Samuthirakani and Abhirami shoulder the drama with their assured performances
Actor-director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan is an important voice in Tamil cinema. She is quite aware of her space and strengths as a storyteller, picking stories that are relatable and yet distinct from mainstream cinema. After several appealing films like Aarohanam, Ammani and House Owner, she wields the megaphone for Are You Ok Baby? - a drama inspired by true incidents, revolving around legalities of adoption.
While stories around adopted children and the drama surrounding their roots aren’t alien to our viewers, seldom have filmmakers dealt with the legal necessities pertaining to adoption. Are You Okay Baby is centred on a peculiar case where a destitute mother, who forcibly abandons her infant in exchange of money, takes to the court for the custody of her child from her adoptive parents.
The fact-heavy drama carefully toes the thin-line between educating and engaging the viewer about adoption. Balachandran and Vidhya, in their eagerness to adopt a child, try to take an easier route and land in a mess, unintentionally falling prey to a trafficking racket. Meanwhile, Rashmy Ramakrishnan, a television show host, attempts to seek justice on behalf of a birth mother. What’s in store for the child?
Besides depicting the emotional turmoil of the adoptive parents, Are You Ok Baby is effective when it showcases the struggles of the underprivileged to make their presence felt at various fora. The drama is doubled when a woman is a victim. From the ugly ways of the TRP hungry-television channels to the conservatism of the society and relationships among the underprivileged, there’s a lot to absorb.
The social commentary and the detailing surrounding adoption are weaved into the screenplay and dialogue seamlessly. Ilaiyaraaja’s subtle yet haunting background score gives enough momentum for the drama to flourish. Despite the emotional theme, there’s no overdose of sentimentality and the storytelling is precise, focused. The compact setup - the limited locations, characters, subplots - keeps you glued. The climax sequence where the child is introduced to her adoption through an album is one of its high moments.
Samuthirakani stays true to the soul of his part and doesn’t resort to melodrama while an assured Abhirami comes up with a hard-hitting, measured performance. Mullai Arasi as an everyday woman Shobha is a revelation and is particularly effective in the courtroom sequences. Lakshmy Ramakrishnan is authoritative in her portrayal of a show host, a role modelled on her real-life experiences.
Anupama Kumar, Uday Mahesh, Aadukalam Naren are as dependable as ever. Ashok Kumar Balakrishnan, Kavithalaya Krishnan and Vinodhini Vaidyanathan make an impact within their limited roles. Are You Ok Baby? does everything that you expect from alternative cinema - steers clear of commercial tropes to engage, reflect and educate. The film is now streaming on aha and Amazon Prime Video.