15 years after Alaipayuthey, and Mani Ratnam was still looking for success. Tamil audience were either not happy with what they were offered, or failed to connect with the ideology of the maker. Mani could have gone out and made another film with a political backdrop. He could have made a commercial film roping in a star from the Top 10. Who knows, for the director could have gone over to Bollywood once again, where he would have found himself a bigger budget and a wider reach. But no. The maverick decided against all of this. He decided to make something simple, but with a lot of heart. Something lightweight, but memorable. There, OK Kanmani was born.
Picture this – Mani Ratnam calls up PC Sreeram and tells him to capture the lives of four individuals in Mumbai. After the cinematographer brings in content, Mani takes the help of Sreekar Prasad to cut out the best parts of the footage and asks AR Rahman to add some music to what has happened, leaving out two songs. A film is ready. Yes you read that right, and OK Kanmani is that real. Barring two or three scenes where the logic goes missing (negligible, especially if you are pulled into the narration), OK Kanmani takes you through the lives of Aadhi, Thara, Ganapathy and Bhavani over a period of six-eight months. The dialogues are just plain reactions of how people would react when they would be put into situations like this. At no point of time are they loud, preachy or fake. Mani has definitely played to his strengths here, big time.
Dulquer Salmaan breathes so much of life into this film. It is great to see an actor possess a style of his own, and the growth in his acting quotient has gone up by a mile. On the other hand, I might be one of the very few who feel that Nitya Menen didn’t bring in the feel that the film demanded. Her expressions did look contrived, and the actress just has to lose some weight. The surprise package in the film came in the form of the older couple, who overshadowed the younger duo with their feel-good moments which did bring in goosebumps along with a lot of laughter. Prakash Raj as the matured and supportive Ganapathy is brilliant, but he stills ends up losing to Leela Samson, who steals the show as the Alzheimer affected Bhavani. Her scenes are doubtlessly the best parts of the film, and I wouldn’t have a second thought in saying that I was more interested in this couple than the lead pair.
PC Sreeram’s camera speaks for himself. With simple but effective technique, the veteran has stamped his class to make the mainstream happenings look grand. Sreekar Prasad’s flawless editing leaves no stone unturned to make the film crisp, without letting you squirm for too long. AR Rahman’s music is the linchpin of the film, but I wasn’t too happy with the way songs like Mental Manadhil, Parandhu Sella Vaa and Kaara Aattakaara were projected. In a film like this, if the songs aren’t taking the story forward, it would be better not to have it. Nevertheless, the visuals of Naane Varugiraen and Malargal Kaetten have been instilled in my head for a while.
Mani Ratnam has thoroughly reinvented himself by adapting his timeline to the mental flowchart of today’s youth. In OK Kanmani, the director presents you with a no-brainer (do not misunderstand the word) and you do come out with no complaints. It is a refreshing changeover from the dish-dash-zoom brand of films we are forcing ourselves to get used to, but I won’t stand another one. OK Kanmani is breezy, feel-good romance from a man who believed in sticking to the basics. If you are lookings for twists, thrills and spills – let me show you the door.
Verdict: Mani is back. That’s all that matters.
3 / 5