Om Shanti is a case of beautiful handwriting gracing the wrong answer. Watching it is like listening intently to an articulate speaker ramble on and on, until you realize that he's, well, rambling on and on.
The flawless performances don't let the faults show for a long while, but Om Shanti could have been just as flawless, if it were helmed with an eye on the box office. That doesn't merely mean inserting songs, dances and fights, but thinking on behalf of audiences from varied backgrounds and trying to cater to a common denominator.
No, Om Shanti doesn't suffer from lack of thought or inept technical departments - it's intelligent in places, but has a vision that stops short at just the point that breaks your heart with its incompleteness and the unfulfilled promise of more.
The plot weaves together the lives of a few young Hyderabadis in different set-ups. It introduces their aspirations first and then their tribulations. Anand (Navdeep) is a software engineer employed with Satyam (the real one, with logos et al), who's falling in love with a girl his family has found for him. Teja (Nikhil), an ardent fan of Ravi Teja, is an aspiring actor who's being promised the moon by a rogue assistant director (Raghu Babu).
Then, there's Meghna (Kajal Aggarwal), a college-going girl who seeks adrenaline rushes, and who has a huge crush on an RJ Maddy (Madhavan). There's the story of a village farmer Narsi Reddy (Muralimohan) whose son sells his farmland after his (Narsi Reddy's) death to a greedy real estate shark and moves to the city. And lastly, there's a Muslim bride Noorie (Bindu Madhavi) whose brother (Randhir Reddy) is constructing a deadly bomb for a bunch of prayer-cap-toting jehadis.
Taking on a multiplex topic in the first place, terrorism, Om Shanti goes social, speaking about Satyam, the recession, the film industry's scamsters, farmers' lands, the homeless, and relationships.The audacity to link them all in the last 15 minutes, using a bus stand and a ticking bomb, is what holds up that giant exclamation mark in your face.
Then, even though some of the scenes are well-conceptualized and the dialogues mirror insightful observations, sadly they're all ends unto themselves. Too many pieces glowing in their own glory does nothing to this collage of vignettes trying to paint the picture of a pretty city with pretty people and yet trying to get a message across.
Then, among the multiple threads, Anand and Teja have interesting troubles that actually make for good storytelling material. The farmer track ends up being â€˜80s melodramatic, and the rest of the stories aren't worth making movies about. And there's the issue of misplaced profundity - like the whole sequence involving Sunil's character trying to save money.
Navdeep stands out with his suave looks and spontaneity. Nikhil is sheer electricity, as always. Kajal and Aditi Sharma are vivacious as well.
Muralimohan packs a punch in his cameo, but unfortunately, in Madhavan's case, the dubbing ruins it for him. There's Raghu Babu and a few other comedians doing a spirited job as well. Randhir Reddy is quite good. Bindu Madhavi is a let down, both in terms of acting as well as wardrobe - a point that the other actresses have taken care of.
The film is urbane in its look and in its social commentary, and maintains a fairly bright and optimistic tone throughout, which kind of makes it clear what the ending too will feel like. Ilayaraja's music is interesting, and there's some brilliant picturization in the songs.
Well, this is one more from Tollywood's evolving basket of new-age cinema. Watch it if you want to cheer for the cause unconditionally.