April 2000: Sakhi
releases. April 2015: Mani Ratnam decides to release another romantic movie with a young pair. The music of this one has been said to be suspiciously similar to that of Sakhi. The trailer, especially the scenes in the trains, reminded people of Sakhi. So is Okay Bangaram a Sakhi redux? This was the question uppermost in people's minds.
Well, let's see. The hero in Sakhi starts a software company with friends and is waiting for a huge project from the US. Adi (Dulquer Salman), the hero in Okay Bangaram (OKB for short), works for a gaming company and has an idea for a computer game - he's given six weeks to develop a prototype that will give him a chance to go to the US.
The heroine in Sakhi was a doctor - someone with a professional life that took her places so the hero could follow her. Thara (Nitya Menon), the heroine in OKB, is an architect - someone with a professional life that takes her places so the hero can follow her (and follow her he does).
Sakhi showed a young couple in love along with an older couple in love (Arvind Swamy and Khushboo) who make the younger couple realize the folly of their ways. OKB shows a young couple in love along with an older couple (Prakash Raj and Leela Samson) who make the younger couple realize the folly of their ways.
So, yes, Okay Bangaram resembles Sakhi in many ways - thankfully, also in the fact that it is a good watch. Mani Ratnam, after a string of duds, returns to romance and proves that he is the king. However reluctant the man is to accept that title, this seems to be the genre that brings the best out of him. And he again proves that he's the best when it comes to extracting performances from his cast and his technicians.
So while the plot is simple - a young couple who do not believe in marriage and believe that their professional lives will be hindered if they get married learn that they are wrong and are happy to change their thought process - Dulquer Salman and Nitya Menon put in outstanding performances, bringing it all spectacularly to life. The chemistry between them just jumps out of the screen and grabs you by the throat. We've praised Menon earlier, but she just surpasses herself here and puts in a performance that will make you sit up. Salman looks much better than his dad (he's Mammooty's son, for the uninitiated) and puts in a competent performance. Nani's dubbing for the character is fantastic - you will not realise for one scene that you know the voice. Prakash Raj and Leela Samson support the couple ably.
The output from P C Sreeram and A R Rahman is fantastic. Mumbai seems a different city through PC's lens, and Rahman takes the movie to the next level with his BGM. The songs are avowedly peppy - many people have gone so far as to say that this is Rahman's best work in recent times. The only dampeners in Okay Bangaram are the super-simplistic (and recycled) plot and the pacing.
Finally, through the movie, you feel that Mani Ratnam should seriously start a film school - right from extracting performances to setting the lighting patterns to composing frames, everything is done just right in his films, and so many young filmmakers could learn from him. But we'll hold on to that thought - for now, just go and watch this one. And try and put Sakhi out of your mind, and you will enjoy this one that much more!