Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Dulquer Salman, Nithya Menen, Prakash Raj, Leela Samson
Rating: Liked it*
About twenty years ago, Mani Ratnam made a movie about two young people from different communities who elope and make Bombay their home.
In Mumbai 2.0, or OK Kanmani as Madras Talkies insists, the young lovers are not fighting communal tensions but the prison of marriage or what it represents: commitment for life.
Now, I wish Mani Ratnam lived in Mumbai.
Because he would have enjoyed the freedom Jaideep Sahni had with Shuddh Desi Romance (a not-so-perfect film redeemed by a great ending) because OK Kanmani could have been THAT film that challenged the sacred thread. Or the knots often worshipped as thaali (Before you think of a bad pun, Yes… also one that gets you – both men and women – unlimited meals for life and we are not just talking about food here).
While Shuddh Desi Romance intentionally made young people seem flippant and confused about what they want, OK Kanmani is about two confident, independent young individuals – consenting adults – who choose to live and sleep together knowing very well what the future holds for them.
Mani Ratnam basically takes that Trisha-Siddharth (or Vivek Oberoi-Kareena Kapoor) love story from Aayitha Ezhuthu and fleshes it out with all the things people have come to expect out of him – the modern middle-class family dynamic, the irreverent tone (with which you call your parents by name), public transport (trains, of course), great looking houses with tasteful production design (even if it’s meant to be a seedy lodge, it better have a swing, Yo!), talkative kids who are quick to spot lovers up to mischief, people professing love sitting across the room, attractive people dancing to Rahman’s funky music, terse dialogues in staccato Mani-Ratnamspeak, magic hour and finally, rains to resolve everything. A squeaky clean petrichor feel good ending. You know you love it.
By now, a Mani Ratnam film is genre by itself. And you can’t question the genre because the man invented it. It’s like telling Jobs or Cook: Dude, in my opinion, the new iPhone 6 bends. You used to make cooler phones.
You know what you are getting when you buy an iPhone and the upgrades just make it more relevant for apps you tend to use more. Even if an Android has better specifications, nothing quite matches the feeling of wielding a highly acclaimed, incredibly beautiful, classy symbol of the elite (and the aspirational upper middle class.)
As much as I enjoyed the home comfort and the easy-on-the-eye sophistication of Mani Ratnam’s storytelling (and the writing truly marks a return to form – he should just stop collaborating and polluting his writing with substandard pulpy writers), I did find the old-fashioned endorsement of marriage a little too outdated. But then, Mani Ratnam’s films have not just respected the sanctity of marriage. They celebrate marriage.
In Mouna Raagam, he made a dysfunctional marriage (marred with baggage from the past) work. In Roja, he made a woman from a small town get in to war territory in search of her husband. In Bombay, the marriage of people from two communities was a symbolic representation of India as a secular State. In Alai Payuthey, lovers who secretly marry almost lose each other before they understand the true meaning of marriage.
Mani Ratnam continues this tradition of making even the most commitment-phobic young people FUCKING TOE THE LINE!
While you could expect someone on the other side of 50 to not understand how young people meet and greet these days (Yes, I found that long drawn meet cute at the wedding contrived), it is a little disappointing personally to see Mani Ratnam’s persona as a filmmaker change from the rebel (I always see Mani Ratnam as Karthik – Manohar from Mouna Raagam, or say Suriya – Michael from Aayitha Ezhuthu) to the father figure (now I see him as Arvindswamy – from Kadal or Prakash Raj – from OK Kanmani) – the preacher! That annoying uncle who has only one question to passive-aggressively ask every time he meets you: “Eppo Kalyanam?” (When good news?)
OK Kanmani is unfortunately that Uncle who makes you believe that marriage is the answer to your conflict of living in without any expectations from each other. He wants to say it’s good to have expectations. It’s good to miss each other madly and want to hold on to each other. Marriage is so good you know you want it. It promises you unlimited meals of chicken soup for the soul. Go marry already. I want to eat your Kalayana Saapad, unlimited thaali please.
But ideological differences aside, I LOVED the exquisitely framed (PC Sreeram) modern day fable on the soul-stirring beauty of good old-fashioned marriage (where you are there for the other, in good health and bad). Especially because the chemistry between the lead pair of Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen is crackling (the young actors make you live their confusion) and equally adorable is the portrayal of the older couple (Prakash Raj and Leela Samson are terrific) in an Amour situation.
Yet, it’s a lost opportunity. Towards the end, there’s a lovely scene in there when the boy gifts her a necklace. He may not believe in a mangalsutra/thaali but gets her a parting gift that symbolically means the same damn thing – I love you and want you to wear this around your neck so that I know you love me. Isn’t that enough surrogate and subtle endorsement of marriage enough? Why take it all the way to a literal court acknowledged State-approved registered marriage with a vengeance, Mani Uncle.
As it is, it’s very difficult for young people to find houses in Mumbai (especially, bachelors – forget live-in) and you KNOW this (especially because you had to pass off spacious bungalows and five-star hotels from Chennai as Bombay though I must add it’s a big come down for The Park’s Pod to be de-promoted from New York in Good Night Good Morning to Bombay in OK Kanmani).
So pardon me if I don’t agree with the convenient solution of marriage to resolve complex relationship issues of space (physical and mental) and choices (professional and moral).
But I remember the ground reality of home.
It is not yet legal in Tamil Nadu to speak about pre-marital sex. Ask Khushboo. (As a friend’s father often says in denial when told that young people these days do things other than sleep on a bed together: NEVER BE!) And any discussion on the need for a thaali is interpreted as an insult to your own mother. Ask Puthiya Thalamurai.
Which brings me back to what I started this review with.
I wish Mani Ratnam lived in Mumbai.
(P.S: My rating scale goes from: Loved it. Liked it. Liked it but. Didn’t like it. Hated it.)
(As a friend’s father often says in denial when told that young people these days do things other than sleep on a bed together: NEVER BE!) My FAVOURITE!
Hahaha! I’m going to use this in a movie someday. 🙂
Loved your review, but strongly disagree and condemn your comment: “Substandard pulpy writers”. Well I dont know howmuch literature you have read or written in tamil. If only you had read Jeyamohan! Please do not denigrate tamil literary legends by calling them pulp writers. If he is a pulpy writer, Kamal Haasan, Bala , Vasanthabalan would have not collaborated with him. Jeyamohan scripted Naan Kadavul, Kaaviyathalaivan and many more. I know you did not like Kadal, but thats your personal opinion. For me, I loved it, it reminded me of Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh seal. To me it is Mani’s best work till date. But then I have to admit that Raavan , which was scripted by Mani ratnam had badly written dialogues by Mrs. Suhasini. Mani collaborates mostly with others for dialogues and nothing else.
Condemn sounds a tad too big a word for an opinion but I get it. Yes, I maybe wrong.
Reblogged this on The Secret life Of An open Bottle..
Perfect review.(personal opinion). These are the same questions I had in mind and the same things I loved in this movie. I just watched it yesterday.
I felt like I was seeing many scenes that I have seen in many other movies but each has a fresh feel like. I don’t know how he did that. May be it’s a Maniratnam magic 🙂
Reblogged this on rajneeshspeaks and commented:
Yet to watch the movie.
Super One !!!Thought Provoking review.I agree with your view the ending quite irked me( sudden thought of marriage).
I am a huge fan of your work and love reading your columns. Of late, I have been feeling like you are reviewing mostly the filmmaker than the film itself. If you see the film as the individual’s work of art, he has every right to write a story and direct a movie through his own personal lens right?..whatever color or size it is. I don’t understand why you would be critical of his storytelling and why would you want it in A particular fashion? (How would it matter if he is celebrating marriage or if he is not..why would you even want to get into moral judgements of a story.. It is just his point of view right? Just the story of Aadi & Taara. Not a documentary of the new age Mumbai couple right?)
I am just hoping you are voicing out your opinion as another film maker and not as a movie reviewer.
I can still like a movie and not like what it is trying to say. Which is why I gave it four stars.
Reading the review I felt you have moved from reviewing it t flaunting your writing skills. It is always easy to review movie making point blank just because it is something that even a layman understands …so is writing … Kindly abstain from the conclusion you have made without even know what it else things could have meant…
Thanks for the compliment if you think THIS quick unedited jotting down of thoughts is flaunting.
Quite Right! Living together without marriage is not an acceptable culture to Tamils! Seeding of such a thinking in today’s younger generation is a near crime! Mani Ratnam would not have thought this way really but script he got would have made him to think our people may like it! Certainky not!
The end was blah! it was like prescribing paracetamol for developing super human powers. “hey it works for cold, it works for head ache it works for fevers, now eat the same and it should also solve your case!”
A number of points you’ve mentioned struck a chord, Sudhish. I live in Bombay as well, and a number of choices Mani sir’s made seem safe and target only the upper-class- the beauty of the city in the movie, choosing mostly to explore early morning settings, areas like Bombay and Bandstand. The city itself, as you rightly said, is among the most embracing of ‘progressive’ ideas like live-in relationships, as opposed to, say, Chennai. Having said all of this, there is a distinct Mani Ratnam stamp on in the thought processes of characters and the dialogues. And lastly, the man, at 57, needs to be judged against himself, he deserves that much.
Had blogged about this at length today, check it out when you can – https://medium.com/@_peews/ok-kanmani-fanboy-thoughts-954308161b64
I dont think Mani wanted to convey marriage as a solution. He merely, put an older couple’s support for each other in perspective. That raises the question for youngsters, is separation in near future after living together worth the support they might need in distant future? So I guess the lead pair marry, just in case if she runs into Alzheimer.
Tint of 2 states
A number of points you’ve mentioned struck a chord, Sudhish. I live in Bombay as well, and a number of choices Mani sir’s made seem safe and target only the upper-class- the beauty of the city in the movie, choosing mostly to explore early morning settings, areas like South Bombay and Bandstand. The city itself, as you rightly said, is among the most embracing of ‘progressive’ ideas like live-in relationships, as opposed to, say, Chennai. Having said all of this, there is a distinct Mani Ratnam stamp on the thought processes of characters and the dialogues. And lastly, the man, at 57, needs to be judged against himself, he deserves that much.
Had blogged about this at length today, check it out when you can – https://medium.com/@_peews/ok-kanmani-fanboy-thoughts-954308161b64
This is the same user as peews91 above, albeit with far less typos, and a clear account reference 🙂 Please remove the comment from peews91? Thanks.
I personally felt that the movie doesn’t suggest “Marriage” as a solution. Dulqur says “Nee Paris po engevenumo po, enne kalyanam pannitu po”. At this point, it isn’t a solution. I felt Mani Ratnam tried telling us that marriage doesn’t have to work only on sacrifices. How many times have directors told us that ” Marriage is a set of choices and a lot of sacrifices, because it is worth it”. I think this is a movie which the modern day “commitment-phobic” young man/woman needs. It tells us that “You can be in love and get married and still pursue your dreams” and this is beautiful in it’s own way, because most youngsters want to “live life to the fullest” and this movie is just putting it on a platter for us, suggesting that we can make ends meet. This again is my perspeftive and i feel to understand this you need to be young.
Pretty impressive! I totally agree with you
Instead of looking it as a ultra light weight love story of youth, why can’t we look at it as a comparison of love thru three generations..
First generation is Ganapathy Uncle and Bhavani Aunty, who was in my opinion the best of three pairs shown in the movie, Love which starts in 70s with Love letters, pure at heart and stable till now showing that true love is not making passionate love at 20s its about caring for one another when they are incapacitated at 80s.
The second generation is Adi’s brother Vasu, (although shown for very little time) is the quintessential 90s Arranged marriage couple. They had their own aspirations buried under adjusting each others life for one another, they can understand the present generations love and commitment free relationship but they have difficulty accepting it until its rubber stamped with marriage.
The third generation is the ticket selling enchanting, (making single boys jealous) current generation Tara and Aadi. They are superficial, tech saavy, impatient, not strong in their ideals and easily influenced by physical intimacy..
I think thats what Mani Rathnam tried to show..
But the real kudos goes to ARR’s seamless BGM which blended right into every situation and made us feel totally at home..
I think the movie dumbs down the concept of living in together and creates a very idealistic scenario that ends in marriage. While in reality, many times couples realize the difficulty of adjusting and putting up with each other while living together – which paves way for the realization that marriage is not a good option in that case. Getting over the fear of commitment is not an easy task as jump over to get married because of professional separation. I agree with you the ending could have been more subtle – as they want to support each other even while their future diverges and not just take the easiest route. personally, found the movie too cliche. too Utopian.
Bhai, tu akela madrasi thodi hai jo Bambai main rehta ho!! That you wish Mani Ratnam had stayed in Bombay and understood the nuances of young love//life in there (and thereby indirectly state that you have a mastery over everything Bombay :D). I remember he was well ahead of others when he showed the love story in Yuva (Kareena/Vivek). And guess he understands Bombay (education et al) for a much longer time much better than most folks like you and me. With his sensibilities, people like him don’t necessarily lose a sense of human behaviour with age too. Meeting can still happen in an old fashioned way, happenstance. It is a tad ridiculous to expect that someone finds out the most common way of current times to then go ahead and represent it in his movie. Way too many generalizations in a review aimed at showing some of the same in the direction. Irony at its best 😛 Good luck with the future
Having visited Manek Chowk I think it’s quite possible to bump into a room like that in Ahmedabad, only not sure if it would look this good. That’s the point I guess, the situation itself must be a bit surreal and exciting at the same time for the couple that it’s portrayed so. And one of the old bungalows in Chembur could easily be that house where they live, ditto with an old couple! I think it helps to an extent when they’re known to you, instead of looking elsewhere, the fact that this generation can be quite ‘matter-of-fact’ like about it…..
The post pretty much put to form the debate in my head about the climax. (It’s still going on!) Anyway, appreciate the honesty 🙂
Am I the only person who hated this movie?? Most reviewers seems to give this 3 and above ratings… I don’t think this deserves a 1…. While I understand that this is a romance set in urban milieu, this was too saccharine and too hip and hop and bobbty-bob for me to even enjoy a single frame of it… Everything was “oh-so-perfect”… Even a seedy lodge or a spacious room in a place like Mumbai, where even the richest can’t afford a decent square meter…. This was bad writing… and bad story telling.. A story aimed at the indian equivalent of the “twilight-crowd”… Looks like the teenage girl lurking inside him has come out, and written a romantic fantasy fueled by her pubescent wet dreams!…
Your review has made me your fangirl…..absolutely love it…..enjoyed the movie but even i don’t agree with sudden marriage as solution…
I dunno if the “marriage sacrosanct” or rather “only marriage is sacrosanct” if film makers will ever come out of it….
for me the marriage in end seemed to some sort of insurance as both were afraid with out this bond…(yes!!!! i call it bond or bondage) the other may get another chance at love or some other fling or anything
why can’t they come back and still if they are in love then marry…and why marry at all isn’t love enough…..
but phew i think i will one of very few who will thin like that so will be condemned…..One reason i enjoyed Shuddh Desi Romance and couldn’t see why many didn’t like it….
The notion that marriage is solution to every relationship issue and if marriage doesn’t solve it then start a family it will solve it (Akash vani comes to mind) seems to be the magic pill of successful relationship according to majority