Not so Ok Jaanu: This Mani Ratnam remake is a champion of half-hearted ideas
OK Jaanu keeps moving forward with half-hearted ideas and then goes back (more than happily) to not doing anything..
Ok Jaanu has many scenes of Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) and Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) jumping onto departing buses and trains. Twice, it’s a taxi. The one time they miss a train, they fall in love. They talk about how attracted they are to each other on the buses and Bombay trains. But they do this so many times that you begin to suspect that it isn’t just an effort to set the movie in Bombay. You begin to wonder if it’s a weird metaphor for their lives. They always get what they want.
It’s a bit like that scene in Jab We Met, when Geet talks to Aditya — is Adi/Aditya is the new Rahul? — about getting back together with her ex. She says she’s feeling “becheini”, like she’s missing a train.
But in Ok Jaanu — let me also just say I don’t like the word jaanu — the metaphor isn’t only a feeling. It is also a reminder that all the ‘we-don’t-want-to-get-married’, and the ‘we-want-to-focus-on-our-careers’ will ultimately end in marriage after a tensed fight sitting in a jeep in the middle of Bombay rains. It almost seems like in no scenario in life can marriage successfully come second, or third, or somewhere down the list of priorities.
When I watch Shaad Ali’s Ok Jaanu, a remake of Mani Ratnam’s 2015 Tamil hit O Kadhal Kanmani, I hadn’t yet seen the original. I’ve heard enough about how lovely Ok Kanmani is from Tamilian friends who cannot talk about Dulquer Salman without their voices getting a little high-pitched.
When Ok Jaanu’s trailer released, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with distraught statuses about the ruined original because Kapoor and Kapur were nothing like Salman and Menen. And it’s true, they aren’t.
But after watching both these movies in one evening, I’m nervous about telling my Ok Kanmani-loving friends that even though Salman and Menen are more endearing, and I’m much more invested in their story than I am in Kapoor and Kapur’s, both the movies do nothing. Ok Jaanu stays so faithful to Ok Kanmani even in how it is shot — I swear, the light falls on Tara’s face the same way — and in dialogue, that there is almost no space for anything new to happen. In short, they are both boring.
If in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, we were introduced to shiddat (intensity) to measure the emotions of pyaar and dosti, in Ok Jaanu we are introduced to aadat. When two people live together, we are told, they get used to each other (aadat) — when the time comes, neither aadat, nor pyaar can be let go of. This gyan is given to us by Adi’s sister-in-law, who disapproves of their live-in-relationship.
The movie also always has women who are disapproving (except for their landlord who is easily converted to non-disapproving) — first it is the sister-in-law, and then it’s Tara’s mother.
The aadat in both Ok Jaanu and Ok Kanmani comes to us in the fleeting way that relationships are usually shown when movies allow them grow only in songs. We see Tara and Adi fall in love on bike rides (where Tara is always doing that apparently carefree arms waving around move), stealing coke bottles from moving trucks or food from people’s tables at restaurants, and in trains — but we never know what they talk about.
So why is there the aadat really? And what is the aadat? Surely, “I will miss the way we used to steal Coke bottles” is less of an urge to stay together than “I will miss the way we do coke together.” We will never know.
Even though this imaginary aadat drives the movie, it affects Tara more than it affects Adi. It means that we only see Tara skipping her job, because Adi shows up secretly at her office or Adi showing up on her work trip — even though there’s very little career being shown in the movie anyway. It also means that we never see her working at her architect job like the few occasions we see Adi designing his video game.
Gopi (Naseeruddin Shah) and Charulata (Leela Samson) are the more-than-understanding landlords who allow them to live together in their huge house, but the aadat means that when the moment arrives and Tara gets her admission in an architecture school in Paris, Gopi asks her what is more important to her — her career, or Adi.
“Six months ago it would have been career,” she says and trails off as Gopi nods wisely. It’s true that Gopi and Charulata are lovely in this movie, but it’s annoying how their love is used as lessons on the true meaning of commitment. Even if we somehow force ourselves to ignore the fact that Adi never gets asked to choose between Tara and his career, and fast-forward to the scene where Adi gets his job in the US, he gets to just very conveniently look a little morose and call Tara his “biggest mistake”.
Apparently that’s a romantic line. By this point I’m just looking for Coke bottles to throw.
I have friends who argue that the movie is cool because it’s ‘tolerant’ of live-in relationships. Others say that even though they get married, Tara and Adi go on to travel to Paris and the United States for their careers. But these are hardly excuses. The movie just keeps moving forward with half-hearted ideas and then goes back (more than happily) to not doing anything.
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