Oh Manapenne Harish Kalyan Priya Bhavani Shankar
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Director: Kaarthikk Sundar
Cast: Harish Kalyan, Priya Bhavani Shankar

I began my review of Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, the Malayalam remake of the lovely Pelli Choopulu, by wondering out aloud if this hip, chic urban film even needed a remake. The original is set among the upper middle-class in Hyderabad and it’s about the love-hate relationship between a lazy engineer and an ambitious entrepreneur. It’s region-agnostic, formulaic and predictable, and it also relied on a bag of tricks most classic rom-coms thrive on. Given that there’s little the setting or the language adds to such a film, you’d assume that decent subtitles is all you need to take it to a new audience—especially in the OTT era. But if you’ve ever watched the original, it was also a film that was brimming with fresh energy thanks to its lovely lead actors whom we were discovering for the first time—Vijay Deverakonda and Ritu Varma.

But isn’t that the point of rom-coms anyway? We don’t keep revisiting films like When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill or Pretty Woman because they were deep, cutting edge or unpredictable. They’re just extremely comforting and watchable because we love watching people we love, falling in love. Which also means that we still want one of them to run to the airport in the climax, even if we’ve seen it a hundred times before. 

That’s perhaps the logic of remaking Pelli Choopulu, which is a classic rom-com in that sense. If done neatly, what’s the harm in rewatching a film you already love with new actors in a language that feels more like home. 

Unfortunately, Oh Manapenne!, will only leave you with even more respect for its original and its actors. In this boringly faithful remake, everything remains the same, including key actors and the name of the food truck the plot revolves around. The streets, the houses, the terraces and even the cafes feel like carbon copies of the original. Yet, the magic is missing, especially in the funny portions and that perhaps makes the biggest difference. 

Because the two people you miss most from the original aren’t the leads. It’s only when you watch Oh Manapenne! that you realise the difference actors like Priyadarshi and Abhay made to the original. In Telugu, the everyday life of good-for-nothing engineering graduates might still be novel, but in Tamil, it’s a tired trope we’ve seen too many times. Which means that it’s only the actors that can keep you interested in cliche scenes of them drinking on the terrace, flunking out of exams (yet again!) and their challenges in not being able to follow their passion. 

Abhishek Kumar and Anbu Thasan are both extremely funny actors, but here they look lost and deserted without the backing of clever lines or the crutch of a dialect (like Priyadarshi’s). Scenes that were hilarious in the original, play out blandly without their contribution and even the protagonist’s love story, featuring Ashwin in a cameo, feels long and rudimentary for the effect it wants to create. 

Oh Manapenne!, On Disney+ Hotstar, Is Another Disposable Remake Without The Chemistry Of The Original, Film Companion

The score by Vishal Chandrasekhar helps to an extent and there’s an overall lightness to the subject that makes it watchable at all times, but it’s certainly missing the chemistry that made the original extraordinary. We catch Harish Kalyan and Priya Bhavanishankar acting in multiple scenes and the former tries too hard to appear effortless—something that comes naturally to Vijay Deverakonda. Without their performances to give us that little extra, Oh Manapenne is best suited for those who haven’t seen the original. It’s not a remake that has you at hello.

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