The lacklustre, indifferent performances from the film’s leads evoke the same apathy in the viewer.
Urban living, especially in recent times, has come to symbolise change. You’re constantly moving – both physically and emotionally. You’re changing apartments, partners, jobs, even lifestyles. Because not moving is stopping and stopping is fading. And no one wants to fade, especially not when the night is young, people are younger, promises are flexible and a better something always around the corner. In that case, all you need to do is look and move.
Mani Ratnam’s 2015 romantic drama O Kadhal Kanmani tried capturing the pulse of that young India, which is forever restless and famished, craving nothing but newness. The film’s pair, Adi (Dulquer Salman) and Tara (Nithya Menen), considers marriage a distraction. Adi wants to mint money in the US; Tara wants to study in Paris. We are individuals first, partners later, suggested O Kadhal Kanmani – a relatively novel and engaging idea. The film, however, was fairly unremarkable, uplifted to a large extent by Salman, whose performance was everything a romantic drama needs: goofy, charming, endearing.
Shaad Ali’s latest, Ok Jaanu, starring Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor, is a remake of O Kadhal Kanmani. Watching a remake, whose original you found middling, can get quite tedious. Because even before you have entered the theatre, you and the filmmaker are in two different corners. There’s a reason for this remake – the director loved the original. You didn’t. But you still hope for some reinvention and ingenuity, some subversion and addition. A remake can be its own film; it needn’t be a photocopy. But Ali thinks otherwise, for Ok Jaanu, right from the first scene to last, pines for its original, doesn’t even want to come out of it.
Which would have been still fine. But Ok Jaanu waters down the original, makes the mediocre bad. If O Kadhal Kanmani benefitted from its leads’ energy and the spark between them, then Ok Jaanu suffers from that very absence. The dialogues, in several scenes, sound affected (characters call each other “bro”, “baby” and “oye” an inordinate number of times); they also sound unconvincing (“Main tumhe apni baahon me le lunga” – really?). If Salman’s performance was the highlight of O Kadhal Kanmani, then Kapur is immensely forgettable. In fact, he looks so disinterested and tuned out throughout the film that he reminds you of that guy in the office who’s found a better job and is now serving his notice period. Similarly, unlike Menen, Kapoor lacks the exuberance and drive her character so needs.
Besides, the film barely justifies its leads’ professional desires. Sure, there are a few scenes, here and there, of Adi and Tara in their offices; he’s a video game designer, she’s an architect, but that’s about it. We are not sure what US and Paris really mean to them; what it is about those destinations and their careers that makes everything else pale in comparison. The way Ok Jaanu unfolds, Adi and Tara’s ambition seems less like an intense want and more like a convenient plot point, planted in this low-stakes drama for the sake of a climactic high.
Everything in Ok Jaanu happens a little too easily, a little too conveniently, a little too casually. As a result, it only evokes indifference. And unlike its leads, the film ends up going nowhere.