Shaad Ali’s OK Jaanu is an official remake of his mentor Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani (2015). Apart from the plot – a young couple (Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur) prefers a live-in relationship to marriage – and the music composer (AR Rahman), the movie sees celebrated dancer and choreographer Leela Samson reprise her character in the original Tamil production. A classical singer in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Samson’s Bhavani is paired with Prakash Raj’s Ganapathy in OK Kanmani. In the Hindi version, which will be released on January 13, Naseeruddin Shah replaces Prakash Raj. In an email interview, the former chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Central Board of Film Certification discussed the differences and similarities between the two films and the definition of true love.
Tell us about your experience of working with both Mani Ratnam and Shaad Ali. Has the protégé left his stamp on the Hindi version?
I am no one to comment on either of these directors, least of all on Mani Sir. But I loved working with both of them! I only wish they had scolded me sometimes or asked me to work on something more. No reprimand left me in the cold, wondering whether I had got it right or not. They are too kind. Or certainly were, with me. The only other thing was they did not call me by my name!
But I respect the ways of the industry. They ensured that I was shown respect. Although I have not seen the film, I’d say that Shaad’s version is certainly inspired by his mentor’s film, but different. That’s how it should be. They are of different generations. And Mani Sir is the younger in spirit!
Your role as an Alzheimer’s patient is one of the emotional anchors in ‘OK Kanmani’. Some critics however, had some reservations about the way the disease was handled.
There was no space to anchor the malady. After all, I was incidental to the main story. It’s not about me. Of course you can find fault with it. Alzheimer’s is a nasty progression of deterioration and would be difficult to show in mere snatches of scenes. The two films treat her in a similar way.
Which are your favourite moments from the movies?
I love the scene when they are asked how they first met. It’s really funny. I also like the way I butt in with random observations when a serious conversation is going on between the younger couple and my husband. And he is so tolerant of her interventions.
What was it like to work with Naseeruddin Shah?
A dream! I don’t deserve working with Prakash Raj or Naseeruddin Shah. It came as a blessing. They were both wonderful.
Some of the most tender moments and dialogue in ‘OK Kanmani’ are devoted to your relationship with Ganapathy. What is your definition of love?
I love the role. The relationship between the older couple is understated but rings true. They’re different, but devoted to each other. I love the romance in it. Love is total faith and surrender. It’s also about the fragile nature of life. Being there for each other.
When my character is lost and found, the first thing she says to her husband on returning is, “I was frantic searching for you! Where did you go?” The relationship is tinged with sadness and acceptance.
I’m ‘contemporary’. Of course there is scope for romance in any relationship. For me at the moment, it’s with my dogs, but it could be with people – sure!
Mumbai was used as a fifth character in Ratnam’s narrative. Would the story have been as impactful if it had been set anywhere else?
Bombay is a great city, I grew up there and my favourite too. It is not as romantic, as much as it is seen to be ‘liberal’ compared to Chennai. So it made sense in the story. But if you’re truly in love, any city is okay.