Oh! Baby movie review : Samantha delivers a career-best performance in Nandini Reddy's heart-warming drama
Nandini Reddy’s delightful new film, Oh! Baby, is also her best work till date.
We are often told, “Age is just a number” and that you are never old enough to do what you want to in life. But it’s not true, isn’t it?
In the opening segment of Nandini Reddy’s delightful new film, Oh! Baby, which is also her best work till date, we are introduced to Bebakka (Lakshmi) and her childhood friend Chanti (Rajendra Prasad). Both of them are well past their prime and as they continue to bicker about their lives and families, we hear them talk about her knee pain and constipation. The latter, in particular, doesn’t let them eat what they want to, and the former reduces their mobility so much that they give up doing what they could have done.
Bebakka’s overbearing nature turns into a nuisance for her family, even though her son Shekhar (Rao Ramesh) continues to revere her. She is well aware of what she has missed, but she also knows why she had to give it all up. In her world, there’s nothing more important than her family. This context is important to understand because everything else that follows after the opening segment will make you look at age and people within your family in a new light. Because Oh! Baby doesn’t just address what would one do if they are given a second chance, but also delves into dichotomy of life itself: we don’t appreciate the things we have right now, and when life passes, you don’t know how to deal with your age.
Nandini Reddy turns the whole film into a therapeutic experience with Samantha in the driver’s seat. Oh! Baby is the kind of film that leaves you with a grateful feeling for all the things you have in your life and miss those which you didn’t quite pay attention to. It reminded me of a phase in my own life when the presence of my grandmother was comforting because she would often tell me stories and serve extra food because that was her way of showing love.
Oh! Baby is the official remake of a Korean drama, Miss Granny, and this follows the life of Bebakka aka Savitri (Lakshmi), who transforms miraculously into a 24-year-old woman after she steps into a photo studio. In her second life, so to speak, Bebakka, who now calls her Swathi (Samantha), fulfils her dreams and comes to terms with what’s important for her to live a happy life.
It would be a crime to reveal everything that Swathi does in her journey because that’s an experience in itself. And the way Samantha has pulled off the role, right from imbibing Lakshmi’s body language, especially her gait, to how she treats people around her, this is perhaps the most endearing performance in her career so far. It’s Lakshmi who sets the right precedent for us to fall in love with Swathi instantly. From the moment when Swathi realises that she doesn’t have a backache and knee pain, which had been part of her life for God knows how many years, till she figures out if her youth is really worth it, it’s Samantha's film all the way. If this film doesn’t convince you that she’s probably one of the most lively characters you’ve ever seen on screen, then I don’t know what will.
There’s so much to say about how Samantha pulls off the role, but the only thing you need to know before watching the film is that she can twist every muscle in her face, and each time it’ll make you laugh. She’s hilarious to the point that you forget you are watching a fictional character on screen. One time, when she goes out on a date with Naga Shaurya, she casually tells him he should enjoy food to the fullest extent before his body gives up on him. And when the waiter asks her if she wants only non-veg dishes, she hits back saying, “Of course. My teeth are still intact.” The punches keep landing in every scene, and Nandini finds interesting situations to bring in plenty of emotion into the storytelling.
I can’t think of a Telugu film in recent times which hinged so much on the strength of its lead actress’ ability to break the fourth wall. And Samantha does this effortlessly throughout the film. Whether it’s her banter with Rajendra Prasad, or the initial awkwardness of her equation with Naga Shaurya, Samantha is the soul of the film, and full credit to Lakshmi, too, for setting the ball rolling with her striking screen presence. Casting is top notch throughout the film, and some of the actors like Sunaina, who played Rajendra Prasad’s daughter, and Teja Sajja (who played Lakshmi’s grandson) stand out too. Rao Ramesh and Rajendra Prasad slip into their roles beautifully. Cinematographer Richard Prasad lets the warmth of the characters and the storytelling take their own shape and he maintains this harmony throughout the narrative.
The only quibble about Oh! Baby is its music. For a film where the protagonist wants to be a singer, the music doesn’t quite pack a punch, although couple of songs churn plenty of emotions because of the situation that the lead character finds herself in. There are a few portions, in the second half, that overstay their welcome, but the underlying emotion compensates for such shortcomings. In terms of how the supporting characters are treated, it’s also surprising that the grandmother doesn’t interact as much with her granddaughter.
In the end, Oh! Baby finds plenty of solid ground to talk about issues that we don’t often see in mainstream films and Nandini Reddy deserves a pat on her back for the sensitivity that she brought into the film. It makes the viewers see the world around us through the eyes of the protagonist. One of my favourite scenes in the film has Samantha talking about how she wants to live another day just to feel what it’s like to be looked at by someone who’s in love with her, I teared up, a bit. Maybe that’s what Oh! Baby is really about. The way you look at people you love and how they perceive it.
Oh! Baby is a treasure box. Open it, dig into it, and cherish everything that it has to offer you. There’s a lot more to this film than just laughs. It’s like sunshine on a gloomy day. It’s a heart-warming film that you won't forget anytime soon.
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