.
The two lead couples ‘confront’ the problem and face them instead of doing cheap tricks. For example, a. Adi brings Tara to meet the old man and asks his permission. b. Tara confronts her mother and shares her feelings. c. Ganapathy uncle and his wife talk everything very openly. The lead couples are realistic when it involves their larger family and mobilize support through the old couple to tackle the family. The two couples mirror each other and the two individuals within each couple mirror each other showing the contrasts effectively.
Towards the end, after challenging the status quo around ‘marriage’, they understand why it exists and with the realisation, they define ‘marriage’ in a way that suits them and not for the society. The film teaches you to ‘Be Yourself’ while being ‘compassionate towards the needs of your partner’ and that a space exists for both.
ManiRatnam’s success in this film lies in his relentless pursuit in keeping it simple from the start till the end. By selecting Dulquer and Nithya, Prakashraj and Leela Samson, for the lead roles, he saved himself from complications in the first half as all of them effortlessly carry the first half with their simple and pure approach to acting. Dulquer is one of the few actors who can bring in the personality of a character and Nithya Menon is a revelation. The scene where Dulquer sits opposite to Nithya in a train to Ahmedabad and his eye movements & Nithya’s facial expressions are one of the many such memorable bits. Prakash Raj’s strength has been his ability to exude intensity and in this movie, his old character demands exactly the opposite and he does it with aplomb. Leela Samson was every effective as an Alzheimer patient and so are the other supporting characters.
ManiRatnam and PC Sreeram combo after 15 years shows why age has nothing to do with youth. If you watch Nayagan or Idhayathai Thirudaathey, you will realize what good cinematorgraphy means and in this film, PC shows a colour palette never seen before in Indian cinema. The camera travels under the bed sheet, it travels from the herione to the hero through the wedding in the church scene and it shows the world through a new lens. Youthfulness comes from experimentation and Sreeram+Mani combo is always full of experimentation. One stand out shot is the opening sequence — the train flashing between the two characters on opposite sides of the platform, Dulquer revealing through the door when the train stops and the whole mood between light & dark revealing the life crisis and opportunity was brilliant.
We all hate cliches but there are a few cliches that we love. Superstar Rajnikanth’s intro song is one and Mani+PC cliche is another one. The train station shots, the shots inside the bus, the Gateway of India shot with pigeons flying in the backdrop — Signature shots. No complaints.
Sreekar Prasad’s editing is like cutting cheese with a sharp knife. The opening sequence, the church scene between Adi and Tara, the ‘You are Dead’ gaming sequence when tara enters the house etc are proof of the impressive editing. Again, we cant credit the editor alone as the cinematography, music, production design and the beautiful costumes with the excellent color schemes all create a texture and feel that is visually pleasing. ManiRatnam’s patent on this one still remains unchallenged.
Maniratnam and AR Rahman — Music was always a pillar in Maniratnam’s movies and I dont know what instruction he gives to AR Rahman. The songs and background score adds to the youthfulness and the clever use of carnatic music bridges the old and young couple. Malargalai Ketten was outstanding and especially the closing sequence when AR and Chitra sing together was magic. Kaara, Mental Manadhil, Parandhu Sella Vaa, Aye Sinamika — Dream Album. The sound quality that Rahman gave in Thiruda Thiruda, Kadhalan etc. is still not matched by any music director in India and so, the 20 year gap between him and others still remain.
Costume designer, VFX team for the gaming sequence, Art Director, Make up team all deserve appreciation. The one thing that could have been addressed better is to show the ‘claustrophobic’ feel of Mumbai and since I believe the movie must have been shot in Chennai for the most part, the integration between these two cities could have been better: Still, it was a great effort and this will be noticed only by people like me who had lived in both cities.
Ahh..This review talks only about the strengths and no weaknesses. When I finished watching this film, I got only positive feelings about the film. My mind was immersed in the good things and even after a day, I haven’t thought about what wasn’t good. In the name of creating balance, I would not want to write things that I didnt experience while watching the film.
ManiRatnam brings simplicity back to filmmaking. Good film ketten, briliant film thandhanai!
Written by Vijay Raju; Image Credits: Madras Talkies