OK Jaanu: Not so okay, Mani sir.
Somewhere between the story narration and writing of the script, the plot has been lost. The remake of Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film, ‘O Kadhal Kanmani,’ it comes as a real shock to the system to find ‘OK Jaanu’ is a Ratnam screenplay and, worse, the dialogues are by Gulzar!!
With such a curiously-named film, one should also note that ‘OK Jaanu’ is mentioned in the dialogues about once pre-interval and then suddenly, in about the last half hour, there’s a flurry of ‘okay jaanu’s’ lest we forget the name!
The movie is going nowhere till the interval and that remains the status quo till the end. Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) sees Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) for the first time at a railway station, where she is threatening to come under a train if her boyfriend doesn’t walk away. This angle is not plausible at all, given that this apparently tempestuous person is then the most docile, amenable girlfriend to Adi ever! So anyway, since the two like each other and, sharing common goals of career first and no shaadi-pyaar ka chakkar, they decide to live in together at Adi’s place. Surprisingly, Adi’s elderly landlord Gopi uncle (Naseeruddin Shah) doesn’t raise many objections at this, especially once Tara manages to woo his wife (Leela Samson) who is an Alzheimer’s patient, by warbling a classical number.
So what’s amiss in this mutual billing and cooing? Well, Tara is off to Paris to pursue her career, while Adi is off to America to pursue his. Being reasonable young people of this generation who want it all (!) they tackle this issue with equanimity and decide to get married first before vrooming off to live their separate lives.
So what sense does it make to get married at all, then? I dunno, I’ll have to ask Mani sir. Along with a whole host of other questions. Such as which hotel has a room that looks like a cross between a bordello and a purani haveli and then, to make matters worse, has a juvenile name like Majama?! Trying (futilely) to keep in tune with current trends, Adi is supposed to be this computer games wizard and indeed, the opening credits roll against an animated game sequence. Who is Gopi uncle really – all we know is that Adi calls him “judge” and that Adi’s brother once worked for him, which doesn’t explain why Gopi uncle allows Adi to live in his place rent-free, how does Gopi uncle manage to have this humungous en-suite bedroom with balcony in a city like Bombay and why don’t we get to see more of Gopi uncle, since Naseeruddin Shah is clearly about the best thing in OK Jaanu?!
AR Rahman’s ‘Humma’ song from the film ‘Bombay’ has been reprised in ‘OK Jaanu’ with Rahman singing this version as well. It is a peppy number in its new avatar too and Kapoor and Kapur are undoubtedly enjoying themselves, although the choreography (Vaibhavi Merchant/Tushar Kalia) makes one shudder with its arcane calisthenics that pass for dance steps.
Shraddha is bubby and has a charming innocence about her, also, she has evolved from the somewhat shrill, earlier performances. Thankfully her minimal make-up adds a freshness and glow to her. Her costumes (Eka Lakhani) are drab, apart from the Gujarati-embroidered outfits. There is an undeniable comfort level with her co-star and this makes the movie move along like a well-oiled machine in spite of the insipid script and Aditya’s somewhat self-conscious emoting; he is still not comfortable in front of the camera.
This movie sees one of the most puerile and hackneyed interpretations of an Alzheimer’s patient! Leela Samson is such a wash-out, apart from which her halting contributions in Hindi don’t help the film any. More than being about her, I am surprised that Mani Ratnam, who gave us the uber sensitive, heartrending ‘Anjali’ once upon a time, has been apparently satisfied with such a lacklustre portrayal.
Director Shaad Ali started his career as Mani Ratnam’s assistant and has done justice to his guru with ‘Saathiya’ and even the bubbly ‘Bunty aur Babli.’ And so I’d like to ask him what happened here, considering ‘OK Jaanu’ is a copy/paste shishya offering. There are shades of the maestro though that one gets to glimpse; I am talking in particular of the scene after Tara and Adi have ostensibly made love. There is a fine sheen of sweat glistening on Tara’s bare back…it is this brilliant attention to detailing that makes Mani Ratnam who he is.
But what went awry with Mani the writer? One cannot fault his comfort with the Hindi language or the Hindi-speaking audience, since the Hindi version of the afore-mentioned ‘Anjali’ was also written and directed by him. The basic surmise of the plot is fine, but the impact is lost in the telling, the dialogues and the director’s handling of the subject. A pity, since there is a terrific rapport between the lead pair.
Casting (Anmol Ahuja/Abhishek Banerjee) is way off mark. Ms Samson, Adi’s brother and bhabhi are a misfit, as also are the friends and Tara’s boss, who seems almost intimidated by the fact that he is supposed to order Shraddha Kapoor around. Prahlad Kakkar, the ad man, is somewhere in here too as Adi’s boss and a fine mash he makes of things, being visibly aware that, by golly, he’s in a movie! Ravi K. Chandran does a commendable job with the camera, especially the crumbling albeit stunning havelis of Gujarat. Editing by A. Sreekar Prasad is not the let-down here. Music is by AR Rahman; the title song and ‘humma humma’ are eminently hummable, apart from which the rest are humdrum and Aijit Singh manages to disappoint.
*Written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India