Did OK Kanmani break new ground?
Has Mani Ratnam pushed the envelope?
Is Mani Ratnam Back?
Ahmedabad. A. R. Ameen's young voice pervades our subconscious with the haunting rendition of "Maula Wa Sallim". Thara (Nithya Menen), a student of architecture films what seems to be a place of worship. As she pans her iPad, capturing the immense beauty of the structure, she films Aadhi (Dulquer Salman), who had ingratiated himself in her trip, leaning on the structure. She stops and the camera focuses on her features for a few precious seconds and that is one of the many scenes in O Kadhal Kanmani (aka OK Kanmani, aka OKK) that proves Mani Ratnam leaves nothing to chance to cement his comeback in this most memorable, light-hearted tale of love.
Nithya Menen steals the limelight and is utterly iridescent as Thara. Leave it to Mani (and GVM) to write strong, female characters (a huge void left by K Balachander). All it takes are the expressive, arresting eyes of Nithya Menen to portray Thara's joy, anger, doubts and a whole range of emotions. Apart from the scene mentioned above, Nithya excels where she (Thara) confesses to Ganapathy Uncle her love for Aadhi in a subdued manner on the balcony. Dulquer has scored with the character of Aadhi who could be both playful and contemplative at times. Both Nithya and Dulquer are magnificently pitted against each other (the church-wedding-scene) where they converse in almost-mime at the beginning of the film. Even though Aadhi and Thara are at the forefront it's with Prakash Raj and Leela Samson I invested emotionally. Prakash Raj underplays (only if directors could get the best out of him this way) and Leela Samson is magnificent with her fragility (onset of Alzheimer's) and zingy one-liners. In my book Mani Ratnam gets full points on casting.
Complaints? None. Well. Unlike "Mouna Raagam" or "Alaipayuthey" (you know the comparison was around the corner!) there is no melodrama. The characters don't face Himalayan challenges. It could be argued that Mani Ratnam made a grounded film for this generation and prevented Aadhi and Thara from high intensity situations. And Mani Ratnam has his own "Thaali" ("Mangala Sutra") sentiments. Was it a necessity for Aadhi and Thara to get married? (If not, I highly suspect the Censor Board would've given the film an 'A' certificate!)
(Apart from these minor disputes which could be easily ignored) Mani Ratnam has come up with a love story for the new generation yet showing that people are same when it comes to certain emotions or feelings and at the same time has announced to the world that he is the master of his craft.