The Cine-Files: Mani Ratnam’s 2015 romance film “O Kadhal Kanmani”

Ah, love is in the air! If you’re anything like me, perhaps you’re looking for a cute little romcom to watch on Valentine’s Day while spaced out on your bed at two in the morning, covered in sticky popcorn and loneliness. Well! Look no further, because I have just the movie for you—Mani Ratnam’s 2015 Tamil movie, “OK Kanmani.”

“OK Kanmani,” also known as “Apple of My Eye,” follows Aditya Varadarajan and Tara Kalingarayar, two Tamilian twenty-somethings who fall in love at first sight. Adi is a video game designer who aspires to move to the United States, while Tara plans to study architecture in Paris. They realize that marriage will ultimately force them to settle down and give up their career plans, so they decide to start living together without getting married, a path that is typically frowned upon in Indian culture.

The love in “OK Kanmani” is beautifully simple. Adi and Tara tease and flirt with each other constantly, go on coffee dates and take train rides together all over the city. Their issues are down-to-earth and realistic: balancing careers and relationships, taking care of each other once they get older, raising children and so on. The film is colorful and light; the rooms that Adi and Tara live in are breezy and decorated with large, stained-glass windows. Furthermore, P.C. Sreeram’s wonderful cinematography fully fleshes out the characters and makes them believable. When Adi explains the concept for his video game “Mumbai 2.0,” we get fast-paced zooms and animated sequences that place you inside the game. When Tara goes to Ahmedabad for an architecture project, we see sweeping overhead shots of the Jama Masjid and glimpses of her sketches. Their love mirrors that of older couple Ganapathy and Bhavani, Adi’s landlords. The parallels between old and young love, between tradition and change, are masterfully displayed in the film’s soundtrack (composed by the legendary A.R. Rahman), which blends traditional Carnatic music with contemporary, Indipop-style electronic beats.

The film as a whole also represents a shift from the melodramatic and over-the-top Indian romantic comedies from the 2000s into movies that properly depict millennials and their love stories. Mani Ratnam has always been specifically lauded for his depiction of female characters, and “OK Kanmani” is no different; Tara is assertive, independent, mischievous and unflinching in her wants and desires. This might seem ubiquitous to you, but women in South Indian movies are often pushed aside in favor of promoting male protagonists. If women are prominently featured, they’re portrayed as silent, submissive and dutiful wives. It’s refreshing to see a woman like Tara, who separates herself financially from her domineering mother and playfully tells Adi that she might not be able to control herself if they spend the night together in a hotel room.

Finally, the chemistry between the lead pair (Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen, both of whom don’t speak Tamil as their first tongue yet did the dubbing for this movie) is absolutely dazzling. Everytime Adi calls Tara kanmani, or darling, a piece of my heart melts. 

Rating: 9/10

Perfect for: Whenever you’re feeling sad or tired, if you want to look at trains for two hours, if you only watch romantic movies where the two leads are white and you need to prove to yourself that you’re not racist

Where to watch: Netflix

 

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