Oh Manapenne! Movie Review: A decent remake that misses few beats
The success of Pelli Choopulu was more to do with the treatment than the story. It is more about ‘how’ it is told than ‘what’ is being told. Kaarthik understands it and that’s why Oh Manapenne! works
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon Ho in his Oscar acceptance speech for Parasite. Many can’t, and that validates the existence of remakes like Oh Manapenne! Debutant director Kaarthik Sundar is aware that he need not fix what ain't broke and mounts Oh Manapenne! as a faithful remake of the Telugu blockbuster Pelli Choopulu except for a few reimaginations, the production design, and of course, the cast.
Director: Kaarthik Sundar
Cast: Harish Kalyan, Priya Bhavani Shankar
Streaming platform: Disney+ Hotstar
Telugu director Tharun Bhascker's movies are more about the vibe than the plot, and it was best embodied in his debut film, Pelli Choopulu. Kaarthik to an extent succeeds in recreating that ‘feel’ but does miss a few beats. I found similar issues with C/O Kadhal, the Tamil remake of C/O Kancharapalem. While the characters in both the originals came across as real people, we see the 'actors' in their Tamil iterations.
Oh Manapenne! begins with a meet-cute of Karthik (Harish Kalyan), a good-for-nothing engineer, who is willing to marry someone just for the money, and Shruthi (Priya Bhavani Shankar), who is the polar opposite to him. She is an MBA gold medalist and wants to earn money to study further in Australia. Yet, they do have some similarities, like their collective hate for people who dip samosas in ketchup, which seems good enough to create that spark. The premise and the eventual twist of their meet are something I wouldn't spoil. But to sum up the plot of this film, It is pretty much the good old story of two different people falling in love with each other.
Harish and Priya are perfectly cast, but although the supporting actors were good at what they did, there was something amiss. For example, Abhay Bethiganti played one of the two friends of the hero in the original. Though most of the good lines go to the other friend played by Priyadarshi, we still ‘feel’ the presence of Abhay. In contrast, Abishek Kumar reprises Abhay’s role here and we hardly feel him in the film. Now, that’s more to do with the director than the actor. Such subtlety is lost in translation, and I guess such things are bound to happen with faithful remakes.
Harish Kalyan is probably the freshness that the remake needed. His take on this character is a bit different from that of the original. While Vijay Devarakonda was edgier, Harish seems to have tuned in the passive Sree Kumar from Pyaar Prema Kaadhal. One can’t be sure if it was a conscious decision, but why complain as long it is good.
Remakes are indeed a tricky business because, at the end of the day, despite their quality, they are measured against the success of the originals. Rarely, a remake outshines its source material and Oh Manapenne! is not one of those rare occurrences. However, to those eyes which are unadulterated by Pelli Choopulu, Oh Manapenne! will bring the pleasures of the original.