Ohm Shanthi Oshaana

Ohm Shanthi Oshaana

Ohm Shanthi Oshaana is a rather sweet love story that follows the exploits of tomboy Pooja (Nazriya Nazim) as she searches for a suitable groom to marry. The entire romance is told from a female viewpoint but with many of the usual Southern Indian romance tropes, so it’s Pooja who stalks potential grooms (literally!) and also makes the first moves. It’s not just about the romance either. Pooja also has career ambitions and plans for her future, making the film refreshingly different while still retaining all the charm needed for a successful love story.

The film starts with Dr Mathew Devasya (Renji Panicker) anxiously waiting the birth of his child at the hospital. After being initially misinformed that the child was a boy, he nonetheless is happy to learn that he has a daughter and the opening credits show Pooja growing up through a series of photographs. She narrates her own story, and perhaps there is some influence from the midwife’s mistake since, with hobbies including archery and riding a motorbike, Pooja is definitely a bit of a tomboy. Nazriya Nazim gets the balance just right here as she blends enough femininity in with her non-conformist and feminist attitude to ensure that Pooja appears to be a normal, well-adjusted teenager. Her two school friends, Neetu (Akshaya Premnath) and Donna (Oshein Mertil) both have their own personality quirks and these relationships are used to add more depth and colour to Pooja’s character. Another important relationship in Pooja’s life is with Rachel Aunty (Vinaya Prasad), a winemaker who dispenses worldly wisdom along with samples of her art.

After attending her cousin Julie (Poojitha Menon) arranged marriage to a balding suitor from the USA, Pooja decides that an arranged marriage is not for her, and instead she will choose her own husband. Immediately putting her idea into practice, she looks for the best possible option at her school – and she thinks she’s found the ideal choice in Yardley (Hari Krishnan), a popular boy who also seems interested in her. But before any match can be finalised, Pooja meets Giri (Nivin Pauly) and she instantly realises that this is the man for her.

There are however a few potential problems. To start with, there is a significant age difference as Giri is 7 years older than Pooja. Secondly, there is the problem of status since Giri is a farmer while Pooja’s father is a doctor. Finally, and most problematic of all, Giri was apparently left heart-broken after being jilted by Pooja’s cousin Julie, creating a potential reluctance to be further involved with Pooja’s family. However, Pooja isn’t one to shy from a challenge and after finding out that Giri seems to like more conventional girls, she learns how to cook, changes her casual clothes for saris and takes an interest in current affairs. But it’s all to no avail as finally Giri rejects her on Palm Sunday (the Oshaana of the title) and tells her to go and concentrate on her studies.

Being a sensible girl, Pooja does just that. She heads off to medical school and the film catches up with her in her 4th year when she is working as a medical resident. Actually working too – she’s shown carrying out ward rounds and dealing with patients, rather than the usual shots of the heroine simply looking studious in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. She’s still friends with Neetu and becomes friendly with one of her tutors, Dr Prasad Varkey (Vineeth Srinivasan), who could be another potential life partner if Pooja could just forget about Giri. But just when this seems to be a real possibility, Giri comes back into Pooja’s life when his mother ends up in the hospital where Pooja is working.

What I really like about this film is that Pooja is a regular, normal teenager with the usual issues with school, her parents and typical teenager mood swings. Although she is portrayed as a tomboy, she can still be girly when she wants to be and rather than going for the more usual crazy airhead or too-good-to-be-true heroine, writers Midhun Manuel Thomas and Jude Anthany Joseph have kept her as a down-to-earth and believable character. Also well done is the change when she attends college. This isn’t shown as a type of ‘make-over’ where Pooja suddenly becomes glamorous or more feminine, but instead  is a genuine coming of age as all Pooja’s beliefs and mannerisms are retained but just with a more mature perspective. The only reason she dons a sari for instance, is to try and impress Giri’s mother. It’s all part of her campaign, and she doesn’t try to sugarcoat or hide her intentions in any way.

Nazriya Nazim is excellent here and suits the role perfectly, keeping her portrayal of Pooja quirky and sassy but without ever veering into annoyingly manic. She’s good as both an obsessed teenager and as a more self-assured medical student, but also impresses with her comedy, particularly in the scenes with her cousin David Kaanjani (Aju Varghese).  I liked her in Bangalore Days and I think she is even better here in a role that gives her plenty of opportunity to show a range of different emotions.

Nivin Pauly has the unusual position (for a hero) of not having much to do in a romance where he also has little say in the proceedings. He only appears as Pooja’s love interest and apart from appearing in her fantasies, periodically appears working in the fields or driving around the local area. Overall, Giri seems too good to be true, but as the character is only seen through Pooja’s eyes, this perhaps isn’t surprising – after all, she considers Giri to be perfect husband material. The few interactions he has with Pooja are characterised by his lack of dialogue, since Pooja usually has plenty to say for both of them, but despite these limitations there is still good development of their relationship as time passes. The romance is completely one-sided, but still very relatable as Pooja pines from afar for someone who seems unattainable despite all her best efforts.

Jude Anthony Joseph has crafted an enjoyable love story with a novel approach and memorable characters. The mix of romance and comedy works well, and there are  plenty of snappy dialogues that complement the engaging storyline. Some of the ideas are a little strange, for example Giri’s passion for Kung fu, Rachel’s winemaking and Dr Matthew’s attempts to manufacture a new drug, but they fit into the overall unconventional nature of the story and Giri’s Kung fu does at least provide a reason for his disappearance. While the idea is simple, the execution is detailed and with good performances, a beautiful soundtrack and clever dialogue Ohm Shanthi Oshaana is well worth a watch. 4 stars.

100 Days of Love

Poster

Has Dulquer Salmaan ever made a bad film? Judging by what I’ve seen so far it seems not! I’ve been steadily working my way through his back catalogue and I’ve yet to find one of his movies that I haven’t enjoyed. Jenuse Mohamed’s 2015 release 100 Days of Love is another to add to the list. Although the film does have a few flaws, the trio of Dulquer Salmaan, Sekhar Menon and Nithya Menen add plenty of charisma and appealing characterisations to an otherwise rather routine romance.  There is also a dash of mystery in the first half and a generous helping of comedy to ensure that 100 Days of Love is more interesting than it first appears and definitely worth a watch.

Dulquer is Balan K. Nair, an aspiring journalist and cartoonist who lives in Bangalore with his best friend Ummer (Sekhar Menon). On possibly the worst day of his life, Balan drunkenly posts a message on his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page which results in a barrage of abuse and the loss of many of his friends. At the same time he loses his newspaper job to his nemesis Romanch Ramakrishnan (Aju Varghese) and to top it all off there is a torrential downpour just as he is on his way home from clearing out his desk. But this is where fate takes a hand. Just when Balan is at his lowest point, he meets Sheela (Nithya Menen) when the two try to hail the same taxi. While Balan lets Sheela take the taxi, she leaves behind a camera which starts Balan on his mission to find the girl with the beautiful smile.

Balan’s best friend Ummer stands by him, although this could simply be because Ummer is a classic computer nerd who doesn’t get out much. He runs a computer game store of sorts, and his life revolves around playing computer games, talking about computer games and dreaming about developing computer games. Jenuse Mohamed uses this obsession as an ongoing theme while Balan and Ummer try to track down the mystery girl from the cab. All they have to solve the puzzle are a few photographs they were able to develop from the camera and an incomprehensible game plan Ummer draws up on their wall.

Surprisingly they do manage to find the locations of the photographs and even track down the guy in one of the photos, although none of these successes bring Balan any closer to finding Sheela. Rather the opposite since Rahul (Rahul Madhav), the guy they identify, turns out to be Sheela’s fiancé who dramatically warns Balan away from any further contact. Naturally this has no noticeable effect on Balan other than his declaration that he will become Balan K Nair in truth and be the ‘villain’ of the story.

Where the film starts to falter is in the second half, when the focus moves away from Balan and Ummer to the love story between Balan and Sheela. Oddly for a film all about love, there is a distinct lack of passion in their developing relationship and despite a good rapport between Nithya and Dulquer  the romance never feels completely genuine. Although Balan is the very soul of romance, singing along to classic songs and quoting from films such as Casablanca, he takes a restrained approach to his courtship of Sheela. Further subduing any possible seduction is Sheela’s prosaic approach to life and her stated preference for the right credentials in any future life partner. Love to Sheela means arguments and misunderstandings, while for stability and contentment she wants the ideal husband. She defines her perfect match as someone from a good family, rich, has a good job and is handsome too. This is despite the example of her parents who had a romantic love match and whose story she relates to Balan without seeing any of the irony of her own stance. The suggestion is that this is ‘modern thinking’ cemented by the ubiquitousness of Facebook and social media throughout the film, but it doesn’t seem to fit the rest of Sheela’s characterisation or her general approach to life.

Adding to the mixed messages of the second half, Jenuse Mohamed introduces a second Dulquer as his own irritating elder brother and adds in some family problems with his parents. Rocky is as sexist and repulsively cocky as his name suggests and the inclusion of Balan’s family issues adds absolutely nothing to the story. Thankfully though Rocky’s appearances are brief and both Balan and Ummer have enough screen time to keep the story moving along.

Balan’s character is the redeeming feature throughout the second half and  Dulquer is effortlessly charming as he tries to win over Sheela. Balan has all the romance that is lacking elsewhere in the film and this song perfectly illustrates both his love for classic romance and his sentimental character.

Sekhar Menon makes a great sidekick and the partnership between him and Dulquer is easily the best part of the film. I don’t remember seeing him before in any Malayalam films, but I’ll definitely look out for him in future as he does such  good job with his characterisation here.  Nithya Menen on the other hand doesn’t sparkle as much here as I’ve seen her do in other films, but she does have a great smile and has plenty of opportunity to use it. Her character often seems emotionally immature, mainly due to the dialogue rather than her body language, but Nithya has good chemistry with both Dulquer and Sekhar making Sheela more personable than her role would suggest. The support cast are all good in their roles, although for the most part their appearances are brief. Rahul Madhav has little to do other than appear arrogant, and he does that well, but for me this was a missed opportunity to make the ‘other guy’ something other than a complete jerk.

Jennies Mohamed has tried to add in a few different ideas to rejuvenate a standard storyline but not all of them work. The search for Sheela is good and the inclusion of Balan’s day to day life helps make his character more appealing, but the rest of the characters don’t have the same attention to detail and as a result are less successful. There is still plenty to enjoy though. 100 Days of Love isn’t a perfect film, but the good first half and excellent performances from the cast make it well worth a watch. 3 stars

Chapters (2012)

Chapters poster

Writer/director Sunil Ibrahim’s 2012 début film is an interesting watch despite a slow beginning and a story where the emphasis is more on relationships and friendship rather than fast-paced action.  Chapters uses a multi-linear narrative style to tell three separate stories which are broken down into four separate ‘chapters’ – the source of the film title.  The first and third chapters interconnect as do the second and fourth, although the final chapter is more concerned with tying everything together. It made more sense to me on the second watch through as I picked up more of the connections, possibly due to concentrating too much on the occasionally dodgy subtitle first time round.  The focus is on the ordinary lives of ordinary people and although it’s an admirable attempt to make a different type of film, sadly we don’t learn enough about these ordinary people to make them interesting!  However at just under two hours it’s an easy watch and worth a look at least for the third chapter which is the most engaging.

Chapter 1Chapters

The film starts with a brief preface which sets up the first chapter.  Krishna Kumar (Nivin Pauly) enlists the help of his friends Anwar (Hemanth Menon), Joby (Vijeesh) and Kannan (Dhananjay) to raise some money to help pay for his sister’s wedding.  Rather interestingly his first option is to try for a bank loan, and when that fails the next plan is to try smuggling.  Hm – straight into illegal and criminal activity then without even the possibility of trying to get some work?  Must be the done thing in the Kerala highlands I guess since no-one seems to find this strange at all!  The first chapter deals with the friends attempt to find Nagamanikyam (the legendary snake pearl), to sell and raise money.  This naïve plan isn’t well developed in the narrative and as a result the first chapter feels laboured and unrealistic.  It’s unfortunate as it’s also the longest and the one that sets events in motion for subsequent chapters.  Although the theme of friendship is woven throughout, the individual relationships aren’t explored in any detail either and there never seems to be any reason for Kumar’s friends to sacrifice anything for him.

ChaptersChapters

None of it really makes sense until we get to the final chapter, and although that might work in a film such as Amores Perros, there just isn’t enough action here to justify the lack of character development.  I also found Krishna to be a rather unappealing character who never manages to redeem this initial impression, so perhaps I’m just biased against his story.  The other friends do seem as if they might have more interesting stories, but we don’t ever learn very much about them, and that is the major problem with this chapter.

Chapter 2ChaptersChaptersChapters

The second chapter tells the story of Sethu (Sreenivasan) and his bus trip to hospital to see his son.  On the way he meets an older woman, played by K.P.A.C. Lalitha, who is also on the way to visit her son, although her story is a little different.  This chapter is short and only seems to provide the background information to set up the last two, however the characters capture interest in their stories and it’s an improvement  after the slow beginning.   We never find out the older lady’s name or anything much else about her, but she is a reminder that there are many stories out there and we only see a small portion of each.  Although not much time is spent with Sethu there is a better sense of his life, his dreams and his problems, which makes his chapter more compelling.  Both Sreenivasan and K.P.A.C.Lalitha are excellent in their roles and as the camera concentrates on their faces while they chat on the bus, more is said by their facial expressions and demeanour than by their words. Maybe it’s a result of these roles being played by more seasoned actors but these characters have more rapport and more of a connection than the others in the story.

Chapter 3Chapters

The third chapter tells of an elopement orchestrated by Arun (Vineeth Kumar), Kaanu (Aju Varghese) and Jincy (Riya Saira) for their friends Priya (Gauthami Nair) and Shyam (Rejith Menon).  Arun brings along his friend Choonda (Shine), whom he introduces as a goonda, just in case they run into difficulties and need some muscle.  This is the most interesting story and there is attention to detail in the narrative, although again it suffers a little from lack of development of the various relationships. The obvious outsider in the group is Choonda and Shiny fits well into the role, while the rapport between the others helps to make later events more shocking.  Most of the action focuses on Arun, Shyam and Choonda, while the others have a more peripheral role in the proceedings.  However this lack of depth works here as the friendship theme is only the background reason for these people to be in a particular place at a particular time, allowing them to interconnect with the other characters in the preceding chapters.  More action and a sense of the different connections also help to make this the most appealing of the stories.  This chapter also has a love song which helps to develop the different relationships and as a bonus it features possibly the oddest pen holder I’ve ever seen!

Chapters

Each chapter recounts two particular days from different points of view, which add up to provide the full story.  There are a number of ways to bring this type of film together – one is by driving interest in one or more of the characters and their interconnecting relationships, but here there isn’t enough detail in most of the characters to feel any real rapport.  Another option is to take a piece of action and split it into the component parts, which is more the emphasis here.  Ibrahim doesn’t quite manage to pull it off though, which is mainly due to the slow beginning which doesn’t engage as much as the later chapters.  However once the story does pick up, there is enough interest generated in Sethu and the friends in the third chapter to make a more engaging and interesting film.  Making the first chapter as detailed as the rest would have definitely made this a better film.  As it is, the lack of consequence for the main character in the first section was somehow disappointing, particularly since everyone else seemed to have learned something from their experiences.  However, the actors are all well cast and feel genuine in their roles.  As in most Malayalam films, the cinematography by Krish Kymal is  excellent and the graphics between each chapter are beautifully done and capture the characters in defining moments.    There are two songs and both are used to develop the story, but I didn’t feel either was necessary and they didn’t really add anything more to the film.  Chapters is an interesting début and certainly merits a watch for a different approach to a multi-linear film and in particular good performances from Sreenivasan and the young actors in the third chapter . 3 ½ stars.