OK Kanmani- A Mani Ratnam love letter

OK Kanmani was Mani Ratnam’s love letter to the wind. The pleasure is ours that it has been translated scene by scene, and immortalised through a camera for generations to come.

In OK Kanmani’s second half, there is a scene where the young, carefree, commitment phobic, living-in couple Adiyta Varadarajan (Dulquer Salman) and Tara Kalingarayar (Nithya Menen) bring back their landlord’s wife Mrs Bhavani (Leela Sampson), who suffers from second stage Alzheimer’s and had forgotten her way home.


The landlord, Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) is tending to Bhavani, who’s curious to know what is wrong with her and does not want to hear Ganapathy gloss over her health problems. He finally relents and admits that her Alzheimer’s has gotten worse, after she says “I am losing my memory, not my mind.”

The door to the room in which the middle age couple are having this subtle conversation is slightly ajar, and the younger couple who stay in the same house are witnessing it from the small opening from the hallway. As that conversation progresses, Tara and Adi, who made a pact to just live together until they go their separate ways to pursue their ambitions, move closer to each other while eavesdropping.

At last, Bhavani asks Ganapathy the most packed one-liner question- “will I forget you one day too, Ganapathy?”. At this point, Tara, close to tears, is leaning on Adi’s chest.

That’s Maniratnam- his composition of a shot, his composition of minimalistic dialogues, and his composition of his characters’ body language. More often than not, his characters convey more through body language rather than dialogues.

This is the man who revolutionised Tamil cinema in the late 80s- the man who showed that its possible to make movies with minimalistic dialogues in an industry where lengthy dialogues and over the top drama ruled the roost. This is the man who could shoot songs in a single room by playing around with lighting and plethora of aesthetics. This is the man who perfected even the most simple scenes. Decades later, spanning three decades, Mani Ratnam had never shot a song abroad despite the fervour among many filmmakers to fly their crew to exotic locations for a song and dance sequence. He only broke the rule once to shoot a song in Turkey, that’s because a portion of the story in “Guru” took place in Turkey.

In his 1986 classic Mouna Raagam, Mani Ratnam told the story of a couple in arranged marriage who tries to come to terms with the fact that one of them had been in love with someone else before and could not change their minds just for the sake of marriage. It was an exploration of a changing social landscape. In 2000, Alaipayuthey explored couples who eloped and married without their parents’ consent and how learnt to deal with their issues later on. OK Kamani, in keeping up with the times, he explores live-in relationships and the dilemma many young couples face- the need to sacrifice their careers for the sake of a relationship or otherwise.

Tara, Mani’s effervescent firefly, an absolute beauty who ranks at among the most loveable female characters he had carved out in a glorious career, sums this up when her landlord asks her if she would choose between Adi and her career.

“If you asked me six months ago, I would say Paris for sure. Now, I have become a little too greedy. I want both,” she says.

Can we have both? Do relationships always have to mean compromising goals? As goals grow bigger in today’s world, can an institution like marriage evolve itself to be a supplement rather than a hindrance to youth ambitions?

These are the motifs of this new Mani Ratnam celluloid artwork, accompanied by his trademark appreciation of emotions without ever being judgemental towards the choices his characters make. I would run out of space if the scene highlights of this movie needs to be listed down- frame by frame, this is one of the most beautifully crafted, yet simple, straight-from-the-heart movies you will ever see. And the most important part is that you will see yourself, your wife, your husbands, your boyfriend/girlfriend/ex-partners in at least several scenes.

OK Kanmani epitomises stunning teamwork. Dulquer Salman enters the long list of the overtly charming, middle class, carefree, NRI-ambition laden Tamil youth archetype that Mani often creates in his movies. Compared to his Tamil debut Vaaya Moodi Pesavum, this is a massive upgrade on all levels. Prakash Raj as Ganapathy is endearing, and inspires the narration just as crucially as his appearance in Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) did.

But it is the women who own this film. Nithya Menen soars as Tara. Her eyes speak volumes, his mischief is unparalleled, and her dialogue delivery makes you feel like reaching out your hands and hugging her if Tara had existed in real life. An actress could have not asked for a better character to cement her standing and boost her career.

Leela Samson as Bhavani too has some of the best dialogues in the movie, and owns the scenes in which she is involved. This was one hell of a casting masterstroke by Mani.

PC Sreeram showed once again why he is the brilliant cinematographer that he is. His collaborations with Mani had always produced gems, dating back to the 80s, and the way the two of them set up aesthetics to shoot the best song in the movie, Parandhu Sella Vaa, within the confines of a simplistic lodge room is stamp two legends at their very best. There is also a gorgeous scene in Ahmedabad when Adi, from a high floor, converses with Tara, who sits on the ground floor at the edges of a cascading body of water, shimmering under the sunlight.

He also captures the pigeons of Mumbai with such beauty, in a scene where the huge flock of birds original to the coast metropolitan fly above the gorgeous Tara and Adi rides his Royal Enfield into the frame while she is feeding the birds.

Then, of course, there is AR Rahman’s music. Parandhu Sella Vaa, the recurring Naane Varugiren, and the sumptuous Hey Sinamika are all done justice to the way only Mani Ratnam can do, while the background music is faultless.

Even the voodoo game- Mumbai 2.0, is created with such great perfection that it did not seem like haphazard work.

The dialogues are like a long-list of collectibles that can be used and re-used in romantic situations in your life, and that is an amazing feat for a director who turns 59 this calendar year and had survived two heart attacks resulting from the high pressure environment he creates on the sets of his own movies.

There’s a long list of celebrated filmmakers across the world who make great movies well into their later years- Martin Scorcese, Clint Eastwood to name just a few.

But Mani Ratnam is not only the director who explores the juxtaposition between right and wrong atop a cranky bridge in a dense forest, as he did in Raavanan (2010)- n0 matter how old he gets, he hasn’t lost that ability to be young again and to be able to understand how the current generation negotiates love and relationships in a social and cultural context.

This understanding from a filmmaker of his age and calibre is astounding. Mani Ratnam did not direct OK Kamani, he packaged it straight from his heart. That’s a rarity very few can emulate.

OK Kanmani was Mani Ratnam’s love letter to the wind. The pleasure is ours that it has been translated scene by scene, and immortalised through a camera for generations to come.

Hence, that’s why Mani Sir is the legend that he is. Hence why he is a trendsetter. Now, anyone cares to call for his retirement again? (I just had to do that).

Rating: 10/10 (C’mon, I can’t give it any lesser).

O Kaadhal Kanmani- Music Review by Ram Anand

OK Kanmani’s music has nothing on Alaipayuthey’s music, it instead has something completely different, unique, and inventively mesmerising on its own.

It is difficult to be generous with my words on a keyboard when you only have one and a half hands to function with. But I guess that is how much I owe my will to persist to my inspirations- Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman, that I have to review their latest offering, OK Kanmani.


Many comparisons have been made between OK Kanmani and Mani’s 2000 film Alaipayuthey, owing to the fact that the film retains the same youthful romantic spirit last seen in a Mani film 15 years ago. But knowing Mani and AR Rahman well enough and having followed their careers together over the past 23 years, these two never offer a repeat dish on a platter. OK Kanmani’s music has nothing on Alaipayuthey’s music, it instead has something completely different, unique, and inventively mesmerising on its own.

Kaara Attakara (Dinesh Kanagaratnam, Saasha Thirupathi, Darshana)

The theme song that had accompanied the trailer for the film, the album starts as refreshing and breezy as we had expected, with a full-on whacky rap number interluded with melodious breezy renditions in the middle.

Dinesh is in top form, while Darshana gives him great company. Shashaa Tirupati comes in with dialogue based whispers in the middle. This is like the Endrendrum Punnagai of Alaipayuthey, breezy, and trend setting.

And of course, it looks like it will go with the image of a young man in love riding a Royal Enfield in the middle of a massive city. (rings a bell?) This song will definitely run through the movie.

Ya man!

Aye Sinamika (Karthik)

Bring in those light touches of guitars strumming, Karthik behind the mic, and AR Rahman orchestrating the whole arrangement to lyrics penned by Vairamuthu, then well, you have- a gem.

With minimal use of instruments, Aye Sinamika is an unique expression of love just like the masterful Usure Pogudhey from Raavanan. Though not the same intensity, it is another demonstration of Karthik’s talent of owning and handling an entire number like this with perfection and restrained intensity in his voice.

This song might take some time to grow on you-but once you get used to its irregular qualities, you won’t stop being hooked to it. A perfect song to be imagined along with Mumbai’s coastline. Redefining and full of soul, and what other combo can bring such an effect?

Nee ennai neengadhe.

Mental Manadhil (AR Rahman Male Version, Jonita Gandhi Female Version)

Like-a-like my Laila!

The most groovy, youthful number of our times, of course, has been doing rounds for sometime now since it was released as a single. AR Rahman is in top form as both singer and composer in the the energetic male version of the song. A definite chartbuster!

The female version by Jonita Gandhi is sung using Jonita’s own talents and unique voice modulation. This is Jonita having fun with a stripped down version of the instrument heavy male version. Equally catchy, equally appealing, and added with with some class too. Equally, and uniquely, good.

Parandhu Sella Vaa (Karthik, Shashaa Tirupati)

Just like that- what a composition. Masterpiece in simplicity. Paced ever so subtly, sung with such clarity, almost seductive voices, Parade Sella Vaa is the diamond of the OK Kanmani album. The minimalistic vocals at the background are accompanied with stunning variety in the modulation for both Shashaa and Karthik. We knew how good Karthik was for over a decade now, but to see the quality Shashaa offers on the vocal range is nothing short of pure magic.

Karthik brings the song to another level by enlivening it with a second half ballad accompanied ARR’s genius touches that brings you to a zen mode.

An absolutely stunning piece of work. The Pudhu Vellai Mazhai reinvented with a modern touch, 23 years later.

Naane Varugiren (Shashaa Tirupati, Sathya Prakash)

Again, Shasta’s voice immediately grips you with its class and she owns this number throughout. Laced with contemporary touches based on very classical raagas, Naane Varugiren is AR Rahman at his inventive, fusion best. The song takes its own sweet time to pick up, but two minutes in, the quality is splattered all over it, before Sathya Prakash comes in with beautiful classical notes in the interludes.

Naane Varugiren reminds one of Snekithane from Alaipaayuthey on so many levels- only that they don’t sound the same, at all.

But the effect and the quality of it is pretty much at the same level. This is musical beauty in its purest form.

Threera Ula (AR Rahman, Nikita Gandhi)

Probably the only song in the album that is filled up with mostly electronic touches, but even in that Nikita Gandhi comes in with classical interludes making this another fantastic fusion number. This song sounds more like a situational number than one with lengthy picturisation, but it is very good nevertheless.

Malargal Keatten (Chitra, AR Rahman)

Remember the Alaipayuthey Kanna number from Alaipayuthey? Just like that, this sumptuous number starts with complete classical notes before ARR weaves in his magic with his brand of fusion. It is refreshing to hear Chitra sing a song for an ARR composition after a long gap. The touches of the flute in the middle is the work of a genius.

Vairamuthu’s lyrics are also brilliant for this song. AR Rahman has a small bit at the end, and at times, this number also reminds one of Enge Enathu Kavithai from Kandukondein Kandukondein.

Truly classical.

OK Kanmani is another inventive, ground breaking offering from Mani and ARR as they attempt to define modern day romance set in a metropolitan city in 2015.

AR Rahman is in top form, as he always is for a Mani Ratnam flick, while the lyrics are sumptuous. There some gorgeous vocals from Karthik and Shashaa Tirupati especially, not to be missed.

I would pick the whole album for a complete experience, but my personal favourites are- Parandhu Sella Vaa, Naane Varugiren, Mental Manadhil (Male), Malargal Kaetten, Aye Sinamika, and Kaara Attakara.

Er, that’s pretty much the whole album, isn’t it?

Rating: 9.5/10