Are You Okay Baby Movie Review: A promising film that doesn’t quite hit the mark
Directed by Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, the film presents itself with a moral dilemma of how situations play an important role in shaping a person’s decisions
I was introduced to the concept of free will and choice by my psychologist a few years ago. A concept that strongly emphasised the fact that I always have the choice to make decisions – unless I am a minor or I genuinely suffer from a mental disorder. I have always begged to differ. The conundrum that free will often brings to the table is whether we, as humans with all senses intact, are ever in control of our actions. The answer lies in a tricky spot between yes and no. We are complicated beings and choice is often mired down by various factors.
Cast: Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, Samuthirakani, Abhirami, Mullai Arasi, Vinodhini, Anupama Kumar, Mysskkin, Aadukalam Naren
Director: Lakshmy Ramakrishnan
In Are You Okay Baby, Shobha (a terrific Mullai Arasi) is the personification of one such issue. The film starts with a phone call from Rashmy Ramakrishnan (Lakshmy Ramakrishnan) that turns the life of Vidhya (Abhirami) and Balan (Samuthirakani) upside down. The couple, after 15 years of trying to conceive through various options, have found happiness in Anya, their adopted child when Shobha, the biological mother intervenes to bring her child back home.
Following intervention by Rashmy Ramakrishnan’s show Sollaadhadhum Unmai, the issue goes through an investigatory route with the Child Welfare Committee and CB-CID coming on board. Directed by Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, the film presents itself with a moral dilemma of how situations play an important role in shaping a person’s decisions.
The film takes undue time in showcasing Rashmy’s life as an anchor and her woes in the television industry instead of exploring the legal complexities of the adoption case. In one scene, Shobha’s good-for-nothing husband Tyagi (Ashok Kumar) is called onstage by Rashmy to perform a dance number since he’s an aspiring actor. One would expect that he would make a fool out of himself. Instead, he aces the dance. We also see Rashmy screaming at a private news reporter for twisting a headline that she never said. What purpose do these scenes serve apart from diverting the audience from the real issue? In some ways, it is clear that Lakshmy is using this film as a response to the critics of her own show, Solvadhellam Unmai, which is re-modelled as Sollaadhadhum Unmai in Are You Okay Baby?
If the edit patterns, especially the random jump break the intensity and dilute the effectiveness of the narration, superficial exploration of topics like sex education and live-in relationships are dampeners too. Mysskin and Uday Mahesh’s characters had the potential to be key catalysts to the film, but once again the lack of exploration of these arcs is telling.
Although the film places Shobha at the centre of things, the film fails to answer pertinent questions like... What is she like as a person? How deep does the human trafficking racket go in India? How do preconceived notions and stigma hold back parents from adopting? How arduous are these court cases? These unexplored layers end up leaving a lot of these questions unanswered.
But the film does have glimmers of ingenuity and things done right. In the first few scenes, you see the ecstatic parents looking at a breast pump, which has freshly produced milk. For a second, you would wonder why the moment was so special. Then, you understand that they had adopted Anya, and Vidhya was on ‘induced lactation’ to breastfeed the baby. In another scene, when Vidhya misses her child, you can see her breasts leak milk. She looks at the now empty swing where she used to caress the child while feeding and heaves an emotional sigh. All these moments, though small, elevate the film. Ilaiyaraaja’s score and the song Annai Thanthai deftly captures the pain of parents yearning to meet their baby.
You can see the climax coming from a mile away, but it doesn’t really hit you like a ton of bricks. It is more like a soft blow, which hardly leaves an impact. For most of the film, the decisions of Shobha are confounding. Perhaps, that’s a good thing—to seek for questions, rather than answers; to see every human in shades of grey, rather than binaries of black and white. The heart of Are You Okay Baby is at the right place, but that alone isn’t necessary to translate it into a great story.
Despite its promising story and noble intentions, Are You Okay Baby, does not always strike the right chord. It is a melancholic melody, for sure, but does it mean all is okay with the film? The answer lies in a tricky spot between yes and no.