Qalandar Reviews O KADHAL KANMANI (Tamil; 2015)


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EXCERPT: “And yet, by the end of O Kadhal Kanmani, I realized that I might have been missing the point of the film: Bombay, beautiful Bombay, in its real and cinematic avatars, appears to be the raison d’être of this film, and perhaps the most plausible kanmani on offer. Not for nothing does the film begin with Dulquer’s Aditya Varadarajan disembarking at CST/Victoria Terminus, and catching sight of Nithya Menon’s Tara, her image framed, de-stabilized, and finally obscured by passing trains in possibly the best train shots of even Ratnam’s long career. Indeed, over the course of the film the couple seems to meet more often in BEST buses and local trains than seems plausible for the iPad and iPhone wielding yuppies these two seem to be, and the reason is surely that O Kadhal Kanmani is Ratnam’s paean to a city that he loves, in the manner one loves a city one has discovered later in life, too late, that is, to take for granted. As with so many films from decades ago, the city’s lodestars are (apart from CST) the Gateway of India, the Worli sea-face, and the public transport system, each of these sites charged with years of not just social but cinematic meaning that made the experience of watching them on-screen moving in a way quite independent of the unfolding love story. The romance, in short, serves as backdrop to Ratnam’s representation of a city he clearly loves.”

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An hour into Mani Ratnam’s latest film, I realized I was enjoying myself quite a bit, even as the skeptic in me wanted to yell that there wasn’t much to the film, in terms of either plot or theme: nothing much happens in the film, nor does it take us anywhere the director’s earlier love stories — principally Alai Payuthey and Mouna Raagam, released, respectively, fifteen and nearly thirty years ago — haven’t already taken us. There is, as expected, a sensational background score — credited to, apart from AR Rahman, Qutub-e-Kripa, the students of the KM conservatory associated with Rahman — and a winning performance by Nithya Menon in the female lead role, but no real meat or edge. If Ratnam’s films are divided between those that aspire to “more” than popular cinema (Iruvar, Dil Se, Aayutha Ezhuthu/Yuva, Raavan/Raavanan) and those that aspire to make the popular film as classy as it can be (Thalapathi, Alai Payuthey, Thiruda Thiruda), O Kadhal Kanmani definitely falls in the latter category. But even in that category, it is a slight film, its love story and the protagonists at the heart of it no more than mere sketches, their tribulations the result of purely internal hesitations and reserve (neither believes in the idea of marriage with its permanent commitment and the cost it entails to one’s autonomy; but since films could barely exist without forming couples, the viewer knows to pay no heed to Aditya’s and Tara’s words), and not evoked in the most compelling fashion. Some of this might be attributable to the actors — Dulquer Salmaan, for instance, is charming as the male lead (a video-game developer recently arrived in Bombay), but compared to Alai Payuthey’s Madhavan, he seems shallow — but not all of it: Nithya Menon is a lot better than the earlier film’s inert Shalini, but her character (a student of architecture, originally from Coimbatore) makes much less of an impact. O Kadhal Kanmani is, like more than one Ratnam film, not the most tightly written (and as is also true of more than one Ratnam film, its first half is better than its second). The film is a bit of a soufflé, light and fluffy but without much of an after-taste, at least one that isn’t provided by the older couple played by Prakashraj and Leela Samson.

The film gets the soundtrack it needs — it is, by now, hard to tell which of Ratnam and AR Rahman is the muse, and to whom — and the very texture of O Kadhal Kanmani is suffused with Rahman’s magic, by way of both songs and background score. The fanboy in me certainly missed the videos of earlier Ratnam films (Parandhu Sella Vaa is the only choreographed set piece here, cute but hardly one of the director’s most memorable), but perhaps that is fitting, given that the director has arguably taken the Tamil and Hindi song-video to its limit. In exchange Ratnam scatters snippets of the songs throughout the film, making of them an aural Siamese twin to the film’s theme of young love in Bombay (the moody and beautiful cityscapes on the CD jacket best make the point). It might be churlish — although no less accurate for that — to observe that the film is not the equal of Rahman’s music, but that music undeniably works best in the context of this film (at least where tracks like Mental Manadil, Hey Sinamika, and Kaara Attakaara are concerned; the classically-inspired masterpiece Naane Varugiraen stands on its own, and perversely isn’t done justice to in the film): more than one song had grown on me before I watched the film, but was rendered indelible after I’d done so, in a manner reminiscent of my encounter with Rang de Basanti.

And yet, by the end of O Kadhal Kanmani, I realized that I might have been missing the point of the film: Bombay, beautiful Bombay, in its real and cinematic avatars, appears to be the raison d’être of this film, and perhaps the most plausible kanmani on offer. Not for nothing does the film begin with Dulquer’s Aditya Varadarajan disembarking at CST/Victoria Terminus, and catching sight of Nithya Menon’s Tara, her image framed, de-stabilized, and finally obscured by passing trains in possibly the best train shots of even Ratnam’s long career. Indeed, over the course of the film the couple seems to meet more often in BEST buses and local trains than seems plausible for the iPad and iPhone wielding yuppies these two seem to be, and the reason is surely that O Kadhal Kanmani is Ratnam’s paean to a city that he loves, in the manner one loves a city one has discovered later in life, too late, that is, to take for granted. As with so many films from decades ago, the city’s lodestars are (apart from CST) the Gateway of India, the Worli sea-face, and the public transport system, each of these sites charged with years of not just social but cinematic meaning that made the experience of watching them on-screen moving in a way quite independent of the unfolding love story. The romance, in short, serves as backdrop to Ratnam’s representation of a city he clearly loves.

Stated differently, things happen in this movie — a sudden rain shower, a frantic car ride through a crowded bazaar, bus-rides after dark and during the day, encounters in local trains — because they are opportunities to represent the city, more accurately opportunities to represent aspects of the city depicted in the films of an earlier era. And there’s no doubt his city is Bombay: Ratnam seems to bear no rancor over the change to Mumbai — Aditya (a video-game developer whose city — and next game — is “Mumbai 2.0”) corrects Leela Samson’s Bhavani (diagnosed with Alzheimers) after she has just referred to “Bombay,” with a glib (albeit not mean) “It’s Mumbai, not Bombay” — but Ratnam cannot resist an implicit reproach: “When did they do that?” Bhavani wonders, and it’s not hard to pick up a note of bewildered regret that isn’t just Bhavani’s Alzheimers talking (the director is less convincing in “Mumbai 2.0” as well, and the film’s anime sequences, while bold, seemed to belong in a different film). Ratnam has the film’s leads stick to old Bombay when they’re outdoors: with the exception of a scene or two on what appeared to me to be Juhu Beach, an underpass out of the Bandra-Kurla Complex, and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, the film does not venture into the “suburbs” except by implication (Aditya and Tara regularly meet and shop in the city’s new malls, most of which are north of Bombay’s old core).

But, as befits a director who has been preoccupied with domesticity for decades, O Kadhal Kanmani is just as lavish in depicting Bombay’s interior spaces, principally the grand old apartment in Gamdevi that Ganapathy (Prakashraj) and Bhavani live in, suffused with the grace and love intrinsic to Ratnam’s idealizations of married couples — so much so that the elderly couple serves as the movie’s scene stealers, making their younger twins (who board with them) seem callow or narcissistic. And if there has always been more than a little idealization of a certain kind of Tamil middle-class man and woman in Ratnam’s work, represented here in the form of Ganapathy and Bhavani, it is important to remember that the director does not (unlike most contemporary Hindi filmmakers) merely represent the social privilege of a particular class (much less celebrate its consumption patterns) but asks more of “his” people: by way of culture and a commitment to liberalism, by his nudges to them to stand for something (it is unclear if Aditya will ever pass muster on this front, and Ratnam is naturally more interested in Tara). You see it in that Gamdevi flat with its high ceilings, old french windows and musical instruments — I can’t think of another film set in Bombay with a more lovely dwelling — and there’s more than just the apartment voyeurism of big city dwellers operating here: a life with grace is possible, Ratnam seems to be telling us, and while it needs love for sure, it also needs sensibility.

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127 Responses to “Qalandar Reviews O KADHAL KANMANI (Tamil; 2015)”

  1. This is a beautiful piece.. an absolute joy to read, specially in the latter half.. thanks..

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  2. This is such an eloquent review Q! For me, the film was elevated well above the typical multiplex romance precisely because Ratnam took a story about young, urbane lovers living together and situated it seamlessly amidst such an idealised, cultured and graceful representation of middle-class Tamil domesticity.

    Multiplex romcoms that portray young, urban live-in relationships are usually situated in London (Cocktail), Sydney (Salaam Namaste) or whichever Western city and serve more as cheap voyeurism into a crudely caricatured universe, derived from the dregs of American pop culture, than anything else.

    On the other hand, here you have Tara and Aditya who conduct their romance on the local trains in Mumbai. When the couple go on a holiday, it isn’t to some EDM-soaked beach orgy, but to an architecturally unique mosque in Ahmedabad. And when the girlfriend goes to meet her boyfriend’s guardians and ask their permission to live with him until she gets admitted to university in Paris, she doesn’t show up in nothing but a white shirt and sit around with her legs splayed open (Cocktail); she wins them over with her flawless ability to sing classical Tamil compositions.

    Multiplex Bollywood wouldn’t be able to accommodate a character as nuanced as Tara, nor would it be able be conceive a domestic life as gently graceful as the one inhabited by Ganapathy and Bhavani.* And it most certainly wouldn’t be able to reconcile the worlds (and the morals) of the unmarried yuppie couple and the married, senior, ‘respectable’ couple in such a subtly subversive manner.

    *In contrast, Tara’s stereotypically wealthy life in Coimbatore, with the private plane, the Audi race cars, the shiny conference rooms and the mother who gifted her daughter Louis Vuitton handbags and bribed the police commissioner to arrest her boyfriend, felt as if it were lifted from another, far more crudely aspirational film.

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    • great comment.. thanks! Even if you might have offended Utkal by questioning Cocktail!

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    • *In contrast, Tara’s stereotypically wealthy life in Coimbatore, with the private plane, the Audi race cars, the shiny conference rooms and the mother who gifted her daughter Louis Vuitton handbags and bribed the police commissioner to arrest her boyfriend, felt as if it were lifted from another, far more crudely aspirational film.

      Sounds like Karan Johar’s sensibilities. Did the heroine also sang Raghupathi Raghav Rajaram? The equivalent of carnatic music.

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  3. Local train romance. There was a bollywood flick starring Tina Munim and Amol Palekar with local train romance. Baton baton mein.

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    • Yes, but that film wasn’t about urbane 21st yuppies, surely. My point is that Ratnam takes these multiplex ideas of modern romance that usually only exist in a superficially ‘westernised’ setting, and beautiful weaves them into the idealised upper middle-class Tamil universe he is so familiar with. To me, showing that young men and women can hold different views on relationships, pre-marital sex and career priorities and still be as cultured and rooted as the older generation is quite refreshing and rare.

      KJo’s 90s heroines sang bhajans, but they were traditional in the stereotypical sense. Here, Tara does a lot of things that don’t fit into the narrow box of how a ‘good Indian heroine ‘ is supposed to behave but she’s still portrayed in a manner that deserves respect and dignity, even from a character like Ganapathy, who is the epitome of a traditional ‘elder’ member of middle class society. And the same goes for Aditya, who is a typical middle-class Tamil Brahmin boy who happens to behave in a slightly unconventional manner, not some implausibly badass player.

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    • yes, I like it a lot.

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  4. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    SAtyam, in reply, let me just quote one of the comments to Rangan’s review, ” Reading the comments above I kept on wondering why everyone was analysing the Intellectual core of this love story( the whys and hows, ifs and buts)when IMHO it is hardly Mani Ratnam’s forte; most of his films that I have seen ( Roja, Bombay,Alaipayudhey, Kannathil muttamittal, Yuva, Guru etc ) never focussed much on this aspect of a love story but he created intense romance and passion on screen through what looked like magical artistry- stunning visuals and lighting, soulful music, carefully crafted set pieces, choreography that feels like slideshow of picture perfect shots, and not to forget extremely emotive close-ups of the talented actors.., all of which this film had in plenty; enough to bring on that smile and that nostalgia. For the drama in script, dialogues and the arc of the love story and also for getting the Intellectual part of the love story right I would anyday turn to Imtiaz Ali or even Gautam Vasudev Menon..”

    Even Qalandar’s review seems to be saying the same thing: that the film does nothing in terms of getting into the young lovers’ minds or portaying the emotional or erotic arc of a relationship thew ay a film like Cocktail or Socha Na That does.

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    • Pretty sure that Ali and Adajania could learn a thing or two from Ratnam on how to get into the minds of lovers and portray their emotional and erotic arcs. 😉 But then again, if Cocktail is the bar that Ratnam is expected to reach in order to be viewed as a maverick, perhaps it is best that he fails!

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    • Utkal, you might want to ask qalandar what he thinks of Cocktail first! You’re connecting his response to one aspect of the film with your own opinions elsewhere.

      Secondly Rangan is responding to certain commenters. His response should be understood within that context. But leaving this aside I don’t remember arguing that Ratnam’s romances were intellectual love stories. Of course I don’t agree with Rangan on The two examples he offers in this regard but that doesn’t bother me in any case. Why? Because Fellini wasn’t the most intellectual filmmaker around while many lesser directors are, that doesn’t automatically make their films better. This is again where one has to be careful ripping out sentences or passages without trying to understand the larger framework of the writer or critic. Incidentally I quite often disagree with Rangan but it’s important to understand where he’s coming from. Nor have I ever suggested anywhere else that somehow ‘intellectual’ films are better than others. In Ratnam’s context though I’d read things differently — the ‘intellectual’ is a label he himself often refuses, he much prefers to stress the lyrical or the moment or the organic or the spontaneous in this sense. But that doesn’t mean one has to agree. There is a thinking in his works that can be identified and some films explicitly invite such an exercise. Now does Ratnam approach love/romance essentially as a relationship which just happens without it ever being reducible to rationality in any easy sense? I think he does (this doesn’t mean there isn’t some thinking going on.. check out the interview Di has posted.. Ratnam has asked this question before also… whether marriage is pretty much an outdated category.. how many directors are willing to raise such a question in Bollywood.. this isn’t about saying that living together is fine.. it’s about asking whether marriage fulfills any significant function anymore.. whether one agrees with this framing or not it is a radical question..). But this then opens up more questions to ‘think’ about within the context of his work. That itself is some sort of intellectual choice though Ratnam might not be in the business of intellectualizing love stories. Not that Imtiaz Ali would necessarily be my example for the opposite!

      In any case films are greater or not than others not because of one point or the other but their overall accomplishment. And of course people can disagree on this. In my universe it’s almost impossible for Socha Na Tha to be better than Ok Kanmani. How about Rockstar? A heftier work by any measure. Well but then I would also juxtapose it with Dil Se in the same ‘intellectual’ sense and easily privilege the latter as the vastly more interesting film at every level (and I say this as a fan of Rockstar).

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      • Satyam:

        “In my universe it’s almost impossible for Socha Na Tha to be better than Ok Kanmani..”-

        I asked Rangan on his blog whether he prefers OKK to Soha Na Tha. Here is his response-

        “Saurabh: As far as “meat” goes — i.e. characterisation, plot development, etc. — I would definitely rate “Socha Na Tha” higher. I really love that movie.

        But OKK cannot be dismissed so easily either. It is a really hard movie to dislike, because there’s so much sensory pleasure to be derived — especially on the big screen.

        Also, from a film-analysis POV, the screenplay is a marvel. (Not the story or plot, but the screenplay.) It’s so organic, so smooth — at some point I wouldn’t be surprised it was taught in film schools as an example of how to make a 2:20 hr movie about practically nothing at all but people hanging out.

        Also, for people like me invested in Mani Ratman’s oeuvre, there are many things to look out for. For instance, this director’s unshakeable resolve to empower his women, given them agency, make them the drivers of plot, with the men just hanging around cutely (Alaipaaythey, OKK) or mutely (Mouna Raagam) is always a thing to celebrate in the context of mainstream Tamil cinema.

        This may seem a light thing when you watch only the big Tamil films, or when you watch Hindi films too (many of which frankly are much bolder/with more meat) — but if you look at what something like OKK represents in the context of “mainstream Tamil cinema”, it’s certainly something.

        But again, the dilemma. With a lesser/newer filmmaker, all this would be enough. But with Mani Ratnam…?”

        http://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/o-kadhal-kanmani-a-lightweight-but-enjoyable-romance/#comment-48502

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        • Satyam: BTW I am not at all saying the same thing as Utkal. What I am saying is that when it is comes to a heftier work, there is 90 % chance that a Rathnam “hefty” film will be better than an Imtiaz Ali “hefty” film. But when it comes to a far lesser demanding genre like a rom-com, there is a decent chance that an Imtiaz Ali film might just be better than a Rathnam film. So, for instance I am quite certain that there will be more than a few things in OKK which would be better than Socha Na Tha (the visuals for instance), but there is a good that as far as final products go, Socha Na Tha would be better than OKK. That is the crux of my arguement.

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        • Saurabh.. here’s what I meant when I said that.. and I disagree with Rangan in this sense. First off it’s not useful to carve up films this way. There are many great New Wave (French not Tamil..!) films in which nothing much happens. This does not mean that one can automatically compare these with ‘heftier’ art house films and judge the latter to be ‘better’ in those respects. Because the very point of the former is to not have ‘narrative’ in that sense. However this doesn’t mean anything goes. Otherwise one could justify most of contemporary Bollywood this way! The film must ultimate represent a level of formal artistry and/or create a world in which that sort of ‘lightness’ does not seem incomplete or lacking. In other words a film which might be about the lyrical moment or the gesture or whatever but it is fully able to justify itself on those grounds. The problem is that it takes a fairly skilled filmmaker to be able to achieve this. It is not easy to make this sort of film.

          Now on Ratnam here too I’ll disagree a bit with Rangan. When I watch AP I am under no illusion that this is Iruvar or whatever. I know this is Ratnam in a minor key. Maybe the film is primarily being made for commercial reasons, maybe the director just needs a break from his bigger projects, maybe a bit of both. But either way I just go to such a film with different expectations. But this doesn’t mean I find other filmmakers in similar genres better. Not because this isn’t possible (though I don’t believe Imtiaz Ali that highly.. Gautham Menon on a good day.. perhaps..) but because even in a minor key a highly skilled director has certain moves that a lesser filmmaker cannot hope to equal. Let’s just stick to Rangan’s opposition. For me the narrative payoff in a film like Socha Na Tha isn’t strong enough to offset the strengths of Ratnam in the same genre. So I literally do not like any Bollywood youth romance as much as AP in this entire past decade or more. Not that I even like most of those Bollywood romances to begin with! But also the logic must be examined at both ends. It’s fair to expect more from Ratnam but by the same token ‘less’ seems revolutionary from a much more ordinary filmmaker. All of this again doesn’t mean I don’t like many films more than Ratnam’s films or whatever. But one must be careful about the model of comparison. This really is for me the heart of the matter within Rangan’s comment:

          “Also, from a film-analysis POV, the screenplay is a marvel. (Not the story or plot, but the screenplay.) It’s so organic, so smooth — at some point I wouldn’t be surprised it was taught in film schools as an example of how to make a 2:20 hr movie about practically nothing at all but people hanging out.”

          It takes someone like Ratnam to be able to pull this off.

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      • Just realized I’d misread the comment earlier.. Utkal does say it’s from the comments section.. so not really Rangan’s comment. And of course this is true for the other one he quoted as well.

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  5. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    Multiplex Bollywood have woven cities into romances: Raanjhna and Varanasi, Band Baaaja Baarat and Delhi, Dum Laga Ke Haisa and Varanasi again,

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    • Neither Raanjha’s Dhanush nor the protagonists of DLKH can be described as yuppies, nor were those films particularly urbane in tone. The only multiplex rom com on your list is BBB, which was also strongly appreciated for combining youthful candour with authenticity.

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  6. Interview by Masand

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  7. I’ll save this piece till after I see the film, but Q, if anyone ever questioned the point of reminding people who Mani Ratnam is, unfavorable comparisons to Imtiaz Ali and Gautam Menon (good lord, talk about overrated) are reason enough.

    I was lucky to catch Kadal so soon after its release. This one might take a while.

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  8. This is such a beautiful review Q (especially the last few paragraphs). Thanks for this

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  9. I loved this sonf (and especially the video) from other recent Dulquer-Nithya film “100 Days of Love”-

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  10. Beautiful! This is one of your most personal piece that I have read, and felt much more than a film review. “…and the reason is surely that O Kadhal Kanmani is Ratnam’s paean to a city that he loves, in the manner one loves a city one has discovered later in life, too late, that is, to take for granted.” this piece is also like Ratnam more about Bombay the city you love than a review of O kadhal Kanmani.

    I loved the character of Bhavani played by Leela Samson, so rarely (and hardly other than Ratnam) do we see such well written female characters in tamil films (which are extinct in hindi films). I loved the subtle and beautiful scenes between the older couple (left me wanting for more) and sometimes felt a little irritated when the scene cuts to the younger ones. I would be really interested to see if Ratnam ever decides to make a film a kind of sequel to Alaipayuthey – where the main characters Karthik and Shakti have grown older much like Ganapathy and Bhavani…

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  11. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    Satyam: “In my universe it’s almost impossible for Socha Na Tha to be better than Ok Kanmani..”- Depends on what your universe consists of. To paraphrase Rangan’s reply to Saurabh : If it is characterization, plot development and emotional insights is what you go for then Socha Na Tha can indeed be better than Alaypayudhe ( Since I have not seen OKK). Mani is the master of the cinematic language and he will always have that signature. But he leaves that imprint on a soulless, fake story like Dil Se, or totally amateurishly set up fare like Raavan, something like Rockstar or Raanjhana turn out to be far better, more interesting films, though the flourish of cinematic expressions, like framing, montage and song picturization etc in Mani’s failed films is not in doubt. Just like t the musicianship of a band like The Beatles will not be absent in an uninspired effort like The Magical Mystery Tour, but I will take an inspired effort of the Eagles like Hotel California or Rumours by Fleetwood Mac over it any day. Though I am the biggest Beatles fan that ever was and I have no doubt as to which is the bigger band when it comes to The Beatles, The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac. In my universe, Hotel California very much CAN be a better album than Magical Mystery Tour.

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    • “But he leaves that imprint on a soulless, fake story like Dil Se, or totally amateurishly set up fare like Raavan”

      Let’s be serious.. and here I can actually quote you some strong reviews on both films but when it becomes about total dogmatism based on personal preference it’s hard to keep debating things.

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      • Personally, Dil Se is one of my favorite Ratnam movies: it’s his moodiest, most expressive work, and has had some of the most influential visuals in recent memory (I’m thinking specifically of Satrangi, but also of his representation of Old Delhi, a terrain he almost single-handedly brought to the mainstream Hindi film). It has aged quite well for me, but that shock of seeing it for the first time was something else — I don’t think I’d ever been so transported by the experience of WATCHING a Hindi film up until that point (I ended up watching it five times in the cinema). It also remains more daring than most films (i.e. it doesn’t have the terrorist undergoing a conversion or any such thing: she maintains an inscrutability right to the end)…

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        • The box office of Dil Se was supremely polarized. In India, it was practically a disaster. But I remember in the UK it was an absolute rage. Houseful for many weeks and only 2nd to KKHH that year. It dominated the box office and music charts on the radio until KKHH released. That was really the year and moment SRK took over in the UK big time.

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        • In theoretical studies of commercial India cinema over the last 15 years Dil Se has figured quite often.. there was a rather interesting essay called The Music of Intolerable Love: Political Conjugality in Dil Se which appeared in a collection titled Global Bollywood (by the U of Minnesota Press, there’s another such collection published by NYU). In both this essay and elsewhere the essential disjunction between the music videos of the film and the normal narrative is seen to be one of the most interesting features of the work.

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  12. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    Ami: Films like Raanjhana, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Highway or Shuddh Desi Romance, not to mention Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya or Dedh Ishqiya are meant more for the multiplex audience than the Single-Screen ones. It is only a misconception by some in this forum that all Bollywood multiplex films are about ‘ yuppies’.

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  13. edited…

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  14. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    Mani Ratnam’s scope and ambition had leapfrogged too. Dil Se was massive -in star cast, production values, music and intensity. But the news was that it had bombed. We couldn’t believe it. Mani Ratnam was the epitome of the success story from the south -quiet and unassuming, but bright, confident and sure-footed. Dil Se had all his ingredients in full measure. Yet, the shortcomings were obvious -Mani Ratnam had circumscribed himself in a formula of his own making. What began with Agni Natchathiram had become a straitjacket.

    On hindsight, it seems that Mani Ratnam’s easy compromises were born out of an inability to probe deeper. It appears that the fantasy elements and the overwrought characters of his films, the gloss and the music are an artifice -engineered by the cold-blooded calculus of the box office.

    OK Kanmani is all gloss -it purports to tackle the theme of live-in relationships, but the ending is a bit of a copout. The conflict comes from how the older people react to it. The situations are extraordinary , even improbable. And guess what, the movie makes a big deal of pre-marital sex.

    If Mani Ratnam thought the idea of a live-in could hold audience interest, he ought to see how recent movies like Pizza have treated it in a casual, understated manner. Pizza looks at a live-in relationship and the pregnancy as a matter of fact. It seems to reflect contemporary Tamil society’s mores in an easy, natural manner. There is nothing strained about it.

    In his failures too, Mani Ratnam reflects my generation. We set out to escape our limiting circumstances. And many of us did succeed. The side story, however, is that all along we had compromised. We hadn’t cared to truly break new ground or push those boundaries with integrity. We had retreated from politics and social engagement. We were content to scratch the surface and never really stood our ground. In the end, we too had been copouts.

    Tamil cinema has moved far ahead of Mani Ratnam. Whether it’s Aranya Kandam, Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu, Jigarthanda or the recent Madras, there is wonderful stuff coming out from a new generation of filmmakers -all effortlessly edgy and poignant. OK Kanmani is a fossil of a film into which even A R Rahman could not breathe life.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/When-the-formula-becomes-a-fossil/articleshow/46982367.cms

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    • what does one piece like this prove?! When someone like Gautham Menon after watching OKK says he feels like making a love story again after watching this.. when there are others like Shankar who’ve responded warmly.. when even Rangan says that there is still no one who can make youth romances like Ratnam (something you mysteriously did not quote).. one could go on.. either way it’s not about ripping out sentences and/or pieces that agree with one’s opinion.

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  15. The best Indian film I have seen on live-in relationship is Artist, it’s also the best Indian urban romantic drama I have seen from the last few years. And it has two superb performances by the leads.

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  16. Watching a movie with subtitles gives a different perspective.
    It is like listening to Pyar kiya to darna kya or any song with subtitles. One can get the feel but one misses something.

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  17. I am glad there is a sane voice her eon this fan forum (its hardly a blog abt films) . Utkal.
    I havent seen Cocktail but I agree with him on most points here. But he is barking on a wrong tree. this is basically a fan forum so nothing will change.

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  18. Utkal: You’re misunderstanding me: I’m not saying that films have to be about yuppies in order to appeal to the multiplexes. I’m saying that one type of multiplex film is the rom-coms that is made specifically about big-city yuppies. And these yuppies are always portrayed as living in some crass alternate universe that is removed from any semblance of cultural rootedness. And this doesn’t have to be Indian culture specifically – you have Woody Allen films for example, which are about Americans and their romantic entanglements in foreign lands, but you always get a rich sense of cultural landscape of whichever exoticised European city they’re in. In contrast, Bollywood films that are situated in the West portray those cities as cultural wastelands where people do nothing but get drunk and get laid (a few rare films like ZNMD have a less offensive portrayal of foreign locales, but they are really the exception rather than the rule).

    This is just a very personal preference rather than an objective judgement. I love romantic comedies and I can relate to the new age Bollywood rom-coms that are less about parental opposition and societal shame and more about the career aspirations, expectations and desires of the boy and the girl. But I dislike the fact that whenever the film is about urbane, globe-trotting young professionals they’re always shown in the most crassly ‘aspirational’ manner possible. You can have urbane, progressive, liberal young people who still live their lives with grace and dignity, surrounded by, and appreciate of, old-world beauty and culture. I love that Mani understands and portrays this in his films.

    But again, this is a purely personal preference, coming from somebody who is equally at home at the Margazhi (Carnatic) Music Season in Madras as in a hipster speakeasy bar in London, and enjoyed watching characters similar to me portrayed onscreen. 😉

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    • “You can have urbane, progressive, liberal young people who still live their lives with grace and dignity, surrounded by, and appreciate of, old-world beauty and culture”-

      Think a lot of new-age Malayalam films (rom-coms, dramas, buddy films) are doing this pretty well (and not surprisingly they have well-written characters) and better than most other Indian industries. Bangalore Days comes to mind (infact here you have Nivin Pauly’s character who actually keeps feeling homesick whenever he is in Bangalore), but also films like Artist, Ustad Hotel, Ohm Shanti Oshaana etc.

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    • Ami: Byomkesh was an absolutely seductive theatre experience. Not a particularly great film, but hugely entertaining. I also liked Qissa (Irrfan, Tillotama Shome- superb performances) a lot (again a film which is made for a theatre viewing- a very atmospheric film) before a bizarre twist came about and the film went a little off the rails (BTW the film can be officially viewed as VOD- for $1.99- on NFDC’s Cinemas of India website- http://www.cinemasofindia.com/#product/24140/qissa-the-tale-of-a-lonely-ghost)- the first half is as strong a depiction of the hauntings (though of a more personal/familial kind) of Partition as one reads in some of Manto’s novels..chilling stuff. I liked Badlapur quite a bit as well even if the film would have really taken off with a better lead actor. And found Dum Laga Ke Haisha thoroughly enjoyable and quite simply the best Bollywood rom-com since Socha Na Tha…the setting (Haridwar/Hrishikesh), the superbly realised world, terrific ensemble cast, great Hindi dialogues (“Agar usse kuch na hoye na, tu use rijha, angreji film laga, thoda maahaul banega, kranti aayegi vicharo mein”), a male lead who fits the part (and gets the dialect absolutely spot-on), but most importantly, one of the most interesting female characters I have seen in Indian rom-com (or romantic film) in the last 20-25 years)- the film really belongs to the female lead and Bhumi Pednekar makes a winning debut, I think you will love it. I am yet to see NH-10 though.

      A Tamil film I liked a lot (actually the only one I liked from this year from the ones I have seen, yet to see OKK) is this heist film called “Rajathanthiram”…might be the best Indian film in this genre (not that there have been too many!)..I preferred to something like Special 26

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      • Because I have enough respect for DB I’m not going to watch Byomkesh till I get a proper transfer.

        On a different note saw Baby recently. It was engaging enough throughout but I still think the director is getting a bit weaker with every film. Even as a sheer craftsman. Special 26 was fun but could have been way better. And Baby seems like a rough cut of sorts. A lot of things seem incomplete. The film is entertaining enough but I’d take Holiday over it. The other annoying thing about Baby was the blatant wannabe stuff.. a term like ‘deep asset’ and so on. Don’t get me wrong, enjoyed it, but it’s nowhere close to being the sort of film many described here. I really expected a return to roots for Pandey here. But this is a much cruder film compared to A Wednesday. Now I should finally get to Haider. Have had the DVD lying around for ages!

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        • I thought Holiday handling was more on Masala terrain. Baby was more on realistic terrain. I do have issues with some of the scene handling (terrorist getting out while transfer or raid on one of the hideouts) but overall I find it a far superior thriller.

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      • Thanks for the recommendations Saurabh 🙂

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        • Ami: Anjali Menon on DLKH- “Dum Laga Ke Haisha is such an endearing film with such real characters… loved it! So happy to see such films coming out of the Hindi space”

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  19. A question for those who watched the film until the end: I missed out on the end credits, which apparently had an animation of the couple’ married life. I’m curious to know what it showed: did Tara move to Paris and Aditya to the US? Or did they give up on their respective dreams and stay in Mumbai?

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    • No one stays in Bombay: they show each of them pursuing their professional dreams in the USA and Paris; then Tara is shown graduating, and after that they are shown with a child (indoors– so we don’t know where they are at that point)…

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  20. The 2nd part of that Rathnam interview. He mentions Jigarthanda and Soodhu Kavvum as the recent Tamil films he liked and says that Bala, Mysskin and Selvaraghavan are the filmmakers whom he likes.

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  21. Great thoughts Qalandar. You should post a link to this review on my blog. I didn’t know you had one out till I searched if you had one up.

    About the Mumbai thing, I guess I saw it as as much a distancing thing as Australia was in “Salaam Namaste.” This is what I wrote in a comment:

    ————————————-

    Anon: Why Mumbai?

    Because of two reasons:

    One, it creates a “distancing” effect. As in, it’s “easier” for a mainstream Tamil audience to buy this live-in thing in Mumbai. Just like a “Salaam Namaste” was set in Australia, IIRC. Adi and Tara may be Tamilians, but it’s a very “un-Tamil-culture” (i.e. Thamizh kalaachaaram) thing they’re doing, and so it’s easier (from a mainstream cinema POV) if they do it outside Tamil Nadu.

    Two, dramatically too, this makes it easier. They’re away from family, so it’s easier to live in.

    Though I can’t help imagining how much more fun and rooted this film would have been set in Chennai. We could have still have had Bhavani aunty saying “Madras” and Adi correcting her saying “Chennai, not Madras.” Plus, imagine the fun with nosy maami-like neighbours wondering about these two 🙂

    A “Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya” works because it’s a very Madras film about a very Madras boy. Take the Tamilian out of Madras, and you have a Chennai boy like Aadi – a metrosexual who fits easily in Mumbai.

    But then again, I guess Mani Ratnam was not going for any kind of realism at all — given the decor and the colours and everything. It’s a lavish, fun fantasy.

    ————————————-

    But this is what is so great about films/art. From an “insider” viewpoint, this is what I feel. But from Mumbai, you have this amazing set of thoughts. Happy to have read them.

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    • But interestingly Ratnam has now set his three important youth romances in three different Indian cities. Delhi in the first instance, then Chennai, now Bombay. I agree totally with you on the romance bits in AE/Yuva. I prefer the latter on this score because the lovers going on that tram with that different version of Anjaana Anjaani playing on the track is beautiful. I would actually love to see an entire romance set in Calcutta from him!

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    • Thanks Baradwaj, just did 🙂

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      • I do think there is an important reason for Mumbai/Bombay as opposed to Chennai/Madras: the latter does not carry the same right-wing valence that the earlier shift does, and given Ratnam’s own liberalism and the specific films he has made (one of which was of course toned down due to Bal Thackeray’s strong-arming him) it is hard for me to think that wasn’t on his mind. Second, I am not sure if that “distancing” works with this generation of cine-goer– that is, I don’t think Bombay has the same aspirational vibe that it used to have (especially given that even in TN Mani is after an urbane and urban crowd — ie it isn’t as if this film is pitched to the (real or imagined) small-towner who imagines “such things happens in Bombay”…

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        • I expanded on this in the version I posted on Baradwaj’s blog:

          Re: “Though I can’t help imagining how much more fun and rooted this film would have been set in Chennai. We could have still have had Bhavani aunty saying “Madras” and Adi correcting her saying “Chennai, not Madras.””

          I do think there is an important reason for Mumbai/Bombay as opposed to Chennai/Madras: the latter does not carry the same right-wing valence that the earlier shift does, and given Ratnam’s own liberalism and the specific films he has made (one of which was of course toned down due to Bal Thackeray’s strong-arming him) it is hard for me to think that wasn’t on his mind. The immediate transition to the Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad (the only portion of the film not set in Bombay) was also a bit hard to miss, at least for me (given the politics of Gujarat’s tourism campaign over the last decade or so, where sites associated with Muslims have been conspicuously ignored, the ruling right-wing dispensation evidently not wanting any Islamic fragrance in “Khushboo Gujarat ki” (the Rani ki Baoli is an exception, but the Jama Masjid has been conspicuous by its absence; in fact I remember a news article on a tourist brochure published by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation that itself omitted the Jama Masjid; don’t know if that particular bit is true though). In true Mani Ratnam fashion I doubt he has thought this through in the way one would a polemic — it’s more like a tremor his radar picks up, and consistent with his skepticism of the state over the last couple of decades (in films like Dil Se, Raavan/Raavanan, and perhaps even Aayutha Ezhuthu/Yuva) — a far cry from “Roja” indeed.

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          • great comment.. Roja was the one uncharacteristic film from Ratnam, i.e. in terms of its easy nationalist framing towards the end.

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  22. I haven’t seen the film yet. But looks like Mani has chnaged hsi style of picturizing songs, in the line of what I have been asking for. This is a quote from Rangan’s comment section:

    OneWithTheH: ohh, and the songs in OKK! they weren’t sounding great for a standalone album but the picturization and placement in the movie couldn’t have been better. it felt imtiaaz ali-ish. I think his Rockstaar was the benchmark in recent times on how to put good use of a sumptuous music album in a movie.
    Hopefully, Mani has finally moved on from the outlandish Adiye choreo days. He of all people would have realized that. Whattay disaster that was. I loved the track on audio but started hating even the audio after I saw the video!

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  23. http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/mani-ratnam-makes-a-sensational-comeback-with-a-young-cool-o-kadhal-kanmani-2205034.html

    Excerpts

    Ratnam said, “I tried my best to explain to the board that the film doesn’t warrant a U/A certificate, but they didn’t budge. They gave the certificate based on the subject of the film and not the execution of the plot, and that’s ridiculous.”

    He recalled that in 1986, for his classic film Mouna Ragam, the censor board had wanted to issue an ‘A’ certificate because the female lead in the film had asked for a divorce! Nearly 30 years later, the board is unsure about how to view OK Kanmani’s lead pair’s “relationship status”.

    In The Hindu review of the film Baradwaj Rangan wrote, “Even the live-in angle is incidental. You could watch it with your grandmother.”

    The film was lapped up by Ratnam’s target audience – the youth – who loved the love story of an upper class couple.

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  24. I will make this larger point which I intended to earlier in this thread as well. I have made it in the past. When it’s about Ratnam consciously or otherwise there is usually an opposition that is set up. Whether he is good enough compared to ‘x’ Bombay filmmaker, whether ‘y’ filmmaker might not be better than Ratnam at something, so on and so forth. Then there are latecomer ‘purists’ who are somehow totally invested in the Ratnam past, films that otherwise never seem to form any part of their conversation when they’re discussing other filmmakers and so on. All of this isn’t about Rangan incidentally, this ought to be obvious. The greatest compliment in my book is always whether I can find a piece illuminating even when I disagree with it and Rangan certainly falls in that category. Nor am I questioning the sincerity of others necessarily. But again the point stands: why do these oppositions come up only with Ratnam?

    And in this context the reason my responses are often overtly polemical is not because I am somehow ‘worshipful’ towards him. At the same time one must be serious in these matters. Of course even important directors can make poor films, can make mistakes. But even such ‘mistakes’ are worth more than interesting stuff elsewhere. Not in every single case of course. With the lesser filmmaker if the work in question is not good enough there’s nothing much to be retrieved from it. A Ratnam work however falls in that more elevated category where the opposite is true. Provided one knows how to ‘read’ such a work. This does not imply any automatic reverence on my part where Ratnam is concerned. But an important director (or author or what have you) opens up a space where it isn’t just about the nature of accomplishment each time in some overall aesthetic sense, it is also about the thinking that carries over from film to film. The ‘mistakes’ (assuming everyone can agree on these.. which is hardly ever the case) are quite often an essential part of oeuvre. These enable us to understand more fully not just the larger body of work but equally its best moments. In a similar sense sometimes the ‘mistakes’ or better sell ‘impasses’ of the work are illuminating because they open onto a larger problematic. Dil se for example. Perhaps the resolution here is weak, perhaps it makes sense at another level. Perhaps it is simply undecidable whether it is one or the other. however, could it be that this impasse that one thinks is simply Ratnam’s is possibly symptomatic of a much greater one? These are ‘necessary’ questions. Whichever side one falls on it is only this kind of work that can give one so much to ‘think’. And then if one starts ‘connecting’ it with Raavan/an (which I believe is the most useful contrast here) or perhaps even with KM to some extent a certain space becomes more than clear.

    ultimately I am never interested in works that are obvious one way or the other. Because these are weaker ones. The stronger work is always available to more interpretation not less. Or it gives itself over to different kinds of viewing experiences. Each time I watch Iruvar I find something ‘more’ in it. This isn’t the case with AP much as I adore the film. This doesn’t however mean that Love Aaj Kal is better than it! If someone wished to compare Bala’s work with Ratnam’s and preferred the former I wouldn’t find this odd. One could think of other filmmakers in the same sense. But the contrast has to be a serious one.

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  25. “In Tamil Nadu, there is a price cap on tickets, which makes it unviable to make niche movies that cater solely to the A centres, movies such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Wake Up Sid, so producers largely insist on making films that can sell in all markets. The audience, too, has changed over the years. O Kadhal Kanmani might not have stood out so much in the K. Balachander era, when films routinely addressed an upper-middleclass audience, which has largely shrunk. Given the very different audience that frequents cinema halls today, choosing to make a film where the I-want-to-be-rich hero talks of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg rather Tata or Birla (names more readily recognised by the masses) is interesting. It means the film is not afraid to be niche. This would be a problem if Tamil cinema always focused only on the upper classes but given the healthy representation of the underprivileged in Tamil films, it is just an interesting choice.”

    https://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/caste-and-class-in-popular-tamil-cinema/

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    • Man, Rangan is under fire. Check out these comments from his blog-

      “Well, you cannot derive CLASS from the last name of a person. Because what you are then doing is to presume that upper caste is upper class and, by implication, lower caste is low class. All of this and more was pointed out to you in the other thread. But anyway, to repeat, caste and class are entirely different concepts. Caste in the context of Brahmins, Vaishyas etc is Indian; class is universal. You cannot carelessly interchange or hyphenate the two, especially not in a review intended for a widely read newspaper. For that tantamounts to telling lower caste people that they can never enjoy class mobility and will remain low class no matter what. Your intent may not have been malicious but it was basically a bad piece of writing. And if you have an axe to grind against the caste politics of TN, please do write an opinion piece on your blog. I am all ears. I laughed when I found that the Chetty has been removed from GN Chetty road. But mixing it up in a movie review is not the way to go.”

      “You dont have a clue doyou

      I mean when most of the people were able to see the Dalit subtext of Madras you werent and you were denying it till people went to lengths explaining that..Even now you are saying that the movie was not making explicit references..

      Now most of the people know that Mani’s protagnists are predominantly “upperclass” and even if he talks about others he almost brings an “upperclass” perspective of it in his movies rather than the actuality..You are not the only person who “Saw” “upperclass” in this movie.

      People are not criticings you because you pointed out the caste in the movie. And its not that people havent enjoyed movies on castes and the caste that you are talking about.People have enjoyed both thevar magan and MMKR.

      But just the insensibility of your explaination saying its nice to hear such a language.. i mean who can deny kattai,sarrakku is low class, shit, f*** is such a high class usage which is so nice to hear. and then to say things like France, Steve jobs are again reference to the class and people from low class,c centers cannot understand it and relate to it..you are just clueless about the society around you

      If anything Madras and this shows the complete insensivity of your social understanding

      Thats all.”

      http://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/caste-and-class-in-popular-tamil-cinema/#comment-48628

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    • he normally doesn’t make himself as available as he has for this film but it’s always a joy to watch him. Even with relatively mundane things he usually makes it engaging. Of course there is some genuinely interesting stuff here as well.

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  26. Turning all those speculations into actuality, Mani Ratnam has officially confirmed that his next flick will indeed have Dhanush in the lead and that it will be a Hindi-Tamil bilingual.

    http://www.filmibeat.com/tamil/news/2015/mani-ratnam-confirms-his-next-with-dhanush-181019.html

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  27. Bachchan has written about Kanmani in today’s post..

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  28. Not that one needs to add riders to what one feels about movies, but there is a distinct sensibility associated with each kind of cinema we make in India and Tamil films have that so much more! I have watched a very select few for this very reason ie if you dont have the sensibility you cannot appreciate it and i dont have it in me to appreciate a ROBOT/ENTHIRAN or a AAI or a SETHU. However KANNATHIL MM or IRUVAR or THEVAR MAGAN or ALAIPAAYUTHE i (notice how most of them were Mani Ratnam movies) I have enjoyed. Always considered him one of our most accomplished writer-directors who could set a story in almost any part of the country and still be able to pull it off just fine.
    Alas I find that writer falter terribly here. Is he pandering to too many regional sentiments I wondered. This should have been a more universal story in both telling and filming and it seemed to hesitate. I like the protagonist is a game developer(ok that you want to be in with the new cool gang) but the effort shows the strain and ultimately falls a wee bit flat. The two most redeeming features of this film is Nithya Menen’s acting prowess and Prakashraj’s underplaying skills. Leela Samson was not half bad either, so that makes it three. Oh and Mumbai has not looked this different and pretty since the days of BLUFFMASTER. I wish every film-maker that ever shoots in this city is told, you have to use a different location and never repeat something already shown on celluloid. THere is so much to explore. How come no one ever thought of shooting by Bombay High (or is it Mumbai High) by night with the oil rigs all lit up….such an exlusively beautiful shot!

    In the end the movie is thin on screenplay, story and engagement value and is perhaps a DVD watch because the MR is still a fairly skilled craftsaman. This has to be one of MR’s most boring films ever and I have not seen KADAL. Very disappointed with the offering(though it has some good moments). At 2 hours plus this is a story that could have been a 1 hour narrative on a slot for television and probably have made a better impact.

    Can the real MR please awaken and standup?

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  29. Reports have it that Rajinikanth was bowled by the way Mani Ratnam has crafted his romantic tale “OK Kanmani”.

    http://www.ibtimes.co.in/rajinikanth-floored-by-mani-ratnams-craft-ok-kanmani-630651

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    • liked what he said on Kadal.. unlike others in similar circumstances he’s admitting that he might have failed to communicate what Kadal was about, that he’s certainly going to accept criticism as he does praise but he’s not otherwise privileging Kanmani in any sense. Wish a lot more directors more do this. A certain foolish kind of pandering takes place where the ‘public is always right’. Sometimes bad films work and good ones fail. The public is very often wrong. The box office is integrally a part of cinema for obvious reasons. Costs have to be justified even for the smallest film the way they don’t have to be for many other art forms (not all of course). But that’s completely different from the intrinsic worth of a film. what India (both audiences and the media culture) needs more than anything else is a decoupling of the two. Once again there isn’t the critical culture to foster such ‘education’ which is why routinely audiences feel that a hit film was good in some way or that a flop film must have been essentially bad in some sense. Of course even these positions are hypocritical. The same ‘public likes it’ argument is never used when Akshay’s comedies work. Then it’s about some lowbrow audience liking this stuff. otherwise everyone becomes a great populist. Similarly the minority position is ok when three multiplexes like a film! Otherwise it’s a problem. I do want to revisit Kadal, haven’t had the chance yet, but even though I enjoyed Kanmani a lot and certainly appreciated many of its strengths I might still give it to Kadal. Again we see this silliness playing out in the media, an outgrowth of everything I’ve just been pointing out, about how Ratnam has returned to form, made a masterpiece (this is in any case going way too far), and so forth. Now it would be one thing if Ratnam were making regular love stories and then failing in some and succeeding in others. But when you have a film like Raavan which is clearly designed and conceived completely differently (or Dil Se for that matter) it’s completely superficial to compare it with a much less ambitious (if at all) film like Kanmani. Or sticking to Hindi Guru was a hit but Yuva and Raavan were both more interesting in certain ways. Yuva still did ok all things considered (a bit more than Company that year.. the box office failure here was exaggerated), Raavan clearly fared the worst (though even this hardly did a Besharam or something, months later even Nahta admitted as much). But I’d say Raavan was the most interesting of the three followed by Yuva and then Guru. I’d place Dil Se closer to the Raavan end as well. Now one can certainly dislike these films or critique them in all sorts of ways but one should be serious. If one’s views suspiciously align with the box office results it’s something to be skeptical about. Not that one cannot think highly of box office hits. But shouldn’t ‘only’ think highly of those. I’d take Talaash over most of Aamir’s films since Lagaan. The same perhaps for MP (a film which I’ve liked more over time than perhaps initially). The idea that Aamir’s script sense suddenly deserted him on these two occasions is again absurd. He just tackled subjects that for different reasons were hard to do much more with. Or without diluting them. But these are authentic films. So again I’m not defending Ratnam’s or Aamir’s box office failures here. All I’m saying is we have to move away from this absence of critical thinking. It’s not simply about watching a lot of world cinema or being aware of it, much less mentioning it all the time. It is about learning how to think about these things. And this isn’t an argument about everyone watching serious films either. One is free to like or not whatever. It’s about having the tools to recognize the serious once one engages with it.

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  30. Although, I did not feel for Bombay as much as you’ve put it down, this made for a wholesome read. The city here in OKK is spacious, swept clean of crowds and crammed spaces. Of course, it is about affluent youngsters moving to a metropolis spared the challenges of living in a city that is already bursting at its seams. Which is perfectly fine for a story that is more fantasy a take, but for a MR film, I am not able to brush this away. I don’t ‘see’ much of Bombay / Mumbai then. This though eased my watching experience because Ratnam treads lightly and ensures that this is a love story that will have no drama and a happy ending that the viewer just knows about all along. OKK is a fantastical movie, an unusual one for Ratnam. But definitely worthy of viewing.

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  31. Arthi: that’s a v intelligent take on this film –(perhaps the only one I’ve read tho)
    “An unusual film for Ratnam”–ratnam like any mortal is not immune to the the laws for economics and the fear of extinction (& his career would’ve been over if not for the moderate success of this)

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  32. Was fortunate to catch the film at a screening in town last night.

    Among Mani Ratnam film’s from the past decade or more, I probably like OK Kanmani the least. This didn’t come as a surprise though. I’m more of a fan of the Ratnam that wanders from this terrain. A line from Rangan’s review stood out when I considered this:

    “It’s as if the director is telling us: “So you didn’t like it when I went too far away from what you guys want me to do. So here’s the stuff you seem to like.”’

    This is true and because it’s true, it’s actually pretty depressing. Here, even the throwback moments from past Ratnam films were charming for about two minutes before they started to feel redundant, and maybe something worse. A kind of devolution. In Kadal, the thematic and visual tie-ins to past Ratnam works were done with a kind of elegance I found missing here, (partly because they took place in a setting that for Ratnam felt utterly new) though I’m guessing this has more to do with my distaste for the subject matter. This is a love story un-anchored to something more than a set of familiar internal struggles guided by familiar and very low stakes.

    I’m not trying to be harsh, I realize that this movie was made with an eye at clearing the box office unscathed, and my criticism ultimately emerges out of a peculiar, specific quandary in my experience of Ratnam’s cinema. When he’s making the kinds of movies I like, he’s disappointing (apparently) everybody else. When he’s making movies that tap into the types of things that, supposedly, his audience enjoys, I find it, at this point, less interesting.

    A small bit of the problem here is that the film’s relatively thin substance isn’t aided (consistently anyway) by strong filmmaking flourishes, and is sometimes marred by moments of downright bad writing (I was “buddied” out about fifteen minutes in) and an overlong running time. But these missteps aren’t unforgivable. Partly because the blights are infrequent, but especially because the actors make the material sing as much as they can. Prakashraj was far and away my favorite thing in this film.

    The bigger issue for me, though, is that there are, as one has come to expect from this director, shards of something deeply interesting here. And it’s not exactly a case of undelivered promises, (though that’s not far from the truth) but more that it’s as if there are cracks in this film’s skin that reveal something else, something more novel and alive, something that’s groaning to get out. So for example I agree that the Mumbai 2.0 anime bits felt like they belonged to a different film, but I’d add that I’d rather have watched that film! When Dulquer Salman’s character first pitches the idea of his game to his boss, it’s painfully clear that Ratnam wants us to take note of the game’s story – his camera and his cutting are rather restless in this moment, too much so in my opinion, though that’s a different gripe. And it quickly becomes clear why Ratnam wants us to listen in here.

    The story of Mumbai 2.0 is some kind of neo-masala sci-fi film that really sounds pretty interesting. It’s a story that literalizes the socioeconomic divide of the city into a physical Upper Mumbai and Lower Mumbai, it features a set of twin-hero protagonists and a two-headed villain, and it’s got a love story to boot. This is basically a pitch for a Ratnam movie in every sense – but particularly in its concerns with duality, its interest in all things beyond the surface, all things “2.0”. When we turn to Nithya Menon’s character, we find in her a kind of twin, an architect, another world-builder pondering a divide, although a different one, a divide in history, where the old (thinking of the marvelous Jama Masjid moment) co-exists with the new, out of either necessity or design or both. These professional interests are mirrored in their personal obstacles and of course they in turn speak directly to Ratnam’s own interests as a world-builder himself. I do think, though, that a better script might have made these connections a tad bit more apparent. Ratnam doesn’t like to bludgeon his audiences but I sometimes wonder if he risks burying his intentions by not calling out to them a bit more. Here he buries his bold strokes, turning them into a game within a narrative that’s actually far slighter than “Mumbai 2.0”–more fun and games than the game itself.

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    • this is a wonderful, thoughtful comment GF that’s close to my experience of the film. I’d be kinder in some ways but I don’t disagree overall. But I especially like your sharp point that the video game might have constituted a much superior (and perhaps not less safe) film. In fairness though he was really cornered after the way Raavan was mauled in Hindi and then Kadal in Tamil. He’s sent some signals that the next one might be in Hindi or might be a bilingual (though he hasn’t confirmed any of the Dhanush rumors necessarily) so hopefully he’ll tackle something more ambitious the next time around.

      Of course, and on a related note, I’ve already argued against the foolish lionizing of the film as a means of opposing it to Ratnam’s recent ‘failures’ earlier in this thread (in response to the Ratnam interview someone referenced here).

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Of course, and on a related note, I’ve already argued against the foolish lionizing of the film as a means of opposing it to Ratnam’s recent ‘failures’ earlier in this thread (in response to the Ratnam interview someone referenced here).”

        Amen. And yeah, this was clearly an Alai Payuthey moment for him. It’s especially comparable when one thinks of the somewhat similar reception to Iruvar and Dil Se. Though of course, Raavan and Kadal probably got beat up more, if for no other reason than the exponentially larger media circus that exists now.

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    • Very fine comment here — I probably enjoyed this film more than you did (perhaps also a testimony to my experience of its strong sense of place, that is to say how scarce that is increasingly becoming in Hindi films), but I think this is a very strong critique of the film, perhaps the best one I have read…

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      • The act of organizing ones thoughts by writing a comment like this and of course reading really thoughtful reviews like yours and Rangan’s tends to help shed new light on the experience of a film. I’m still not a great fan of this film, but there’s enough in it to resist dismissing it without a moment of pause and reflection.

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    • On a different note I didn’t care much for the Alzheimer angle here. Though Ratnam used it effectively, specially in terms of incorporating it into the climax, it felt too much like a ‘Hollywood’ disease. He might have gone for something else in this sense.

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      • In general Ratnam has this tendency to use disability for Hollywood-weepy effect even elsewhere, though his trump card in those situations (and elsewhere when he’s on shaky ground) is his smart casting choices. That was the case for me here, Prakashraj and the actress here were memorable, and I thought often had better, more convincingly charming dialogue moments than the younger couple.

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    • Very well said GF. My least favority of MR’s film as well. Was very disappointed and (gasp)bored despite how innovatively Mumbai has been captured …the acting by Nithya, Prakash Raj was the best part in an otherwise forgettable(for me) experience.

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  33. Why Mani Ratnam’s movies still thrill Tamil audiences far away from their home state

    http://scroll.in/article/722429/why-mani-ratnams-movies-still-thrill-tamil-audiences-far-away-from-their-home-state

    “….For these Tamil-only-in-name diasporics pretending to miss the state their families had left a few generations before, Mani Ratnam’s movies are reminders of the Madras of summer vacations and short visits for weddings and funerals. His films provide memories, part real and part idealised, of a city that has bungalows with gardens, swings and brass lamps in alcoves, traditional beauties in cotton saris, handsome and noble men, and a language edited for its flourishes and colloquialisms. His often identifiably upper-caste characters speak most strongly to the Iyers and Iyengars floating across the planet’s hospitals, software companies, banks and universities.

    The specific connection with Mumbai has been furthered by films set in the city in which Ratnam spent a few years for a Master of Business Administration degree at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management. Still, most Mumbaiites might not recognise the metropolis in which Bombay, Guru and OK Kanmani are set. The palatial homes with high ceilings and un-enclosed balconies, uncluttered streets, tourist-free Gateway of India, and manageable traffic are much inventions as the Delhi of Mouna Ragam or the Kolkata of Yuva.

    Even when Mani Ratnam shot in a slum, as he did in Nayakan, it seemed less like its inspired setting Dharavi and more like the fabulously realistic set created by art director Thota Tharani that it actually was.

    OK Kanmani sidesteps Mumbai’s severe space crunch by playing out in a tastefully done up mansion that has miraculously survived redevelopment into a high-rise. Its owners (played by Prakashraaj and Leela Samson) rare a charming middle-class couple whose geographical orbit revolves around the bank where the man worked to the Carnatic Sabha where the woman used to sing. Are we actually in Chennai? Not for the first time does Ratnam relocate unconventional love to a city that is not his own, but could very well be.”…

    “…The Mani Ratnam movie used to be the top of this experience until the filmmaker exceeded his limits by tackling subjects far too complex for his storytelling abilities and trying to expand his market by making Hindi films. In OK Kanmani, Ratnam has returned to the kind of movie he was an expert at – the romantic drama – and to the city that continues to exert a strange fascination on him. Though the movie is hardly in the same league as Alaipayuthey, his best realised youthful love story, the ability of the veteran director and regular collaborator PC Sreeram to whip up verve and vim is unmistakable. Ratnam doesn’t even allow AR Rahman’s insipid soundtrack to dampen his enthusiasm at the flowering of young love or interrupt the breezy fun he finally seems to be having.

    The Mani Ratnam touch has been blunted over time, perhaps by over-use. His desire to be an internationalist Tamilian seems stubbornly old-fashioned in a film industry that increasingly swears by authenticity, realism and parochial sentiment. OK Kanmanihas apparently been well received at home but it has unsurprisingly also done well in foreign territories. The movie takes the middle-class and affluent sections of the Tamil diaspora back into a world that, for all its modern trappings, hasn’t changed too much. The fathers are strict but not unbendingly so. The mothers are as soft as well-worn Kanjeevarams. The children are a bit on the wild side but they ultimately fall in line. And the living spaces are still capacious and beautifully decorated, just like back home in Madras.”

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    • Nice read.. thanks.. I will say though that in any important director’s hands a city becomes a kind of dreamscape. It is never just something completely recognizable (assuming such a city even exists) in any obvious or mundane sense. It is always that director’s city. Sometimes we might be able to relate more to one director’s city rather than another director’s (very same) city. And we then think we are ‘recognizing’ more but I don’t think that’s the right way to understand this. To be honest I always like to see cities that I might otherwise be familiar with made strange in the movies. This happens most of all not when certain alternative geographies within those cities are represented, things that might be less-known, and much more so when the completely recognizable is cast in a rather different light.

      On the last paragraph of the piece I’d enlarge the point and perhaps not for the first time. It is quite often the case that a director who was once considered cutting edge becomes normalized over time. With Ratnam what has happened most often is that people hanker for some of his iconic 80s representations. The ‘later’ Ratnam has never enjoyed that sort of consistent box office success and in fact rarely on the key films. People miss the older Ratnam here but if the older one showed up he would seem less radical, not surprisingly. Equally the newer one is not recognized for what he’s actually trying to achieve. People are often left puzzled and they find it easy to locate the problems in the director’s methods as opposed to in their own reception. The signature haunts the work one way or the other. And this is by no means an uncommon problem in the arts. There are for instance tons of writers whose ‘late’ work was not given its due when it first came out or was judged markedly inferior but over time was understood to be as important or even more so. Those critical registers have to be adjusted first. With newer talents who might be interesting at some level or the other this same burden of history isn’t present and so it’s easy to accept here what one might not elsewhere.

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  34. It’s available on Netflix, so watched it … I really liked the movie specially the girl … her character was so real and believable, and she did perfect justice to it.
    Great review Q.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Rocky! I believe they are doing a remake with Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor

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      • Good choice of the leads but hope they don’t screw it up by placing the story in London …Kind of like JBJ , which personally I enjoyed but would have been a huge hit and a beter movie if it was situated in Delhi/ Simla or Kanpur.

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        • It was original supposed to be set in small town India.. taking off from BnB in this sense. And I agree it would have been way better if they’d stuck to the plan.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Prakash Raj was so regal and brilliant . My daughter ( all bewildered ) was like – is he the reason you are watching this movie ? I started to say- No due to Mani , then just decided to ignore her question.
        The only thing which seemed a bit jarring to me was that all the employees in both their offices were Tamil too.The BGM was superb, as also the melodious song when the girl leaves for Jaipur,

        Liked by 2 people

  35. ** I believe they are doing a remake with Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor**

    Eeeeeww. Shraddha Kapoor replacing Nithya? Might as well have gone for Megan Fox..

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  36. Qalandar, since your blog avatar is entrenched with son of soil kind of personage….. Dangal begs a detailed review from you. We do read here about your newly married status / lack of time etc but aisee bhi kya diwaangi…… husn ka jalwa at most remains for 6 month to a 1 year after that toh all romance feels and smells the same.

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