For the unversed, Oh Manapenne is a story revolving around Karthik (Harish Kalyan) and Shruthi (Priya Bhavani Shankar), who meet each other through a marriage alliance proposition, which we later realise is a mistake. How they both come together again for a business and how they unite, forms the rest of the story.
The first half of the movie moves with ease because it is just Karthik and Shruthi narrating their respective life stories to each other and how in a few instances they crossed paths. Even after the first half, the movie moves comfortably as nowhere do we feel bored or stagnant.
Now, Oh Manapenne is different because it establishes its women lead (Shruthi) as the bolder lead and the one who takes the movie forward. Karthik on the other hand is shown as lazy, who has arrears in his Engineering degree and doesn’t have anything to do with his life. Ofcourse, a cliche is set where he has friends who drink with him and ensure he doesn’t come up in life. Shruthi on the other hand is an MBA gold medalist with big ambitions and a broken heart.
Its great to see that a good character arc is established for the heroine which is independent from the hero. We are clearly shown what kind of person she is, her aspirations, etc. Instead of just being the hero’s sidekick.
Shruthi taking over and establishing ground rules when they come together for business is nice to watch because it is very rare when Tamil movies show women taking the lead. In many places, Shruthi stands up boldly and communicates what is in her mind. When Karthik says he is looking for dowry along with a bride, Shruthi neither advises him, nor judges him but makes him realise that he would have no self-worth. Similarly, when her ex-boyfriend comes back to apologize, she slaps him right on his face and says it’s for not breaking up with her, but for not doing it properly.
However, Shruthi who is seen as bold in so many situations in the movie, still needs Karthik to make her father understand that she does not want marriage and that she wants to pursue her career. Although that scene is set in the movie to make Shruthi move closer to Karthik emotionally, it feels contradictory to her bold and outspoken character.
The movie treads lightly as it doesn’t have big conflicts or sudden twists. It is a feel-good rom-com that serves its purpose of warming our hearts. The chemistry between Ashwin Kumar (who played her ex) and Priya Bhavani Shankar was much more adorable to watch on screen even though his screen time was not that much. The chemistry between the leads could have been much better considering the Tom and Jerry nature of their relationship. Harish Kalyan’s lazy boy character is capable of winning hearts as it is extremely adorable and realistic.
A notable performance is that of Venu Arvind who plays the father of Karthik. The tension between the father and son and the need for him to come up in life is clearly established because of the actor’s performance. Of course, Abhishek Kumar and Anbuthasan also managed to do justice with their performances, as Karthik’s friends.
The songs, composed by Vishal Chandrasekhar, are to be specifically mentioned because they ensure that the movie is carried out smoothly throughout. A shout out to ‘Bodhai Kaname’ in the voice of Anirudh and Shashaa Tirupati which made the montage of Shruthi and Karthik bonding even more special. ‘Lazy Song’ in Sinduri Vishal’s voice has a lot of potential to become a Lazy Anthem for all the lazy people around the world.
The purpose of rom-coms is to make the audience feel good when they finish watching the film. So, remaking a rom-com in many other languages serves its purpose because even if we have watched the original, we don’t mind watching the remake. Except, this time we watch the movie solely for how it’s remade. In that manner, Oh Manapenne is a fun family entertainer which did not exactly meet the quality of its original, but fared pretty well on its own. It is even greater for people who haven’t watched the original, as there are no expectations. Priya Bhavani Shankar carried the movie on her shoulders throughout, and at least for her, the movie is a must-watch!