OM – THE OLD MAN ஓம் Is A Poetic Afterthought About Life’s Simpler Pleasures4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
An old man — Om — runs away from an elderly care center in the United Kingdom in order to fulfill his friend’s dying wish. Meanwhile, Venda is a university student who wants to kill herself. The two of them elope from their old lives to embark on a journey together, where they discover the beauty of life.
Director: P. Bharathiraja
Cast: P. Bharathiraja, Nakshatra, Joe Malloori, Mounika
Runtime: 120 mins
After having been brought over to London by his family, Om finds himself left alone in an elderly care center. He runs away, only to find Venda, a young university student who’s forced to dance in clubs by her family in order to keep their apartment. He coaxes her out of her suicide attempt, and the two of them embark on a journey to find the simple pleasures in life.
As an Indian film, it might be easy to mistake the film title OM as the sacred symbol and mantra in Hinduism, but the title denotes something a little less complex — it is simply an abbreviation of the word ‘Old Man’, which is what the main character (P. Bharathiraja) calls himself, and what the main female lead Venda (Nakshatra) simply shortens as ‘Om’.
This film might not be religious in nature, but it is certainly poetic and spiritual. Bharathiraja utilises very distinct stylistic choices in his editing of the film that might be quite jarring for the average viewer, though each choice is imbued with meaning and emotion. Montage sequences fill the spaces in the narrative, and while the individual shots in the montage might seem disparate and confusing, they bring across a certain mood or perspective as a whole.
Bharathiraja also crafts this atmosphere and emotion through overlaying of shots together; as Venda ponders about her life and narrates her story to Om, the shots of her overlooking the water or staring into the sky is layered with shots of falling leaves and birds swooping across the ocean. She doesn’t explicitly voice out her thoughts or even wear her emotions on her face, but these juxtapositions and back-and-forth cuts act as metaphors for her innermost thoughts and feelings, and we are expected to engage intellectually with the film’s visuals in order to make the connections ourselves.
While OM is certainly a visually-stimulating experience, its relative lack of plot might make it a rather tedious watch. Both Om and Venda have been betrayed by their families, and while their families initially attempt to search for them, this plot strand seems almost forgotten towards the middle of the film, and it remains a loose end as the film draws to a close. Their very pragmatic problems, such as monetary woes, are also solved in a wave of a hand by convenient deus ex machina, which leaves the story rather flat.
These plot issues, however, do make sense in the context of the film: the film is told almost like a diary entry, or an afterthought, with only snapshots of their lives being shown in glimpses. This omission of certain plot points seem probable and even understandable under the narration of a biased author.
As a film that hones on the budding relationship between Om and Venda, the actors certainly play their roles with ease, and it is natural to watch their relationship develop throughout the film’s narrative. They do seem like actual friends in real life, and their realistic portrayal of these characters holds up the bulk of the film’s plot.
Having been betrayed by their own families, Om and Venda venture out to find their own source of joy and happiness in the life and nature around them — though instead, they find solace in one another. A thoughtful look into the art of living through poetic metaphors and spiritual philosophy, OM navigates through two individuals’ journey in life.
OM was the opening film for the 2019 Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg.SAIFF). Sg.SAIFF is a South Asian content focussed film festival that curates specialized films and aims at unleashing the potential of talented filmmakers by showcasing their creativity. The festival which has grown even bigger in its third year is a melting pot of entertainment for creative movie buffs. Supported by the Singapore Indian High Commission (IHC), the festival is a landmark initiative to serve as a cultural gateway between the global city of Singapore and the developing nations of South Asia.
Sg.SAIFF takes place from 30 August to 7 September 2019. Learn more about Sg.SAIFF and its film schedule here. The festival pass can be purchased here.
You can watch the film trailer here: