Mani Ratnam bounces back with a young, urban love story 'O Kadhal Kanmani'

Sreedhar Pillai

Apr 21, 2015 14:51:47 IST

Mani Ratnam is back with a bang. His O Kadhal Kanmani, popularly known as OK Kanmani in Tamil and OK Bangaram in the dubbed Telugu version, has already been declared a runaway hit. The new film, tailor-made for multiplex audience, is an urban romantic comedy about a couple in a live-in relationship. In fact, the trailer of OK Kanmani made it look like his love story Alaipayuthe, which released in 2000.

However, Ratnam said in an interview, “O Kadhal Kanmani is not Alaipayuthey 2. The only similarity that is there in the two films is that they both talk about urban youth and their relationships. Young men and women look at relationships very differently  now, compared to 2000. The lead characters are different people, the backdrop is different and you can see the 15-year difference between OK Kanmani and Alaipayuthey."

OK Kanmani has grossed an impressive Rs 6.30 crore in its opening weekend (Apr 17 to 19) in Tamil Nadu alone and has been declared a hit by trade analysts. It has performed well in the overseas market too. The film has grossed $460,000 in US (Rs 2.9 Cr) and had made it to the list of top ten Tamil opening week hits of all times.

Industry estimates peg the overall first weekend collections of the film at Rs 13 crore, which is phenomenal for a Tamil film.

Mani Ratnam bounces back with a young, urban love story O Kadhal Kanmani

A still from OK Kanmani.

Like all earlier Ratnam films, it too had its share of controversy, in the way of a run-in with the censors. Ratnam had sought a U certificate in Tamil Nadu, the film's primary market, as movies with U certificate only are eligible for entertainment tax exemption. But the censors slapped a U/A certificate, citing its“adult theme”.

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.

It is one of those films in which everything seems to have come together, especially its likeable lead actors. Dulquer Salmaan, the handsome son of popular Malayalam superstar Mammootty and actress Nithya Menen carried the film on their shoulders.

Adding to the charm of the film were the terrific performances of Prakash Raj and Leela Samson, former CBFC chairperson, who played an elderly couple. The lovely music by AR Rahman, PC Sreeram's camerawork and Sharmistha Roy's production design were also spot on.

However, on the eve of the film's release, it ran into a little storm thanks to Ratnam's wife, Suhasini. She said, with more than just a hint of pride, that, "Just like how qualified people work in various departments of a film, only qualified people should review the film! Of late, everyone who has the basic knowledge in computers has started writing film reviews, mainly on social media. Only professional journalists should review OK Kanmani.” It created a furore among netizens and Suhasini was trolled for her insensitive comments. Incidentally, Mani Ratnam’s last release in 2013, Kadal, was one of the most trolled movies in social media.

OK Kanmani is Mani Ratnam’s first big hit in Tamil in 15 years since Madhavan’s debut film Alaipayuthe (2000). Mani had directed 7 films in the last 15 years – Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) in Tamil, a bilingual Yuva (2004) in Hindi which became Aayudhe Ezhuthu in Tamil, Guru (2007) in Hindi, another bilingual Raavan (2010) in Hindi and Raavanan in Tamil, and Kadal (2013) in Tamil. Out of this only Guru is said to be a commercial success. And his last release in Tamil, Kadal, was a colossal flop, and distributors even laid siege to his office in Chennai demanding compensation for their losses!

Says noted critic Baradwaj Rangan : “I frankly felt the film could have had more meat, especially when it came to the central conceit (of a live-in relationship). But to have these high expectations of a filmmaker who's been around for over three decades is itself some sort of statement about the man's career. Every fifteen years, he comes out with what seems to be some kind of defining love story for a generation -- he keeps figuring out ways to stay relevant. People may love his work, or hate his work, but they don't ignore his work. That is the most important thing for a creator, that he isn't ignored. A Mani Ratnam film is still an event. There aren't many senior filmmakers of whom you can say this.”

So in more than one way it is great comeback for Mani Ratnam who will be celebrating his 60th birthday next year. And now he has only one goal, to make a successful film in Hindi. The buzz in Chennai is that there will be a Bollywood film from the master early next year.

Updated Date: Apr 21, 2015 15:53:41 IST