Mani Ratnam makes a comeback

Mani Ratnam makes a comeback

Promising another sweet romance, veteran director’s OK Kanmani is playing at theatres in the UAE this week, Deepa Gauri writes

By Deepa Gauri

Published: Thu 16 Apr 2015, 9:29 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:24 PM

It had been a sad fall for Tamil cinema’s maestro Mani Ratnam. Two of his previous films Raavanan and Kadal were at the receiving end of the critics’ ire and were subjected to social media flak.

Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen star in OK Kanmani

No wonder then that Suhasini Mani Ratnam, his wife and producer of the newest romantic tale from the maestro, went all out in a definitely desperate sounding (and looking) plea to the media that ‘only qualified people’ must review Oh Kadhal Kanmani (commonly referred to as OK Kanmani).

Is the master of pulp entertainment, sometimes described as the ‘Steven Spielberg of Indian cinema’, rattled? Should he be? After all, very few directors can claim the credentials of Mani Sir, as he is reverently referred to by one and all.

He defined a new stylised approach to filmmaking with racy editing, picture post-card photography, fantastic music and brought out the best from his performers. From Kamal Haasan to Rajnikanth to Mammootty and Mohanlal, every actor has shined through in his movies.

And his films have marked a new idiom of cinematic expression in Tamil cinema that went on to inspire a generation of filmmakers both in Tamil and Malayalam. So when it comes to OK Kanmani, why is there so much defensive posturing from the production team?

The answer will be out this week as OK Kanmani, starring Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen, hits the marquees. The buzz has been intense. The film’s songs, composed by AR Rahman, are chart busters, each of the numbers bearing his signature style.

The one-minute videos of the songs launched on YouTube have viewers gushing about how they just cannot wait to watch the movie. It is Mani’s magic at work.

And there is reason enough to harbour high expectations about the movie. Mani Ratnam says the film is an extension of his seminal romance, a cult film, Alaipayuthey that elevated R Madhavan into the star league, released during this festive season exactly 15 years ago.

OK Kanmani also has trains playing a key role in the film’s narrative; it is also set in Mumbai and it traverses the lives of star-crossed lovers. Only, this time, the milieu is a bit different. Here, the young ones are not waiting or fighting for parental approval. They are living together and Mani Ratnam is exploring this cultural shift in his trademark style.

As is the norm with Mani Ratnam films, the story-line is guarded; stars or talents associated mention little other than gloating over the excitement and learning of working with the master. So assumptions are drawn about the characters – Adi (Dulquer) and Tara (Nithya).

Apparently, Tara is open about taking their relationship to the next level while Adi is scared about the responsibility and commitment that comes along with marriage. If the plot point sounds pretty mundane, the magic will come from the treatment by the master.

Among the film’s strength is cinematography by PC Sriram that already has mesmerised viewers even with the two-minute videos of the two songs released on YouTube. And then there is the melody magic of Rahman.

For Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen, who were only recently seen together in debutant director Jenuse Mohamad’s 100 Days of Love, this is a career-best opportunity. A successful on-screen pair, all their previous outings including Ustad Hotel and Bangalore Days have been superhits.

While Dulquer says that the character he plays is far more serious than he is in personal life, the film’s makers have gone all out to praise Nithya for bringing an unmatched level of infectious energy to the movie.

According to reports, the film was originally planned with Fahadh Faasil, and we will perhaps never know the reason why the actor opted out of what can be best described as a ‘golden opportunity.’ Mani Ratnam also toyed with the idea of a multi-starrer with some young guns of Tamil and Telugu cinema before be finally zeroed in on Dulquer.

With extra-ordinary buzz, all-out media campaign, and talent powerhouses calling the shots, will OK Kanmani mark the return of the Mani Ratnam people loved and worshipped? Or do we need to be a bit cautious and not to have over-expectations, going by Suhasini’s fear of social media critics? We can only hope for the former because after all, not every day does a Mani Ratnam film come by.

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