Film: "Ok Jaanu"; Director: Shaad Ali; Cast Aditya Roy Kapoor, Shradha Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson; Rating: ****
Welcome back, Shaad Ali. It was a Mani Ratnam remake that gave us Shaad, one of the sharpest, smartest directors in "Saathiya". It is another Mani Ratnam remake that brings Shaad back in form after a string of duds.
"Ok Jaanu" (ignore the yucky title) is smart, slick heartwarming and utterly endearing as Shaad, from material moulded in Mani's imagination, forges out an urban love story set in the city that gives love a shove for more practical considerations, like making a living and realising your ambitions.
Meet Adi and Tara, a couple so believable in their exuberant ambitions and the determination to lock their mutual adoration in a chastity belt, that you can't help feeling exasperated at their blindness to see the obvious.
Yes, love is in the air. It's in the way Aditya Roy Kapoor looks at Shradha Kapoor. It is in every frame of this lucidly landscaped love story, shot with enrapturing casualness by the maverick cinematographer Ravi Chandran, as though it's all in a 'daze' work. But to take the humdrum rhythms of a burgeoning romance between a charming couple for granted, is to sink the ship before it sails.
Grossly prejudiced readings of this remake presume a kind of first-hand familiarity with the Mani Ratnam original which precludes any attempt to take the characters forward.
This, Shaad Ali does with a comforting fluency, bringing to the romance a kind of renewed sunniness that would leave the purists sullen. Those open to seeing a fresh interpretation to the Tara-Adi romance from Ratnam's "O Kadhal Kanmani" would come out smiling from this pleasant remake.
One of the high points in "O Kadhal Kanmani" was the principal cast. On Dulquer Salman and Nitya Menon's virgin-fresh pairing hinged the impact of Ratnam's films. For, make no mistake, the narrative efficiency of this romance depends entirely on how convinced we are about the lead pair's mutual ardour. Here, Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shradha Kapoor come up trumps. The last time I saw them together, they wept and sulked through the film.
Shaad lets his young actors express love with a great deal of impromptu responses to the brilliantly casual dialogues penned by Gulzar (his best work in recent times). There is a sequence on the beach towards the end where the couple dream about a life together.
"We'll have a dog named Shishupal," mumbles Tara.
"We'll have a child. He too will be called Shishupal," mumbles Adi back.
While Aditya Roy Kapoor tends to get out of rhythm and clunky with his jaunty cool-dude act, Shradha Kapoor is pitch-perfect. Her Tara is a waif, a child-woman lost in her ambitions trying to find her bearings in a relationship that takes her by surprise. Not only does Shraddha capture the romance -- part playful, part questioning, somewhat uncertain and yet in control -- she has never looked more beautiful on screen.
Sadly, Shraddha's scenes with her estranged mother come off extremely trite and self-conscious, for no fault of hers. Kitu Gidwani, generally known to be a skilled performer, here plays the working mom on a one-note scale.
Never mind. There is so much here that is so visually and emotionally exalted. Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson playing a devoted couple whose old age seems threatened by the wife's impending mental breakdown, are heartbreaking and credible. I wish Shaad had separated this love of an autumnal couple clinging to their mutual love with complete and unconditional devotion from the young couple's excitable passion.
Naseer and Leela playing Gopi and Charulata reminded me of the couple in Michael Haneke's French film "Amour".
The throwaway lines lend a lingering sense of deja vu to the main relationship while telling us that some things don't, and shouldn't change in the man-woman axis.
The hustle and bustle of Mumbai and then the blessed quietude of the home where the two couples play out their karma come to us in Rehmanesque waves. The songs and music could have been better. They left me with a sense of unquenched thirst. But then, this is a film about love that seeks a resting place in the noise and chaos of the metropolis where everything is unfinished.
"Ok Jaanu" is far superior to the original Mani Ratnam film. Visually rich and textured to accommodate words and emotions in beautiful places in the heart, this is a tender and seductive return to form for a director who had lost his way, like Charutala in "Ok Jaanu".
Welcome home, Shaad. And please let us know in some future time about what happened to Shishupal.