Exquisite expressions. Precise casting. Thoughtful writing. Splendid staging. As I was barely getting out of the heady feeling that this quartet of strengths displayed in Sillu Karupatti gave me, here comes a modern-day love story that has all those strengths and an element of whimsy. The incredible gamut of emotions evoked masterfully by debutant writer-director Ashwath Marimuthu brought to mind a line from Mozhi uttered by MS Bhaskar (who has a great role here; more on that later) – “Mark my words, this boy will go places!”
Oh My KadavuLe is the story of…hold on. I am not going to go into the details of the plot. Suffice to say that the pivotal characters are played by Ashok Selvan, Ritika Singh, Vani Bhojan, MS Bhaskar and Sha Ra. MS Bhaskar plays Ritika’s Dad. Sha Ra plays a childhood friend of Ashok. Somewhere in here are Vijay Sethupathi and Ramesh Thilak playing two of the most charming cameos you will ever see. Who these people are, the chances they get, the second chances they get and the lessons they learn in the process are what this film is about.
Above depicting longstanding friendships, unconditional love, a complex marriage all with such humor, delicacy and conviction, this film stands tall for yet another reason – the truth in the characters. Every syllable uttered by these actors rings true and every gesture feels right. In some scenes, the dialogues sparkle. Case in point is MS Bhaskar’s monologue on the origins of his company. Now, MS Bhaskar is one of those actors who can deliver an extended stretch of dialogue with effortless ease. So yes, the casting is just right. But the lines given to him are moving and authentic. It makes us almost hang our head in shame (like Ashok does) for having laughed at what he does for a living.
It is not just the dialogues but also the expressions, body language of the actors and the purposeful use of background score, where you can sense an assured director’s orchestration. There is a scene in the second half where Ritika comes to Ashok’s room after a conversation with his parents. The manner in which he puts his arm around her and holds her tightly is one of the most beautiful expressions of affection that I have witnessed on the Tamil screen. By that point in the movie, clearly a lot of conflicting feelings are on Ashok’s mind about Ritika and this gesture just about perfectly conveys that. Another beautifully quiet moment is when Ashok drops off Ritika at her place after their trip to Kerala. Ashok’s expressions in this scene are controlled and nuanced. Any dialogue or overdone background score would have spoiled this moment – this is an actor’s moment and the writer and director make way. And in the slightly whimsical scenes, the background score is playful and delightfully catchy. As I reflect on these moments, it is abundantly clear that the filmmaker is in complete control of his craft, knowing which of the tools in his audio-visual armamentarium to bring to the fore in service of a scene.
Oh My KadavuLe also packs a lot of delicious little details that are a joy to behold. The “FLAMES” t-shirt worn by Ashok, the way he corrects himself and calls MS Bhaskar “Uncle”, the casually dismissive way Ritika describes the VTV intermission scene, Vani’s fondness for the open-air theater and how a birthday ‘gift’ is brought to life there are just a few instances.
Apart from Ashok who turns in his best, most measured performance till date, Ritika and Vani are cast perfectly and do full justice to their roles. Ritika is an actress who is utterly lacking in the annoying self-consciousness that some actresses possess. Her disarming on-screen persona is perfect for her role as Noodles Mandai…err…Anu. Vani has a quieter but equally well-rounded character and her face brings out a sense of hidden pain marvelously.
As a fan of well-made cinema, movies like Oh My KadavuLe are a blessing. One of lyricist Vaali’s lines that often plays in my mind’s ear is, “Naayagan mel irundhu noolinai aatuginraan…naamellam bommai endru naadagam kaatuginran…” In the world of films, a writer-director might be the puppeteer who spins a yarn to hold the actors and make them sway a certain way. But really, in the hands of a master filmmaker, I, as a member of the audience, am the puppet. A willing puppet whose emotions are controlled by the filmmaker and his or her team. And for those that willingly surrender to the magic of the medium, Oh My KadavuLe is…heaven-sent.