Adi (Dulquer Salmaan) is a games developer who goes to Mumbai on work from Chennai. He finds accommodation with an elderly couple, Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) and Bhavani (Leela Samson), as their paying guest.
Adi meets Tara (Nithya Menon) on the very first day of his arrival in Mumbai but under strange circumstances.
He is waiting at the station for his friend, Ananya (VJ Ramya), to pick him up, when he notices a young woman on the opposite side attempting to throw herself in front of an approaching train.
Catching glimpses of her in between moving trains, Adi, through gestures, tries to dissuade her from taking the extreme step.
Days later, he bumps into Tara again; this time at the church where Ananya is getting married.
From making small talk to becoming friends Adi and Tara are drawn towards each other. Both of them believe in love but not for them the hassles of marriage and bringing up babies.
Tara is an architect and keen on pursuing higher studies at Paris. Adi dreams of becoming the next Steve Jobs and Marc Zuckerberg.
When Tara moves in with Adi at the Ganapathy’s home, it takes their relationship to another level. But they are both clear that their relationship is not a commitment and they would part ways in pursuit of their dreams.
So is the institution of marriage relevant among the new generation? That’s the big question.
Opening the film in his signature style, with a train entering the station (remember Alaipayuthe, with Madhavan running to the platform as a train pulls up) and creating the perfect spot for two strangers to meet, director Mani Ratnam loses no time in getting into the shoes of today’s young.
Adi and Tara are ordinary characters representing today’s youth, who are clear in their ambitions and make no pretensions.
Understanding their pulse very well, he narrates a romantic tale that immediately connects not just with the young but the older generation too.
Ratnam wins their hearts back with several realistic moments onscreen, after Kadal, his last film, a disappointment to many.
There is a scene where Ganapathy recalls the first time he met Bhavani, praising her prowess as a noted Carnatic singer. As Adi and Tara listen, Bhavani quips, ‘Paarku eppidi irunthein sollanga,’ (tell them how I looked). Ratnam understands women like no other. In all his films, women are carved lovingly and are strong individuals with a mind of their own. Be it Divya of Mouna Raagam, Roja of Roja, or Shakti of Alaipayuthe, Ratnam gives them due respect.
So is love just the union of two bodies?
Structuring the Adi-Tara story to run parallel with another love story, that of the elderly couple, Ganapathy and Bhavani, viewers along with Adi and Tara watch a caring husband who lovingly and patiently handles his wife and her Alzhiemer’s.
Raj’s subtle acting enriches his character. Samson, (former chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification, India) is a big surprise — her portrayal of Bhavani is brilliant.
There are fun moments aplenty; the first half rests on that completely. With tongue-in-cheek humour by the lead pair and asides made by Bhavani, O Kadhal Kanmani is a delight to sit through. The humour is squeaky clean — no double entendres, no vulgar scenes and not even the “f” word in this story of GenX.
My favourite is the scene where Adi accompanies Tara to the gynaecologist. That was a scream.
A good story can be narrated without the usual props that Indian cinema, especially Tamil cinema, seems to rely upon.
Salmaan and Menon have beautiful onscreen chemistry; A R Rahman’s music is magical, especially with the picturisation and choreography of the song Paranthu Selavaa. Shot entirely inside a room, with just the lead pair, this song begins with a single kiss and then the loopy application takes over. Each frame of cinematographer P.C. Sreeram’s visuals holds something special, be it inside the old house or out in Mumbai. Look out for the mirror scenes and rain-soaked frames, a mark of Ratnam films.
O Kadhal Kanmani is a simple story of two young people told without any frills. Brevity in the dialogues is another plus. No melodrama either, no villain, or the other woman, nor overbearing parents.
Don’t miss this Ratnam film — watch it with your grandmother and your children too, for it cuts across generations.