Tamil Reviews

Oh Kadhal Kanmani Review: No Strings Attached

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okkanmaniPC Sreeram and his perfect symmetry.

A little after Dulquer Salman is introduced, we see him rolling by in a train, standing against the doorway. The train stops. Bang in the middle of the frame. And there, right there, is perfect composition. In neat vertical columns. Black. White. Dulquer. White. Black.

Not just trains, buses too, when they stop, do so right at the centre. At 0. Every frame of Sreeram’s is scaled to perfection. Even when the camera looks through a door – a little slit in the door – there’s balance. The graph, scrupulously sketched.

PC Sreeram and his perfect bloody symmetry. Beautiful.

*****

Oh Kadhal Kanmani’s tale delightfully clashes with its setting. Pin it on those reds or moody greys – the palette that has been chosen for the film, those plentiful buses that end a frame (edits courtesy Sreekar Prasad), or just the Maruti Gypsy that Aadhi drives, the movie has a distinct 90s flavour that can’t be ignored. Of course, there are several urban elements – video gaming, beautiful clothes (thumbs up, Ela Lakhani), swanky offices, tablet computers, a young, young romance – but the landscape is achingly familiar.

It’s a nice ache, though.

*****

OK Kanmani is Alaipayuthey, sometimes. It opens to a train chugging to a halt at the station, Aadhi and Tara (a beautiful Nithya Menen) meet at a wedding, and there are other lovely parallels that can be drawn. But perhaps it’s Mani Ratnam who seems more familiar as the movie progresses.

The dialogues scream of him. Of a movie written by him. When Aadhi and Tara make love, we get metaphors. Mani Ratnam is now charmingly old – the camera moves over elegant antique trinkets, and comes to rest, a little tellingly, on a grandfather clock.

It also, can never ever be Alaipayuthey. For plenty other reasons told and untold. The breezy (also windy, with howling Mumbai rains) new-age romance here is made to contrast with a strategically-placed traditional marriage. Prakash Raj and Leela Samson are husband and wife; she, a classical music veteran; he, a rasika. Suddenly, we have Endharo Mahanubhavulu hurled at us.

And, Aadhi snoring through it.

Some Kadhal Thittam, this.

*****

The last time I met Leela Samson, it was a vicious summer day in 2010. She was still the director of Kalakshetra Foundation. I had arrived early for our meeting. Samson wasn’t in her office, but a flurry of teachers flitted in and out of it, making it Monday morning ready.

A little after 9 am, we met. Would she consent to an interview with a daily? No, was the polite answer. I am free to talk to the teachers if I wanted. Not her, though.

I have to admit that the story was more about Kalakshetra – and less about the woman who grew up with it.

But the intrigue only became stronger .

Now, five years later, I watch her on screen, playing wife to Prakash Raj. She seems at home (save for the lip-syncs) in a deliberately-casual sari; a little vacant at first, but deadpanning well. Then comes the explanation. She’s the Alzheimer’s stricken Carnatic musician, Bhavani.

Quite a project this must have been for the danseuse – a role which demanded that she remain impassive at all times.

And here – at their home – reside Aadhi and Tara, who just want to live together – no strings attached.

“He’s old-fashioned that way,” says Bhavani when her husband (Prakash Raj as Ganapathy) objects to the relationship.

“You know, he doesn’t use the indicator at all,” she says. “He prefers to signal with his hand.”

*****

If Alaipayuthey, in 2000, showcased romance that battled external forces, and had a hero who was an engineer at a start-up, OKK delves within, determinedly veering away from the mainstream. Here, we encounter family who want the couple married, and a hero who develops video games (second this year, after Anegan). The heroine, meanwhile, is into architecture.

*****

The breeziness does weigh you down sometimes. A few exchanges (or I’m a little old) that seem to go on forever, and emotion-heavy scenes that creep up when you aren’t looking… the director reins them in, though. Just about.

What would I have really liked? A nice little joke or three to break the ice.

But then, you really cannot joke when a prospective girlfriend talks about her dead father, can you?

*****

The Oh Kadhal Kanmani review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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