To all those ‘Tara’s and ‘Maya’s, Gautham Menon, Mani Ratnam


It is not every day you get to watch a well written woman character in Indian cinema. They (women characters) basically exist in films to support the central male character and his desires.  Therefore when you see a film with a strong lady lead with a mind of her own, in the form of Tara in Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani, it does kindle hope.

In our films, there is a list of check-in tabs on how a woman’s role should be written which includes her behavioral pattern both physically and mentally. Before wedding, if she prances around in the skimpiest of costumes with ‘liberated’ views on life, post wedding she is made to do a volte-face on all aspects with her sole raison d'être becoming the welfare of her husband.

Having gotten used to such characterization, it was almost like a jolt when I heard Tara say to Aadhi with a straight face, “I am not sure if I myself would behave, with a boy like you around” on the prospect of having to share a single room in a lodge overnight. When was the last time, we saw such frankness of a woman’s feeling towards the opposite gender?

Gautham Menon’s Maya openly admitted how she felt towards Anbuchelvan on that aesthetically framed pier shot in Kaakka Kaakka. That’s perhaps when Tamil cinema realized that their heroines can also SPEAK and be honest about their biological needs.

Tara belongs to a battalion of women out there who are free willed, independent and very secure in their space. That’s why she did not flinch about the Sangeethas and Dimples in Aadhi’s life and is cool when she asks him to manage them when she is away. In a normal heroine, we may have been subjected to the green eyed monster in silly magnified proportions.

Tara is also a lot naughty, brings Aadhi to the Gynecologist’s clinic and pulls a prank on him with a poker face. She teases him with a wedding proposal to gauge him if he is on the same page as hers. She refuses to budge from her bed in their room at an impending visit from Aadhi’s brother and even suggests him to lie to get that extra five minutes!

Tara, for her own reasons, does not believe in marriages and feels it is only for fools. She is clear on wanting to go to Paris and chasing her dreams of becoming the best architect. She is direct in admitting to Ganapathy uncle and Bhavani aunty about her priorities in life and does not mince words on her ideas about living together. In fact it is interesting to watch at this juncture in the film that it is another woman in the form of Bhavani aunty who dismisses her husband as old fashioned and gives a go ahead to the arrangement!

When Aadhi’s sister-in-law threatens Tara with serious consequences, she does not flinch and counters that with a simple, ‘You could have told this even to Aadhi’. There is no high flying drama here which we are so used to watching during such situations in other films.

There is a lot of honesty and unpretentiousness in the way Tara’s character is scripted that it commands respect. She realizes that unknowingly she has fallen in love with Aadhi and comes to terms with it but it is Aadhi who ‘cellotapes his feelings.

This film of Mani Ratnam may have ruffled a few purists’ feathers with regard to the mode of staying together that the lead couple chooses in the film. But the director in his own way has mitigated the angst of pedants with a conformist denouement. This could perhaps be due to the maker’s belief in marriage as an institution or his smart reflexes suggesting him to play it safe. Whatever be the case, OK Kanmani as a film has given a good viewing experience to the audience that Ratnam has set out to cater to. And Tara’s character will sure be a benchmark for such encores!

Thanks Mani Ratnam!


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