I watched Ohm Shanthi Oshaana finally. I seem to be on a Nivin Pauly binge lately – the last three Malayalam movies I watched have all featured him in the lead role (Premam, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and now Ohm Shanthi Oshaana). I would like to say this is a bit of a coincidence.
Nazriya is Pooja, a rich Christian girl, who is a tomboy really. She lives in her trousers and jeans, she is not feminine in the conventional sense, she is spoilt by her parents, and she decides early on in her life that she’s going to have a love marriage. I cannot recall another female character that resonated with me to this extent in recent times!
There is a short scene where Pooja sits on the sofa, TV remote in one hand, and plate of food in the other. Her legs are wide apart. Her mother passes by and tells her to sit with her legs together. “Sitting like a man!” she exclaims. Oh if only I could tell you how many times this exact scene has played out in my house. Pooja is the true girl next door. She goes to school, studies for exams, wants to become a doctor, and is infatuated with an older man Giri (Nivin Pauly).
Giri is your generic do-gooder. He is a farmer by choice, he takes care of his mother, he is not your average misogynist hero, he invests emotionally in what happens around him. I was reminded of Podaa Podi at this point (for purposes of comparison, we can say Podaa Podi also aimed to do romance with a light touch). We know STR works in animation, he mentions this at one point, but we are never shown him actually working. In what is a very puzzling move, he is probably on extended sick leave because he wants to woo this girl he thinks he might love. This is something that bothers me in many (Tamil) movies: the characters seem to exist in a parallel universe of sorts. They do not engage with what is around them in a normal way, they exist solely for purposes of the movie and their only job is to love. This is even worse in the case of female leads, whose only job is mostly to be loved. Giri is the eye candy in this movie, the role that is normally performed by women. But Giri’s character is given some thought too. He has a past, he may or may not like Pooja but he isn’t willing to indulge her while she is still in school.
Sometimes, Pooja may come across as being too cute in an affected manner, such as when she shrugs or makes faces; but I’m willing to overlook this, it seems insignificant when I look at the movie in its entirety. There are a few imaginary sequences, and it can be argued that they do not necessarily contribute to the story moving along, but they make for fun diversions. There is one in which Pooja and her parents go to “look at” Giri, a twist on the traditional bride-viewing ceremony. There is another one in which Pooja dreams that Giri (who went to China to learn martial arts) has married a Chinese woman and started a family with her. There is a third one in which a mutual acquaintance narrates to Pooja how he betrayed Giri, using war as the metaphor.
Inter-caste and inter-faith marriages are part of the narrative. At the very end, Pooja’s father tells the marriage broker that one must move on with the times (he says this in a unique way, did Jesus bear the cross for Christians alone?). This father character was one I liked quite a bit, maybe it hit a little too close to home (back in the days when my father was still proud of me, haha). He gives her the freedom to be who she wants to be.
As is expected, Ohm Shanthi Oshaana has a happy ending. Pooja becomes a doctor and marries the man she loved ever since she was a teenager. How wonderful it feels to watch a movie where the woman isn’t incidental, but in fact central to the story. She has friends, family, interests, dreams, quirks, a career; well, she is Normal (that word again).
P.S. I’m still wondering if I should make my parents watch this movie. They might pick on the fact that Pooja married someone not belonging to her faith, and the discussion which follows will not be pleasant.