Oh Manapenne! review: This Pellichoopulu remake is refreshing, realistic
Cast: Harish Kalyan, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Venu Arvind and Ashwin Kumar
Director: Kaarthik Sundar
Tharun Bhascker’s Pellichoopulu, which released in 2016, heralded the beginning of a new wave in Telugu cinema. The success of Pellichoopulu paved the way for many young Telugu filmmakers to go against the tide to tell stories and still be accepted and celebrated. Pellichoopulu was lauded for its fresh take on the concept of arranged marriage from an Indian middle-class perspective, and its Tamil remake, Oh Manapenne, pretty much follows in its footsteps and manages to get a lot of things right in the process.
What Oh Manapenne! successfully managed to do is -- it looked at the arranged marriage setup from the perspective of two characters who are like chalk and cheese. Harish Kalyan plays Karthik, who is aimless and settles for the idea of tying the knot for dowry. Shruti (Priya Bhavani Shankar), on the other hand, is an MBA gold medalist and wants to travel to Australia to study further but is forced by her father to get married. When Karthik and Shruti meet in what can be best described through a bizarre meeting, they decide to turn their love for food into a business. They plan to join hands to set up a food truck, and what follows when they eventually fall in love forms the crux of the story.
The film, despite being a remake and getting made after five years, works to a large extent because the idea still feels fresh. No other southern film since the release of Pellichoopulu wanted to talk about arranged marriage and not come across as preachy. Oh Manapenne! takes a very lighthearted approach to talk about how arranged marriages have become toxic, and in most cases people in this setup come together for all the wrong reasons. The sub-plot about Karthik thinking it’s alright to take dowry and survive on it is one of the horrors of Indian arranged marriage system, and the film deals with it in the most sensible way with a good dose of humour. The fact that Oh Manapenne doesn’t try to take the subject it seriously and this works in its favour.
Pellichoopulu marked the arrival of Vijay Deverakonda in a big way, and Harish Kalyan is a worthy match in the role of Karthik. With his effortless screen presence, he makes the character instantly likable. Priya Bhavani Shankar as the clear-headed and highly ambitious Shruti is the kind of female lead we need to see more often in Tamil cinema. Music by Vishal Chandrasekhar’s is the film’s lifeline, and his background score literally elevates the final 15-20 minutes. The film could’ve been shorter by a few minutes and the flashback portion featuring Ashwin is a bit of a downer. Otherwise, Oh Manapenne is one of those rare remakes that’s as good as the original if not better.