It has been almost 6 years since we got to experience the breezy romance of Tara and Adi play out on-screen, but there are many reasons it is worth revisiting this uber-cool love story. Firstly, it is Mani Ratnam’s most creative, ‘lightweight’ outing and it screams fun right from the opening credits, which play out like a videogame. An integral aspect of the movie is its music scored by AR Rahman. The Mani Ratnam-AR Rahman combination has delivered some magic over the years, but with this movie particularly, it hit all the right tones, delivering great songs interspersed throughout the film, setting the perfect mood for the story to unfold. The song lyrics alone tell a tale of their own, borrowing from the film’s many layered emotions. The movie is visually pleasing, with a dazzling Nithya Menen and a dapper Dulquer Salmaan. Nithya Menen as Tara delivers a solid performance with subtle but strong expressions, lending her character a sense of agency. The director has painstakingly maintained a unique aesthetic, reflected in the choice of costumes and background colours. One of the most beautifully framed scenes is the wedding where the meet-cute takes place, when sunlight splashes from behind, lending a daydream-like appearance to the characters. The train scenes are a major throwback to Mani Ratnam’s iconic Alaipayuthey, and despite the completely different timeframe and essence, both romances manage to stand out amongst the many on-screen love stories.
Set in a very happening Mumbai, O Kadhal Kanmani tells the tale of two youngsters who decide to take the casual route to romance. They are big non-believers in the institution of marriage and the movie takes flight with their shared belief system and high spirits. The story revolves around their live-in relationship and traces it as it changes course with the passage of time and life events. Their modern love is parallelled with the love between an elderly couple, Ganapathi and Bhavani, whom they move in with. Played by Prakash Raj and Leela Samson, the couple bring out the nitty-gritty of a rooted, old-fashioned love and marriage, and the responsibilities and commitment that come with it. Bhavani, who is a noted Carnatic singer, suffers from early stage Alzheimer’s and Ganapathi takes on the caretaking responsibility whole-heartedly. Adi, the usually nonchalant, effortlessly charming guy, observes and marvels at their lasting relationship, while admitting that he is genuinely surprised. After a few back-and-forth events, Tara moves in with Adi and thus continues their whirlwind romance. Their relationship unfolds in breezy shots in Mumbai, on a speeding bike. There is a lyric from the movie Alaipayuthey that goes, ‘There is no joy in a relationship that has no separation’. On those lines, the couple in this film parts and meets now and again, only to find themselves even more drawn to each other. During their time with the elderly couple, they observe and learn from a relationship that was built in the yesteryears; but the observations happen in an organic, non-preachy way.
Towards the climax, tensions build in their relationship due to an imminent separation, and they decide to bite the bullet and marry instead. It felt like an anti-climax in the sense that the film plays to the gallery, but then again, in Indian movies, we have seen heroes single-handedly throw off ten cars simultaneously, using the sheer power of muscle strength, so who are we to question when a carefree guy decides to go down on his knee?
O Kadhal Kanmani is a soulful, vibrant movie that will make you revel in heady romances without making you feel terribly single, because love always comes with ‘strings attached’.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.