The official remake of Mani Ratnam’s Ok Kanmani tries for everything that a winsome romance should have: good–looking young couple, perky dialogues, song-and-dance, picturesque locations.
Ratnam’s pass at young love in Mumbai was a hit, but wasn’t a great film, even though Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen played really well together. Shaad Ali’s copy Ok Jaanu, with a screenplay by Ratnam, is faithful but pale and predictable, and doesn’t lift off the screen.
In the Hindi version, everything plays out the same way. Adi (Aditya Roy Kapoor) and Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) do the obligatory meet cute, and follow that up with a too-stretched prelude which sees them cosily shacked up in a leafy bungalow under the protective eye of an elderly couple.
In Ok Jaanu, we can see Shraddha has progressed on the acting scale, and looks pretty and fresh. Aditya Roy Kapoor has some nice bits too, but the whole enterprise is beset by a drabness, which is surprising because you can accuse Ratnam of anything but being drab.
And given that Shaad Ali did such a good job of the previous time he remade a Mani Ratnam film, it is even more surprising. I can see Saathiya and listen to its lilting songs any number of times (its Tamil original Alaipayuthey is mandatory viewing for anyone interested in mainstream romance).
The older couple, played by Prakash Raj and Leela Samson in Ok Kanmani, was the pivot around which the youngsters revolved, and learnt life lessons. The question that the immortal song asks — will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m 64 — is answered. Of course it is. And Adi and Tara complete the arc we knew they were set for from frame one, in two long hours and some. Of course they do.
Leela Samson, who plays a character afflicted with a degenerative illness, reprises her part: she remains as gorgeous but less effective in Hindi. Naseerudin Shah aces it, though: he underplays beautifully, and speaks his lines as they ought to be spoken, with an ache in the voice.
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I was left wanting more of Naseer. And wishing that Bollywood would get more adept at the young love thing: why is it that our modern-day lovers, so much quicker off the mark when it comes to locking lips and rolling in the hay, sound so juvenile? Why should living-in be such a big deal in this day and age? And why do the big confessional moments feel more cutesy and constructed rather than real? Love is incomplete without the fuss and the mess: the insistence on prettiness leaches it of interest and passion.
Why don’t filmmakers trust their audiences more? And yes, here’s a tip: you cannot plonk brands in the middle of the frame and stay classy.
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