Romance as a genre has been long dead in Tamil cinema, only to be resurrected by Elan in 2018 when he made the simple, but affecting Pyaar Prema Kaadhal . There have hardly been any satisfactory movies on Love, Breakups, Zindagi since then — probably because very few filmmakers harvest time and effort to perfect the genre that has been done to death. Debutant Ashwath Marimuthu does that exceedingly well to a certain extent, without the urgency to romanticise the romance clichés. Sure, you could say that Oh My Kadavule ( OMK ) functions primarily on the romantic troupes; impulsive decisions, emotional meltdown, bad breakup followed by a road-trip in search of long lost soul. But where the movie becomes slightly better than ones with pretentious intentions is the quality to discount its own mishaps.
Ashwath seems to have grown up on a steady diet of Gautham Menon movies. His OMK is dedicated to “GVM Sir” or rather his ‘kadavul’, if we can put it that way. The movie can be seen as a fresh retelling of the now-classic Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya , for the primary characters in OMK seem to have been designed after Karthik and Jessie of that movie — what if Karthik and Jessie ended up marrying each other like they do in the song ‘Anbil Avan’, and what if Samantha’s character had gotten her own arc? These afterthoughts may have inspired him.
But unlike GVM, who has become the Poster Boy of Kollywood’s romance; whose triumph lies in the fact that he has convinced the audience to fall for his deceptively simple make-believe world, Ashwath’s idea of romantic relationship is largely restricted to writing cutesy scenes between the couple — if you consider OMK ’s supremely vanilla first half which takes painfully long time in the world building exercise. The movie, in fact, is a rare instance where the writing is surprisingly effective in the second half, with properly fleshed out scenes that redeem whatever little that had been established in the first half. For example, there’s a hilarious stretch involving Arjun and his father-in-law Paulraj (MS Bhaskar), who hires him as a quality controller. His job? To test the fragility of the toilet basin with varying size and shape. You laugh at his expense, but we’re made to reassess the scene in the second half, which has a great recall value.
- Cast: Ashok Selvan, Ritika Singh, Vani Bhojan, Sha Ra, Vijay Sethupathi and Ramesh Tilak
- Director: Ashwath Marimuthu
- Storyline: Childhood friends Arjun and Anu think they are destined to be together under the pretext of marriage. But what if life (or rather God) gives them a second chance, when they are about to file for divorce?
Given Tamil filmmakers’ inexplicable fascination to write asexual characters when they seem to be flirting with so-called ‘madly in love’ tales, there’s some plausible explanation as to why the narrative in OMK eschews from showing steamy scenes between Arjun Marimuthu (Ashok Selvan) and Anu Paulraj (Ritika Singh), who are really good as a warring couple. They are trapped in a loveless marriage. Or as Arjun puts it: “Love-ae illatha love marriage.” The movie is replete with pop-culture references; there are clippings from Tamasha, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya and Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na. Like the latter movie, Arjun, Anu and Mani (Sha Ra, with two laughable jokes) are childhood friends who know each other in and out. The movie spends little time on their friendship, for its own good, and dives straight into the issue: Marriage Story. It presents an archaic cliché such as childhood love, but redeems it with an inventive solution — allowing Arjun to friend zone Anu even in marital life, “Friend-a wife-a paaka mudiyala,” he says. But the issues that crop up in their relationship are at the surface level: invading privacy, suspecting a love affair and everything that Sathi Leelavathi dealt with.
Arjun-Anu’s marriage begins to crack when the other woman, Meera (Vani Bhojan), steps in their life, Meera is Arjun’s highschool senior and childhood crush, and is the most interesting character. She is an assistant to...Gautham Menon (played by himself) and is struggling for a break. When was the last time we saw a female assistant director on screen? Allow me to rephrase it: when was the last time we saw a female cinema aspirant on screen? But that alone remains to be her virtue. For, Meera continues to be a proponent to propel the Arjun-Anu love story, though there’s a separate episode in the second half where Meera gets to show the finger to patriarchy.
OMK actually becomes engaging when the fantasy element kicks in, when Arjun encounters Men in Black (Vijay Sethupathi as God and Ramesh Thilak as his humble minister) who offer a rare proposition: a restart button, if pressed, would transport him back to the exact moment he said ‘yes’ to Anu. He jumps at the opportunity to save his marriage from falling apart. In that sense, the twisted narrative has a very 12B- approach and goes on to re-examine the ‘what if’ events leading up to the dramatic plot point.
There’s an endearing moment that comes in the second half between Paulraj and Arjun, where the latter discovers a dad in him. “Anu grew up without a mother. I’m now afraid to give my daughter to someone I don’t know. Would he take care of her?,” says Paulraj to Arjun, in one of the defining scenes of the movie. It’s the sort of scene that would milk the emotions to pulp. But Ashwath handles it with commendable resistance. It ends with Arjun apologising. That’s what most people would do, if life gave them a second chance.