Oh My Kadavule Review: How Do Friends Become Lovers?

What a nice movie! Thanks to Angie and Procrastinatrix for recommending it to me, it was just so cheerful and light and (this is important) easy to watch in the background and not be confused.

This isn’t a super surprising movie, or groundbreaking movie, or radical statement making movie. Thank goodness! Who needs that! This is just a nice pleasant simple love story. It would fit perfectly on my “best rom-coms” list. There is one famous cameo, but the main cast are very minor actors, the songs aren’t super spectacular (no dances even), it’s just a small pleasant film. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Ashok Selvan And Ritika Singh's Oh My Kadavule Movie First Look ...

I watched this movie in my bedroom at my parents’ apartment, with them talking in the background, and the dog running in and out, and taking a break to play a board game, and so on and so forth. And it was great! I didn’t have to think because I more or less could predict the plot, I didn’t have to be worried and stressed about finishing the movie because I knew it would be a happy ending, and I could drop right back into it because everyone was so pleasant and nice that I was immediately wanting to know what happened next.

Not that it was a bad movie or anything. I wasn’t hate watching, I was like-watching with no stress. Ashok Selvan as the hero did a decent job, Ritika Singh as the heroine had the same strong onscreen presence that she had in Saala Khadoos, and Vijay Sethupathi (YAAAAAY!) was there in a cute cameo. The script was simple and predictable, but original in enough ways that it felt fresh. Really, a perfectly pleasant and simple and happy movie, well worth the $2.99 I spent to rent it from youtube.

Oh, there was one thing that was clever and original, but I was too distracted to fully appreciate it. Through out the film, there are little clips from other movies. And each time, they are perfect reflections of what is happening onscreen. It was really obvious (and fun!) with the use of Jaane Tu….Ya Jaane Na in the opening, and later with a reference to Rockstar (hate that movie but it was perfectly used here), and then there were many others that I missed. But I will assume were as perfectly placed. I appreciate that level of detail and care in such a tiny thing in such a light movie. It makes me think that this director’s next film might be something a little more challenging and radical, if he is already thinking about little things like using background films to echo character emotions.

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Very simple, very smart plot idea. Male and female best friends since childhood, she proposes to him in order to avoid marrying the stranger her father has picked out and because she kind of has a crush on him. He agrees, trying to be a good friend. The marriage is loveless, although she has feelings for him, he is frustrated and feels trapped especially after his childhood crush offers him a chance at his dream job (acting). Finally big fight and he asks for a divorce. At the divorce court, a stranger offers him the business card of a “love judge” who can help him. The love judge, Vijay Sethupathy, gives him a magic ticket to live the past 6 months over again. He turns down the proposal and instead they stay friends while she gets engaged to someone else and he pursues his dream job and dream girl. Only, she is such a great supportive friend, and he gets to really hate seeing her with her fiance, that he falls in love with her after all and she leaves her wedding to be with him. At the end, he loses his second chance and goes back to the previous life and divorce court, where he makes an impassioned plea for her to come back to him. Happy Ending.

Even that paragraph is too complicated. Two friends decide to get married as friends, marriage falls apart, parallel universe magic chance to see what would happen if they didn’t marry, then they fall in love, then returned to regular universe. It’s a great basic structure, “you don’t know what you have until you lose it” but with a twist, and could be used for really any kind of interpersonal thingy. Absent father? Imagine a world where your child was never born! Long married couple grown apart? Imagine a world where you never married! Kid who resents his parents? Imagine a world where you are strangers!

That parts clever, the rest of it is predictable, but meta-predictable. The opening scene is our two best friends, Ashok Selvan and Ritika Singh, meeting at a bar. As they meet, “Pappu Can’t Dance” starts playing in the background, anthem of “we are just friends but really in love even though we can’t admit it”, as Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na is on the big screen. then Vani Bhojan, old friend from school and Ashok’s crush, comes over to greet them. In the background, Jaane Tu jumps ahead many MANY minutes so we can see the first meeting between Imraan Khan and his “thinks she is the dream girl but she isn’t” crush Manjari Phadnis. Later there is a moment when Ashok and Ritika are talking about a motorcycle trip, and Nargis and Ranbir on motorcycle early in Rockstar (when she is beginning to fall in love with him and he is oblivious) plays in the background. And so on and so forth.

The filmmakers know this “just friends but one of them is secretly in love, or both of them are” storyline is very familiar, and we know how it is going to end. They are telling us “yep, you got it, they are in love, this girl is just a diversion, and so on and so forth”. It’s like a murder mystery that opens with who the killer is. That’s not the reason we enjoy it, we enjoy it for the journey of how the killer will be found out. Or, in this case, how these two crazy kids will avoid getting together, and then finally get together.

For a movie like this to work, one where we know they are made for each other and just waiting for them to find out, we have to believe in their early blindness, and then we need a convincing reason for that blindness to break. In a less ambitious film, the early blindness would be something dumb like “she’s too fat”. And the blindness would break because of something like “hit by a car and almost died!!!!” Instead, this film gives us “magical God-given second chance that slowly changes how he looks at her thanks to the secret background only he knows”, and “just kind of never thought of her that way”.

It even does a little joking nod towards the more unimaginative options! Ashok always teases Ritiki about her curly hair, but that’s not why he doesn’t love her, that’s DUMB. In his final love confession, he still calls her “noodle head”. And right at the start of the film, their divorce is postponed because Ritiki faints, Ashok isn’t suddenly worried about her and discovers his love, he just wants to make sure she will be back later in the day to complete the divorce.

What we have instead is a very nicely done picture of a couple that is really truly just friends. The first night after the wedding, Ashok can’t even touch her without laughing, the next morning, they fight over closet space, scare each other in the bathroom, he makes fun of her cooking, they throw flour on each other, and that’s of course when her parents come in. We can feel the intimacy, but it’s friend intimacy. It’s like watching a brother and sister fight, or college roommates. There is no effort to be magical for each other, no touching each other, nothing like that. They are just goofing around. More like teenage boys than a newly married couple.

It’s frustrating to watch, because Ritiki clearly does have feelings for Ashok and want a “real” marriage, but she doesn’t know how to convey that. They know each other too well for him to understand her. She proposed, she said she wanted to marry him, and he translated that in his head to “as a friend”. She was ready to have sex the first night, and on every other night she cuddled up against him, and he willfully ignored her signals and believed she was still just his old friend. You need mystery for romance, and there was no mystery, marriage killed it.

This same problem could work perfectly for a couple married ten years. Remember Kal Ho Na Ho? There’s a line “the first step and the last step of love is friendship”? That’s what this movie is about. Two close close friends who are like a couple married 20 years, only they haven’t been married 20 years yet, they need to find a way to step back and find the mystery and excitement and romance of getting to know each other. Ritiki and Ashok really sell us on that, on two people who just have no sexual chemistry or romantic feelings between them (even if Ritiki feels it all alone).

Thus, the clever solution! Ashok just says “no” and they never get married. Instead, they split up. She moves on to her arranged engagement, he moves on to pursuing his dream girl and dream job. And when they meet again, it is like they are strangers, which is what they needed, to see and appreciate each other as strangers. And all the things that were inconvenient and complicated when they were married, are clear now that they are just friends again. Rithiki helps Ashok pursue acting, more than anyone else. She even helps him pursue the other girl Vani. With no artificial bounds on her, Rithiki can be loving and self-sacrificing and understanding instead of insecure. And Ashok, with no bounds on him, can see and appreciate all she is doing instead of feeling it as a burden. Until the turning point, they travel together around Kerala (Vani’s homestate) to make a birthday video for Vani of her old friends saying “happy birthday”, and Ashok begins to see Rithiki in a new way. Especially when they spend the night at a dodgy hotel and someone insults Rithiki, to which Ashok finds himself striking out and declaring “that’s my WIFE!”

See, what this movie is saying is that marriage is a boundary, and it means something, even when you say it doesn’t. It means something that is neither necessarily good or bad, just exists. Deep down, Rithiki wanted a life time partner when she proposed. And deep down, Ashok agreed to being that when he accepted. That’s why they fought so much, that’s what happened when the marriage turned “real”. Ashok claimed to feel trapped, Rithiki was hurt he was with another woman, neither of those things would be true if marriage was really just a meaningless thing. It’s a social construct, but that doesn’t mean it means nothing. It’s a social construct that lives in their heads and effects them on a subconscious level.

Even when everything else was erased, when everyone else in the world didn’t believe it had happened, the marriage lived on in Ashok’s head. This meaningless marriage that meant a few conversations about decorating the apartment, and then a routine of silently sleeping together, it still has a power to it. Ritiki reacts in horror to the idea of divorce because the marriage lived in her head back then. She know Ashok didn’t really love her, that they had never even touched in a romantic way. She knew he agreed to marry her more out of pity than anything (her not wanting to marry a stranger). She even knew he was miserable in the job her family gave him. But in her mind, they were still married, that word still meant something, and divorce was heartbreaking.

That’s the real split of the film. The first half is Ritiki being alone in her marriage because Ashok refuses to acknowledge the shift in their relationship, and the second half is Ashok being alone in it because he is the only one who remembers it happened. The resolution has to take place in the world where they are getting divorced, so Ritiki and Ashok can be equals. Both have experienced marriage alone, and now are ready for marriage together.

Oh, also Vijay Sethupathi is adorable as the Love God who controls everything, and I think he may have lost a little weight? Which is good or bad depending on how you feel about cuddy Vijay.

16 thoughts on “Oh My Kadavule Review: How Do Friends Become Lovers?

    • I saw Tovino more than Maddy, but he was a very nice average kind looking dude.

      On Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 4:53 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It is a sweet simple movie, yes. I was glad that they made the point at the end that the heroic thing to do was to go back to his timeline, exactly as it was before he got the ticket, and face his life. Of course it helps to be able to see the consequences of his choices more clearly with what he’s learned in the alternate timeline, as you say.

    I love how perceptions of the characters shift over the course of the movie, in little and big ways. I was especially touched by how his father-in-law’s toilet factory was at first played for laughs, but then we saw it was actually a noble calling. Much more effective than a whole preachy Akshay movie about toilets!

    The extended cameo of Vijay Sethupathi was of course a huge motivation for me to watch this. His assistant is played by Ramesh Thilak, whom Vijay has mentored from Ramesh’s early days as a radio guy trying to break into acting. They have a lovely relationship offscreen as well as great chemistry onscreen.

    If you are still looking for movie recommendations, Vijay, Ramesh, and Ashok, as well as the excellent Bobby Simha, are together in a movie that’s a few years old called Soodhu Kavvum, with one of Vijay’s early breakout roles as a small-time, good-hearted kidnapper with an odd mental illness (or is it?)

    I like Vijay at any weight. Shocker. There are rumors that he’s losing 25 kgs (I keep hoping they mean lbs) for his role with Aamir in Laal Singh Chaddha. I hope not! So unhealthy to lose so much weight quickly, and the body responds by furiously trying to hang on to every calorie for the rest of your life. Oddly, he’s not asking for my advice on the matter. No more than Shah Rukh asks us whether we like his lil tummy better than his 6-8-10 pack. 🙂

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    • I didn’t know Vijay is in this movie so it was such a nice surprise when he came from under the table. And he was so adorable, seems like he just acted like he acts normally with his friends. I want a friend like this: nice ,huggable, funny.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was a little disappointed when it looked like he was staying in the alternate timeline. It felt cheap for him to just ease in to this relationship instead of needing to fight to win back her trust. So it was a relief to me that he returned to the divorce court. Now he has to really work at his career, at his marriage, at repairing the breach with his father-in-law, everything. He broke all of it, so it should be up to him to fix it all, and they will end up stronger for it.

      With the changing perspectives, there’s also how Ritika’s arranged fiance is first introduced as kind of a threat, this stranger her father wants her to marry. And then later he becomes the Perfect Choice, more loving and caring and romantic than our hero ever was.

      I wonder why Vijay has to lose weight for Laal Singh Chaddha? I’m trying to think of a character reason he would have to-have to be skinny. Unless he’s got some kind of disease, or is a POW, or something.

      On Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 1:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I hadn’t thought about it! They are definitely styled kind of the same, but Ritika has that amazing hair which sets her apart. Also, I think she’s a lot taller.

      Anyway, it really is a cute movie and I think you would like it.

      On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 1:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think it’s just their faces that look similar to me. But yeah, Ritika’s hair does set her apart. Is it only on google play so far?

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