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OK Jaanu review: Shaad Ali's film fails to match his master's voice

Release Date: 13 Jan 2017 / 02hr 17min

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

The remake of Mani Ratnam's wonderful OK Kanmani has some good moments but is let down by the sudden bursts of passion in a story that requires slow simmering tension.

It is always difficult to tell a story whose ending is well known. Shaad Ali's OK Jaanu begins with the now cliched premise of a couple unwilling to commit to each other, but unwilling to let go either. Where Mani Ratnam excelled, and Ali falls short, is in the narrative. Armed with the crackling chemistry of Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur, and the brilliant emotional subtext of Leela Samson and Naseeruddin Shah's love story, OK Jaanu feels like a work well begun but left half done. 

The story of the video-gaming, flirty, happy Adi (Roy Kapur) and the more practical, ambitious, free-spirited Tara (Kapoor) begins like every second romantic track these days. The meeting at the railway station, and the scene where Adi spots Tara through a maze of passing railway windows, is a familiar signature of Ratnam. From their first meeting to their exciting getaways from office, the lead pair look very much like a young couple in love. 

The magical moments of love, plenty as there are, move too fast for the audience to connect. Ali does not allow enough time to let Adi or Tara's characters emerge as more wholesome people. The passion feels a little forced. The inability of Kapoor to tap into the sober, practical side of her character makes the disconnect more apparent. How a young woman who puts her career above relationships can manage to cut work on so many days is a question to be asked. But then, there is some leeway to be given for creative license. 

The second half of the movie feels better etched with the conflicts within the pair coming to the fore. While Roy Kapur manages to infuse some (though not much) credibility and nuance to his acting, Kapoor leaves something to be desired for. The actress does have the more challenging task of measuring up to Nithya Menon's performance in the original OK Kanmani. She manages to do well as the cheerful, free-spirited girl but is ill-equipped to deal with the emotional scenes. The scenes of her confessing about her father to Adi, or the conflict within herself on commitment are examples. The story called for the actress to hold the silence and speak through her expressions instead of her voice. 

The supporting cast of Shah and Samson bring a complex emotional depth to the film. As the caring, disciplinarian husband of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's, Shah portrays a steady romantic who is a contrast to the slam-bang generation. Both veterans are given some good lines, and their chemistry slows down the tempo beckoning the audience to listen more carefully.

Speaking of listening, AR Rahman delivers again. For those familiar with the original film, the tracks might seem like a pale copy, but the composer does add some beautiful additions. 'Enna Sona' is a brilliant evidence of the latter. Sadly, the film does not use songs to further the narrative but as page breaks. This is where Ali diverges from his mentor, at some cost. 

Ali has the ability to transform a Mani Ratnam work according to the grammar of Hindi cinema (Saathiya, anyone?), but OK Jaanu is not the right example of it. He lacks his mentor's ability to control the pace of the narrative to suit the development of his characters. The film has its good moments, but they do not make an impact. The beautiful montages of the young lovers' jaunts around the city, the magic of its traffic and people, and the cinematography of Ravi K Chandran make for pleasant viewing. But it is the lack of substance that leaves you yearning for more. The lack of a well-written motley crew of supporting characters is another drawback. 

Ali's OK Jaanu has every element of a good film. Where it fails is in its inability to emphasise the conflict of the human heart. Like a good student, the director has managed to translate his mentor's work to Hindi cinema, and infuse it with a language and style of his own. The secret to telling a story well, as they say, is to tell it differently. Ali should have imitated his mentor in that. 

Reviewed by Shriram Iyengar