Oh My Kadavule- a cry resounding in many corners of the world from the hurt depths of crushed hearts- as the buoyant title of bold pink and blue made its way dancing in a bounce. No usual mighty exclamatory mark accompanies it for the film itself emerges as an object of a fine playful exclamation and in the place of the conventional mark. We instead get a fast backwards option- the surprises gently take off from there as the film engages in a cheerful play with the grammar of life itself, teasing out the rigidity of its blinding, binding reality, sometimes succumbing to it too in a little strain. So, is this cry one of anguish, gratitude or admiration- it turns out it is all the three.
Arjun and Anu: Friendship’s Journey Through Life
Watching the trailer, the words of Nietzsche read in a timely tweet the same day resurfaced: ‘It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages’ and in I went bearing this philosophy in the corner of the heart only to be convinced of how it doesn’t apply to all marriages, especially to that of Arjun and Anu wherein lies a remarkable, indeed abundant friendship nurtured and cherished since the days of first memories- of the best and worst, lunchbox battles, shared punishments, embarrassments, first cigarettes, of first crushes, tequila shots and the alike.
However, this camaraderie fails to unite them in matrimony; instead, it cruelly pushes them apart. At the core of their bond, Arjun discerns the absence of an understanding and appreciation for romantic love. The film intentionally keeps it somewhat ambiguous with Anu, maintaining a certain distance in her affection, possibly reflecting the narrative choice to follow Arjun’s perspective closely. The subtle details become crucial in delineating both her character’s motivations and the film’s overall theme. An example is her plea for a long road trip on a ‘bike’ with Arjun, an idea he dismisses by pointing out that their mutual friend, Mani, couldn’t join them on a bike journey.
Meta References and Inspirations: Rockstar, FRIENDS, and Gautam Vasudev Menon
Anu’s fascination with Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, particularly the portrayal of Heer and Jordon’s friendship-turned-love story, adds another layer to her character. This iconic but ill-fated duo serves as a reference point, exploring how friendships may suffer in the absence of love, especially when confronted with the constraints of marriage—defined more by commitment than love, as humorously alluded to in the initial banter between Arjun and Mani. Ashwath Marimuthu, the director, seems to have found inspiration in this premise, choosing to subvert the conventional narrative by examining the impact of friendship when devoid of love, particularly within the bounds of a commitment-centric marriage.
The film is generously sprinkled with meta references of the Rockstar variety. For instance, Anu scorns Jesse for impulsively turning down her marriage at the most fateful moment in the church. This leads us into the director’s evident obsession with Gautam Vasudev Menon. Another meta reference comes in the form of a FRIENDS clip playing in the bar during Anu and Arjun’s college days. They enjoy their drinks, blissfully unaware of the life that awaits them. The specific clip from FRIENDS featuring Monica and Chandler, another friend duo whose friendship evolves into an unprecedented and delightful marriage, adds an extra layer to the narrative.
The Love Court: Seeking Heavenly Intervention in Relationships
Then comes the assertion that ‘Marriages are made in heaven’ (with the delightful addition of ‘so are thunder and lightning’). When the skies come crashing down, it’s only fitting that the agents of heaven provide the necessary assistance. In the Love Court, the all-knowing Ramesh Thilak guides the perplexed Arjun to seek help from The Boss, the cool, witty, and benevolent Vijay Sethupathi. The Love Court, a building seemingly floating in the air, is adorned with pristine paints and sprawling white spaces. It serves as the backdrop for our love lives, acting as a hub for case studies. This teasing introduction cues us in, further heightened by the profound insights and life advice casually shared by Sethupathi and Thilak. Their easy tone mirrors that of long-known friends catching up, making us feel at ease and ready to laugh away all our troubles.
In the words of Thilak, ‘Romance ah cute ah, flavour ah pannanum, Indha pudi nu favour ah panna koodathu’. Most of the romantic dramas and even comedies are guilty of this mentioned self-imposed burden of having to do love a great favour. In my accordance Oh My Kadavule, free of this ridiculous burden is foremost a fantasy drama, a bubbling buddy comedy and a fine coming of age flick bearing tinges of romance. The primary romance in the film is that of life itself, it’s fantasies, dreams and friendships, in its striving to repair all things broken without assuming the air of a serious saviour, it is a simple film and earnest at that.
Oh My Kadavule’s Shift in Tone: From Fantasy to Melodrama
The film undergoes a shift in tone after its initial half, and what ensues is an increasingly inclined move towards melodrama, marked by an excess of mournful music. However, it doesn’t become unforgivable because it forms the basis for a restart. Life possesses the potential to become dramatically intense unexpectedly, and as we witness and feel things in their entirety, it serves as a sort of resurrection. It’s a coming-of-age experience where we emerge anew, encountering a transformed life with remarkably changed perspectives and cherished aspects.
The film invokes the skies, and rains, often viewed as heavenly signs, play a significant role in the narrative. Key confrontations unfold amidst pouring rains – the inception of a relationship, its rekindling, and moments of detachment. Anu and Arjun face the destiny of their conflicted relationship, engaging in tense arguments. The dynamics shift, and a renewed connection develops between Arjun and Meera as he is welcomed into her house, providing an opportunity to deepen their bond. The rains become a catalyst for furthering their relationship. As Arjun departs, the iconic rain song from Minnale, “Nenjai Poopol,” fills the air, one of the numerous references to Gautam Vasudev Menon’s work that gracefully permeate the film’s cerulean space.
Rain, Skies, and Gautam Vasudev References
Arjun is an avid fan of Gautam Vasudev Menon, and his admiration for the director is evident when he auditions for him, leaving a splendid impression. The film Oh My Kadavule doesn’t shy away from expressing this fandom; instead, it transforms into an unabashed ode to the iconic filmmaker, creating a shared celebration among the audience. Arjun’s room proudly displays a poster of Vaaranam Aayiram, a 2008 film that explores various phases of life. In a similar vein, Oh My Kadavule delves into multiple lives within its narrative.
The influence of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV) is celebrated throughout, and Oh My Kadavule carries a delightful nostalgia for it. Arjun, inspired by VTV, embarks on a journey to Kerala with his friend Anu, fulfilling her wish for a melodious bike ride—a nod to the iconic Raasali sequence. Meera, Arjun’s love interest, also reflects elements of VTV’s Karthick. She is a bold aspiring filmmaker, her ex-boyfriend has a connection to boxing, and their love story mirrors the tragedy in which Krishna’s dreams compel him to sacrifice their relationship for a better future. Meera, currently an Assistant Director to Gautham Menon, is determined to write and film her own love story, akin to Karthick in VTV.
Concept of the Love Court, led by the cool and witty Vijay Sethupathi
In the glory of backwaters, Arjun confesses his love too, a striking echo of Simbu in Vinaithaandi Varuvaya but here the moment plays out within the sunny zone of the film, as a casual slip of the tongue. Bewitched by the spell and curse Jesse was, Karthick continued to wonder out loud, ‘Ulagathula evlo ponnunga irunthum, naan yen Jesse ah love pannen?’ Here, blessed by the spell and curse of a life changing encounter, a golden ticket, Arjun roams, restrained, repeatedly assuring Mani who probes, ‘Unnaku sonna puriyaadhu, machan.’
Arjun’s Ganesh sir is found in Shah Ra’s Mani and it magnificently amplifies itself as meta and fun filled in the marriage set in a fairly similar looking church, Arjun pining away as his angel walks down the aisle, she baffled and restless, finally embracing us in the magic of reconciliation, in life itself dismissing gleefully any possible logical obstacle. Yet, unlike VTV, there exists no deeper internalisation of the conflicts the characters confront and the film deliberately refrains from treading into the zone, pleased to amuse us in its pleasantness and recreation.
Oh My Kadavule: A Multifaceted Cry
The coming of age aspect in Oh My Kadavule is in its realisation of how important are those in our lives we often take for granted- there exists a heart wrenching story behind an entrepreneur’s ceramic business of manufacturing toilets, a concern reasoned with love in a friend’s haste to have kids, a genuine affection in the friend who offers her hand in marriage. After an excruciating Valentines’ Day watch of an injurious film that made quite a pathetic spectacle of itself before it ventured on sporting the suit of masochistic suffering to make the same point, this film is a hint of breeze and a finely surprising, delightful watch. After all, to err is human and to forgive divine.