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.
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.
Yet, this friendship doesn’t bring them together in their marriage but only drifts them apart cruelly for in the heart of the bond they share, Arjun identifies the absence of an awareness and appeal for romantic love. The film maintains it relatively vague with Anu, holding her affection and its roots at a distance probably since we are to follow the life, ahem, lives with Arjun and behold her with the similar distance and intimacy with which he sees her, the little details do help, in defining both her character’s push and the film’s – she beseeching him to go for a long road trip in ‘bike’ with her (Arjun just dismisses the idea, adding that if they take a bike, Mani, their dear friend who completes the triad can’t join them) as she watches Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, melting away, enticed by the sight of two other friends Heer and Jordon travelling the snow covered roads of idyllic Kashmir- this iconic but doomed duo whose friendship, overwhelmed by a love, surpassed, confessed and rediscovered ruined their very relations, leaving them bloodied in the merciless grips of fate, Ashwath Marimuthu must have been intrigued for we witness him adopting the similar premise here but subverting it, with the notion of how such a friendship will suffer in the lack of love especially when it is pushed into the confines of marriage, defined by commitment than love as joked about in the early interactions between Arjun and Mani.
The meta references of this Rockstar sort are scattered throughout the film- in Anu scornfully pointing out how Jesse could impulsively turn down her marriage at the most fateful moment in the church (we soon shall take a plunge into the director’s obsession with Gautam Vasudev Menon); in the FRIENDS clip playing in the bar as Anu and Arjun enjoy their drink in the college days, innocent of what life is to bring them, a specific clip from FRIENDS – of Monica and Chandler, another friend duo whose friendship grows into an unprecedented and pleasant marriage.
We are told then that ‘ Marriages are made in heaven’ (with a delightful addition of ‘so are thunder and lightning’) and when the skies come crashing down, it is only befitting that the agents of heaven source the necessary aid and with the Love Court ,the all-knowing Ramesh Thilak brings the confounded Arjun to seek the help of The Boss, the cool, witty and benevolent Vijay Sethupathi, his Love Court-a building which seemingly floats in the air, one of pristine paints, sprawling white spaces where our love lives are case studies, cueing us in, its tease furthered in the profound insightful words and life advices Sethupathi and a spirited Thilak throw around in the easy tone of long known friends you are catching up with and with whom you can laugh all your troubles away.
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.
The film’s tone shifts post its initial half and its insidious increased leaning towards melodrama in what follows gets jaded, saturated in the excessive flow of mournful music but it doesn’t pass unforgivable since it is what constitutes the restart and life does own the potent to get drastically dramatic out of the blue as we see things, feeling them in entirety unlike we have never did, it is a resurrection of sort, a coming of age for we emerge new, the life is new with the things we come to see, comprehend and hold dear changing incredibly.
The skies are also called upon and the rains which are largely seen as signs from heaven form a major motif in the film, the crucial confrontations unfold under pouring rains – the start of a relationship, its restart, the drift- Anu and Arjun coming face to face with the fate of their conflicted relationship, tensely arguing, the redefined contending warming up in Arjun and Meera’s bond as he is welcomed to her house, getting the chance to spend time with her, further their relationship, all thanks to the rains and before he departs, the famous rain song from Minnale, Nenjai poopol floats in the air- one of the many Gautam Vasudev references to spread its wings and soar in the cerulean space of the film.
Arjun is firstly a Gautam Vasudev Menon fan, he even auditions for the director, succeeding in creating a splendid impression and the fanboy in the maker rejoices with no qualms and this merry morphs into an unabashed ode to the defining filmmaker that Oh My Kadavule engages us in its cry of admiration for it is a shared fandom. A Vaaranam Aayiram poster adorns the walls of Arjun’s room, if the 2008 film deals with many phases of life, this flick deals with many lives in itself. VTV is evoked in all its glory and OMK owns a delightful nostalgia of it that we see Arjun travelling all the way to Kerala, in prepping to propose his love for Meera, he doesn’t venture alone but with his friend Anu in a melodious bike journey she wished for, a nod to Raasali. Meera bears the traces of VTV’S Karthick too- she is a gutsy wannabe filmmaker, note her ex-boyfriend is a boxer and their love story’s tragedy is that Krishna’s dreams demand of him that he sacrifice her for the better and she currently an Assistant Director to Gautham Menon writes and wants to make a film about her own love story alike Karthick.
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.
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.