There’s a sincere reason behind us labelling Mani Ratnam, a specific relationship expert, in spite of the maker touching upon eclectic genres over the years.
Consider films of his beyond those singular relationship threads or the specifically dramatic ones, say, Nayagan, Roja, Thiruda Thiruda or even Raavan, it’s the underplayed equations that do the trick. More than the gangsters, the darkness or the detailing surrounding it all, we shared a certain empathy for each of the flawed parts. That’s a reason we call them stories. The genre hardly matters. They were commercially enveloped works bound by crisp, universal emotions.
This very command over his preserved-trademark best is what sets O Kadhal Kanmani apart from similar comparisons like Love Aaj Kal and Salaam Namaste.
We go expecting something that’s emotionally drenching and there we peep into the world of a maker that’s reserved in its observances about the current crop. It’s a feather-light answer not pestering towards a conflict point, maybe as a statement to its major target audience, for whom excessive drama may not be the best of ways to portray slice-of-life moments.
For a while,we reminisce of a resurgent Gautham Menon in the frames, the latest and the best on the list to subscribe to Ratnam’s sensibilities, making up for the absence of the maker in the late 2000’s with the re-introduction of the metro-sexual male, the lady dressed in starched saris, ambitious about their careers but wanting an arm to embrace on the personal front. Here too, the couple is never in a hurry to give a name to their relationship. It might be ‘love’ for the public. They don’t want to define it. They want to live together. Why the heck should they be bothered if it’s a ‘live-in’ or any other cozy label ?
It’s the higher-middle class sect that we’re dealing with. They don’t struggle for a living. Nearly clear about their academic/professional ambitions, we see the couple travelling in the local trains, double-decker buses,bikes and sharing intimate conversations in a coffee shop. The setting in Mumbai explains it with the British-styled architecture, the gaming arena and the pace of the lives. There’s a contrast to this proceedings in another of its subplots too. A little house away from the rush, a couple nearing their end but being full of commitment to keep their equation ticking despite the conflict.
Even if there’s an implicit connection to Alaipayuthey in terms of the mindsets of a confused couple, the film’s moments point more towards the Siddharth-Trisha thread in Aayutha Ezuthu besides the uncanny resemblances to Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal with the commitment ados. O Kadhal Kanmani’s speciality lies in the silences amidst the vibrance. We get enough space to digest what’s happening around us without being spoon-fed, neither with annoying voice-overs nor with the visuals.
After the two know each other enough in the Parandhu Sellava number, we’re symbollicaly shown they’re birds ready to fly. In accordance with the classical setting on display, we get to hear conversations about Bombay Sisters with a stirring background score by A R Rahman that packages enough of Endaro Mahanubhavulu, Bhavamulona and the Malargal Ketten track on the lines of M S Subbalaxmi’s Maitreem Bhajata.
Wait, there was something about Alzheimers that reminds us about Ajay Devgn’s U Me Aur Hum too. There’s so minimal detailing here unlike the former. It feels the disease is normal enough, something that can be done away with a stroke of love. We only get to hear ‘Stage 1’ and ‘Stage 2’ sans any bombardment of medical terminologies.
In spite of a proficiently dealt track of a career in the gaming arena, Mani Ratnam’s desperations to be a man of 2015 is all over-stuffed in a single film. He packages the narrative with the selfie-moments, the surprise parties with enough eyes on the gadget-addicted generation.
The re-assuring fact of the prominent filmmakers knowing that we needn’t elevate a gender nor even downplay either of them helps O Kadhal Kanmani. But still, we walk away with our eyes on Nithya Menen and even Leela Samson who literally master the little instances. The performances, even of Dulquer Salman, the stereotyped confused boy and Prakash Raj, the ever-ready character artiste are fresh, devoid of any baggage. Don’t burden yourself with the names here and expect a classic. We’re sure for a wonderful evening stroll in the park with maturity, energy and most importantly love.