A computer games developer (Dulquer Salmaan) and a young budding architect (Nithya Menen) fall in love and decide to live together without any commitment, both being against the institution of marriage.
First the good news. After the disappointment of Raavan/Raavanan and especially Kadal, Mani Ratnam is definitely back on firmer ground with O Kadhal Kanmani. The film sees him rely on his strengths and thankfully, the story does stick to the romance without any political overtones or other issues thrown in. And it has to be said the romance does have its share of moments. However, the screenplay does get labored, especially in its last act, as it leads to its expected conformist happy ending.
The film also has a sense of deja vu as you feel the filmmaker trying to go back to his memorable past in a bit to regain lost ground. And as mentioned above that while the romance has its share of highs, many of the moments are also trying too hard and are too self consciously cute. The first half hardly moves the story forward while certain key plot points are quite unconvincing such as to why Prakash Raj agrees to let Menen move in with Salmaan. And while Ratnam thankfully avoids obvious melodrama, the film goes the other extreme often lacking even basic drama, thereby making its narrative flow convenient and flat.
Ratnam has always been good with actors and O Kadhal Kanmani is no exception. I would have to say that Dulquer Salmaan is well used in the film as he appears to be a limited actor, while Nithya Menen shines in the relatively more complex and better fleshed out role of the two. It is always refreshing to see a woman character who knows her mind in (Tamil) mainstream cinema and Menen makes the most of it with a sensitive performance. The two do make a likable, fresh young couple who complement each other quite well and do take you along with them. But it has to be said that the acting honors in the film go to Prakash Raj and Leela Samson. They impart the film with much depth, humor, insight and poignancy of a happily married life lived together, giving the film its best moments.
What stumps one is the making of the film. Strangely, by Ratnam’s lofty technical standards, the film is oddly non-cinematic in its making. The film sticks by and large to interiors (mostly in Chennai doubling for Mumbai), rarely ventures outdoors and restricts itself to mainly mid-close and close shots often resembling a TV film. Still, PC Sreeram does what he can with his lighting and compositions within the situation and AR Rahman’s music goes well with the flow of the film. The production design as well the video game sequences are adequate.
Overall, while O Kadhal Kanmani is a bounce back of sorts for Mani Sir, it is still not the big comeback he might have hoped for. But one has to say that it certainly is a step in the right direction after his last few films.
Tamil, Romance, Color