Oh My Kadavule

What happens when you marry your best friend? Ashwath Marimuthu’s début film aims to answer that question in his fun romantic comedy Oh My Kadavule. While there are a few of the usual tropes associated with a love story, a road trip and a disapproving father among them, for the most part this is a fresh and interesting take on romance. Ashok Selvan and Ritika Singh are excellent as the two best friends who embark on marriage together and with the addition of a fantasy element and extended cameo roles for Vijya Sethupathi and Ramesh Thilak, Oh My Kadavule is a funny and entertaining watch.

The film starts with a celebration for Arjun (Ashok Selvan) who has finally managed to clear his college exams. This means drinks at a bar for Arjun and his two best friends, Anu (Ritika Singh) and Mani (Sha Ra). During the course of a number of tequila shots, Anu asks Arjun to marry her and since he cannot think of any reason why not, he agrees to the plan. Although Anu’s father (M.S. Bhaskar) initially had plans to marry Anu to a family friend, he’s not at all averse to the match since he knows Arjun and thinks he will look after his daughter well. It’s Arjun’s father (Gajaraj) who is more sceptical since he thinks Arjun lacks ambition and Anu could do much better for herself than Arjun as a life partner. I really like how it’s Anu and her father who call all the shots here, and Arjun just gets carried along. The opening scenes cleverly establish the personalities of the three friends and the discussion around Anu’s marriage cements their relationship while giving us a glimpse into how Arjun, Anu and Mani each see themselves. 

Since Arjun doesn’t have a job, he ends up working for Anu’s father (M.S. Bhaskar) as a quality tester in the family ceramic factory, a job that requires him to test out the strength of the toilets they produce. This is played for laughs, but there is a serious side to the business and Ashwath Marimuthu does a beautiful job in incorporating this into the story in the second half. 

While marrying your best friend might sound like a match made in heaven, it turns out to be anything but. Arjun has no romantic feelings for Anu at all and when he tries to kiss her, he bursts into giggles, while living together doesn’t turn out anything like either Arjun or Anu expected. The couple decide to let the relationship develop at its own pace, but it isn’t long before they are scrabbling and fighting, and when Anu sees Arjun behaving more kindly towards his high school crush Meera (Vani Bhojan), it’s the last straw in a relationship that was already teetering towards divorce. But at the family court, events take an unexpected turn, and Arjun ends up seeking the advice of the Love Court. This leads to a sliding doors moment when Arjun meets Kadavul (Vijay Sethupathi) and is given a golden ticket that allows him a second chance. This time round when Anu asks him to marry her, Arjun says no, and instead is able to start a relationship with Meera and follow his dreams of becoming an actor.

It’s one of the real strengths of the film, that the second half takes brief scenes from the first half and twists them slightly to reveal a whole new meaning. It sounds simple, but probably very difficult to do without being heavy handed and very obvious. But everything here is handled with a light touch and even the familiar development of a romance is given new life with a few different shades added to the relationships. What also works well is the relationship between the three friends. Arjun calls Anu noodle head and there is real affection and happiness in their friendship, which makes it understandable why they would go ahead and get married. The change in Arjun’s perception of their relationship is also neatly done in the second half, while the development of his romance with Meena is also nicely done.

Ashok Selvan continues to improve as an actor and he has more expression and empathy here than I’ve seen in his previous roles in Thegidi and Soodhu Kavvum. He does really well at showing the camaraderie and fondness in his relationships with Anu and Mani, although the romance with Meena is rather more conventional. Vani Bhojan is fine, although there isn’t a lot of scope in her role as Meena. However, Ashwath Marimuthu gives her character some attitude and she does a good job with this while still displaying moments of vulnerability in her scenes with Arjun. The best performance though comes from Ritika Singh who is excellent as Anu. I loved her in Aandavan Kattalai, and here she combines feistiness and compassion perfectly to paint a realistic picture of someone who is doing her best with a difficult situation. It’s a compelling performance and I totally believed in her characterisation of Anu at every stage. One of my favourite moments in the film is when Mani comes in to the divorce court to speak to Arjun, but then moves to sit with Anu, giving the explanation that she is his friend too. It’s this balance of emotions that works so well to make the film more than just another romantic comedy. I also loved Vijay Sethupathi and Ramesh Thilak as the God and his minister who turn Arjun’s life upside down. It’s a role just made for the uber-cool Mr Sethupathi and as always he does an excellent job.

I really enjoyed Oh My Kadavule and really appreciated the care that went into aligning the second half with the first. The mix of characters is great, and for once the comedy friend is used for more than just cheap laughs. The supernatural element adds a rather different twist, and I loved Anu’s character and the way she dealt with Arjun. The only issue with the version I watched was some very dodgy subtitles and a total lack of subs for the songs, which was a shame. I’m not sure if that was an issue with the streaming platform, but at least the subs were yellow and easily visible. Overall, this is a fun film, better than I expected and with the added draw of Vijay Sethupathi it’s definitely well worth watching online if you missed it at the cinema. 4 stars!

Sethupathi (2016)

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After the excellent Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, S.U. Arun Kumar and Vijay Sethupathi are back together with a masala cop film, Sethupathi. But this isn’t your typical story with a hero police officer busting heads right, left and centre on the tail of some desperate villain. Although the police officer in question is as rough and tough as they come when he’s out on the streets, once he makes it back home it’s a different story. The film spends almost as much time looking at the home life of police inspector Sethupathi as it does following his investigation into the murder of fellow officer Subburaj. The glimpses of Sethupathi with his wife and children make him a more human hero, giving an insight into his thought processes and ensuring the otherwise routine story has plenty of depth and interest. He may be a violent and argumentative man at work, but at home he is in love with his wife and a good father to his young kids. Sethupathi has the usual chase sequences, fight scenes and general rowdyism expected of a police thriller, but it also has heart and that what makes it such a watchable film.

The film opening sequences give an indication that the police are the good guys. Here are the men you hope to meet when you have a problem – compassionate, caring and protective and doing the best they can in an often difficult job. The victim, SI Subburaj, is one such police officer. After stopping when he witnessed an argument between a husband and wife, he’s set upon by a gang of thugs and burnt to death on a bridge. Although the police officer belonged to another police station, the job of investigating his death falls to Inspector Sethupathi (Vijay Sethupathi), a man whose colleagues describe as a psycho but also 100% honest and incorruptible.

Sethupathi rules his police station with a heavy hand, but although many of his officers seem terrified of him, he has the respect and loyalty of his right-hand man Murthy (Linga). Despite all his bluster, Sethupathi has very clear ideas about what is expected from a police officer and is determined that everyone should follow his line. He tells his men that they should not upset the public unnecessarily although he isn’t slow to react when he thinks a crowd is being disrespectful outside the hospital. He’s infuriated that someone has dared to kill a police officer and expects that everyone will be as enthusiastic about tracking down the killer as he is himself, and when that isn’t the case he’s quick to anger and lets everyone have the sharp edge of his tongue. But for all his barely contained violence, even at work Sethupathi is more caring than first appears. When a man comes in looking for his missing wife, Sethupathi sends the couple’s young daughter away so that she does not have to hear her father speaking ill of her mother. It’s clear that he’s thinking of the bigger picture and hoping for a good outcome for the family.

Sethupathi quickly discovers that SI Subburaj has been killed by mistake and the real target was another police officer, SI Kanagavel. Kanagavel is married to the daughter of local king-pin Vaathiyar (Vela Ramamoorthy) and by all accounts it isn’t a happy marriage. Rather than letting his daughter divorce Kanagavel, Vaathiyar decides to murder him instead – effective but perhaps not the best solution to the problem. While investigating, Sethupathi arrests Vaathiyar who immediately swears vengeance for the insult. At the same time, something goes wrong during an interrogation of two schoolboys, resulting in Sethupathi’s suspension and an investigation into his actions. While Sethupathi desperately tries to work out what happened and prove his innocence, Vaathiyar is out for blood and determined that Sethupathi will pay for his embarrassment – one way or another.

Vijay Sethupathi does masala cop brilliantly here, twirling his moustache and barking orders while displaying all the tenacious enthusiasm of a bulldog on the scent as he chases down criminals. He’s determined, ferocious and heroic – exactly as required for a mass action film. The brilliance lies in the other side of Sethupathi. The man who goes home to romance his wife and play with his children, call home when he’s away on business and send selfies to his wife to let her know how much he misses her. I always appreciate some good white board pondering – used here as Sethupathi tries to figure out why a gun fired when it shouldn’t have, and the many little touches that A.R. Arun Kumar adds in to illustrate the family dynamic. Vijay Sethupathi changes body language, demeanour and his language once he gets home and I love how realistic he appears as he deals with the doubts and problems that he faces every day. Plus of course he’s great in the fight sequences and completely nails the tough cop persona in every way.

Remya Nambeesan is also fantastic as Sethupathi’s wife as are the two child actors who play his children. There is lovely chemistry between the two actors, and their relationship feels comfortable and enduring – exactly as you’d expect for a couple who had been together for a while. This is a much better thread to the story than the more usual ‘romantic interest’ and the relationship provides a structure and a focus to Sethupathi’s actions that makes them appear logical and inevitable. There are hints that there are some troubles in the marriage and issues with Sethupathi’s in-laws that are never fully revealed. I can’t decide if the film would be better with a little more detail or if the hints should have been removed but regardless the relationship itself is so well done that in the end it doesn’t really matter.

Vela Ramamoorthy is a rather pedestrian villain, but then again he’s not really the focus of the film. His attempts to remove Sethupathi are inconveniences rather than obstacles in Sethupathi’s path and the Inspector makes it clear that if Vaathiyar would leave him alone, Sethupathi has no further interest in him. Amusingly the various thugs are rather less eager to jump into battle than usual and with Sethupathi’s reputation their reluctance makes sense, but once they do attack the choreography is well executed.

The film looks good too with some clever framing shots from cinematographer Dinesh Krishnan who uses mirrors and reflections beautifully throughout the film. The music from Nivas K Prasanna works well in the film and is mainly used to further develop the relationship between Sethupathi and his wife or as background music for the action scenes. There are no big song and dance numbers and the film doesn’t need anything so commercial to detract from the actors’ performances. It’s also short, at only 2 hours the screenplay is kept tight and the pace generally fast. I thought there might be some long drawn out revenge at the end, but instead it’s kept short and sweet, totally fitting the character and his approach to his job.

Sethupathi is an excellent mix of action and drama. The crime element of the story works well and Vijay Sethupathi is charismatic and engaging as the lead character. Adding in the domestic scenes is a clever idea that pays off superbly, giving more interest to the central character and a human touch to the whole story. I love that the romance is between a husband and wife rather than a token heroine who only turns up for the songs, and too that the relationship is so comfortable and warm. Definitely a cut above the usual police thriller and highly recommended. 4 stars.

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