Oh My Kadavule Movie Review: A likeable premise, a so-so romance
A majorly well-written, well-performed, with many ideas coming full circle
Let the influence of Gautham Menon on a new generation of filmmakers not be forgotten. Oh My Kadavule won't let it, as it begins with a note of gratitude to the filmmaker. It's impossible not to recognise the GVM ideas in this film. From small things like referring to the heroine by her full name (Anu Paulraj)--think of Reena Joseph (Minnale), Nithya Vasudevan (Neethane En Ponvasantham)--to more obvious tropes like church weddings and romantic bike rides to Kerala, it's a film that in its imitation, flatters the filmmaker. I liked that the lead women, Anu (Ritika Singh) and Meera (Vani Bhojan), have jobs, and are not meek creatures. Meera shows her middle-finger to a chauvinistic man, Anu doesn't hesitate to show aggression... In some places, the film does even better than GVM. Arjun (Ashok Selvan), who I imagine grew up on GVM films, takes shelter at Meera's on a rainy day. He says, "I wish the rain would never stop." Meera's reply though: "Eh?" I found it a relief that this woman doesn't immediately swoon. Perhaps my favourite aspect of this film is how normalised alcohol is, especially concerning its women. The three friends, Arjun, Anu and Mani, are constantly shown to be engaging in social drinking. A hallowed place for them is a bar they frequent, one that has a photo of them on its 'wall of memories'. The film's climax happens here, with Anu ordering tequila shots. I liked the nonchalance with which these portions were shot.
Cast: Ashok Selvan, Ritika Singh, Vani Bhojan and Sha Ra
Director: Ashwath Marimuthu
I also liked that the problems in this love story are contained among its main characters. There's no external aggressor like in most of our Tamil love stories. The main conflict itself is interesting. It's often said that to marry one's best friend is a boon, but as Arjun realises, it's not all roses, as Joey and Rachel realise in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I also got reminded of the sitcom, during that 'first night' scene where Arjun keeps laughing. It's a throwback to Rachel's response when she kisses Ross first. Friendship is, after all, usually an asexual space, and Arjun does not even recognise Anu as a woman. When he asks her how she is able to give her such profound insights about women, she reminds hin, "Naan ponnu da." Arjun tries to make a similar point about his male identity later, but it doesn't work as efficiently.
In that sense, it's a film written with effort, with many ideas coming full circle. Meera's desire to see a film by herself comes true in a more beautiful way than she could have imagined. Arjun's cheesy line about love, magic and logic, gets repeated. Even a reference to Rahman's 'Edhukku pondaati' (Kizhakku Seemayile) comes back to interesting effect. These echoes are made possible by the fundamental idea of the protagonist being able to reverse an important decision. A 'nalla kanavu' becomes a 'ketta kanavu'. Even an offhanded line like "Kalyanathla slip aagi vizha pora" comes loaded with meaning. In a sense, it's a time travel film, with god enabling it for the protagonist. The question then is, why is god helping Arjun? It's a question a film like Bruce Almighty answers with fair conviction: Because Bruce holds god squarely responsible for his life. In fact, a road accident scene involving the protagonist is reminiscent of a similar scene from the Hollywood film.
Morgan Freeman, in that film, played god with formal language and an almost corporate demeanour. Vijay Sethupathi plays god with irreverence. He talks as he always has, he has another god (Ramesh Thilak) for company, and he doesn't seem particularly interested in running his 'love court'. This god laughs, engages in banter, and at one point, even yawns. Vijay Sethupathi is a coup of sorts for this role of a god who believes in 'second chances'. As with stories about people who go back in time, the 'butterfly effect' comes into play, and that's perhaps why butterflies are fluttering about as god grants Arjun a second chance. That visual itself looks inspired from Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. The idea of second chances is also firmly rooted in the Bible.
While on second chances, Ashok Selvan has a lot riding on this film, and I liked him especially in the comedy portions where he relies on animated expressions. There are some places though--like each time he is shown exaggeratedly laughing--that ring false. I liked Vani Bhojan's no-nonsense performance and while Ritika gets a character with potential, her lip-sync issues do serve as a hindrance. While on performances, note MS Bhaskar as he aces his big scene, showing how much performances can enhance material. You can't always say this about the other actors. And on occasion, the material itself isn't always strong.
For instance, Meera has a story about a boxer character who dumps his girlfriend because she's a distraction. Arjun asks why she's unable to make it into a film. I wish she had said it's already been made under the title of M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi. Instead, she says something about second chances (in keeping with the theme of this film, of course). Worse is when this said story turns out to be real and brings down the film itself. A bigger problem with OMK is that while theoretically, you understand Arjun falling for Anu during a road trip, you don't quite buy it when it plays out. The film's emotional impact doesn't always land, but its comedy and wit does. As does the occasional insight into relationships it peddles. There's the idea of Arjun trying to make a compilation video of birthday wishes for a girl. When he, like us, wonders why he can't just ask everyone to WhatsApp the video to him instead of shooting them in person, Anu says that it's not the video itself that the girl will love, but the effort he put into creating it. Much like that, I did appreciate the writing effort put into this film, but OMK's inability to affect me emotionally meant it's not a film that ever made me go OMG.