Director G.S. Viknesh’s debut film, “O2” (Oxygen) is an edge-of-the-seat survival film starring the ever-so-beautiful Nayanthara. However, the film fails to provide any unique ideas or outstanding performances. It started well, but lost its grip in the middle, and ended in an utterly anti-climactic way, which somehow spoiled the very essence of the film. The makers wanted to deliver an important message about keeping a check on our natural resources, but, with each passing scene, the seriousness of the plot thins out until, at the very end, it turns out to be a complete clown show. This film does nothing new than pointing out the problems known to all.
Before jumping into the plot, let’s have a detour. How does a landslide occur, and how are humans related to this? A landslide is caused mainly by rainfalls. Due to heavy rains, it is quite natural that some part of the unstable ground collapses and flows down to the side of a mountain. Yes, there are indeed many incidents where human activities have been a contributing factor in landslides. Still, picking some natural disaster and blaming “nature’s rage” is irrelevant. Humans destroy natural resources by cutting down large forests. But, blaming humans for every natural calamity is not logical. We need to understand that things like volcano eruptions are beyond our control.
What Happens In G.S. Viknesh’s ‘O2’?
The film starts with an animated short story when the credits are shown. A bird witnesses the death of her nestlings as the humans take down the entire forest. The bird picked up a flower from the very forest and dropped it on the roof of the city. That flower is picked up by Parvathy’s (Nayanthara) son Veera. Veera is suffering from cystic fibrosis and is about to get his lungs transplanted.
On the other hand, there is a final-year medicine student, Rafiq (Ciby Bhuvana Chandran), who wishes to marry a girl and fights with her brother. Also, a criminal has been released recently; he is now on his way to meet with his mother. A corrupt policeman (Barath Neelakantan) is also introduced to the story. There is a man with headphones about to get engaged the next day; an ex-MLA and his assistant; and the bus driver and his assistant. They all intend to go to Cochin for their respective reasons.
The bus couldn’t reach Cochin as the regular route is filled with traffic due to heavy rainfall. The driver decided to wait, but the bus owner wanted it to reach Cochin within the promised time. So, the driver had to take a shorter route to get there. This triggers all the mess as the bus gets stuck in a landslide. As Veera was suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, he had to carry an oxygen cylinder with him. There is no escape, and with the minimum amount of Oxygen, they could survive for mostly 10 hours.
Parvathy knew there would come a time when people would kill each other for Oxygen. She tried hard to hide the fact that she had an extra oxygen cylinder. The police inspector went rogue and attacked everyone on the bus. He finally discovered the other oxygen cylinder and asked others to kill Parvathy so they could all have their share of Oxygen. Now, to survive, everyone attacked her, and somehow she managed to fight against them with the help of the bus driver on her side. She secured the extra oxygen tank and connected it with Veera.
The rescue team set up a free wifi zone in search of the exact location of the bus, wishing one of the survivors’ phones could connect to the network. Parvathy’s phone catches the internet, but someone had to manually touch the “connect” option. Finally, when everyone was nauseated due to a lack of oxygen, Veera was the only one still breathing. Veera did an obnoxious thing by removing the pipe from his nose and deciding to die in his mother’s arms. The little tree Veera seeds in the very first scene of the film is now a grown up little tree. He had been carrying it with him the whole time, and now a leaf from the tree fell on the smartphone. It touched the “connect” option, and the rescue team came to know about the location. Everyone was rescued and was alive except for the assistants of the ex-MLA and the driver. Veera, too, was cured of his disease.
The Significance Of The Plastic Bag In The Film
There were two scenes when a plastic bag somehow caught the audience’s attention. The first time it was seen on the tree beside the road, and the second time it was seen when Parvathy and Veera left for Cochin. We all know that plastic blocks air. When it is seen on the leaves of a tree, it symbolizes the fact that trees can’t breathe while the plastic is around. What happens when trees stop breathing? The source of oxygen is lost, and we have trouble breathing. When the people got stuck, it was almost like they were all covered in plastic. Whatever oxygen they have inside the plastic bag, they need to survive only on that. They can’t get any more oxygen from outside as the plastic won’t allow them. It is a metaphor used by the maker to say that if we don’t get cautious about using plastic bags, there will come a time when we will face a crisis of oxygen, and by all means, that will not be a good sign for any of us.
‘O2’ Ending Explained: Are Parvathy And Her Son, Veera Dead Or Alive?
From the beginning, all the characters were somehow driven by greed. It is one of the reasons why nature has been acting all strange lately. Humans have been selfish for a long time, and it is seen in every corner of our society. This representation is one of the few promising approaches made by G.S. in this film. Take Parvathy, for instance. As a mother, all she was doing seemed pretty acceptable at one point. But, from a larger perspective, she kept her child’s life in front of five or six other human beings. We are not the ones to judge who should live and who should die. In a matter of survival, it is human nature to put everyone aside except for oneself. This is a highly debatable situation to pick Parvathy as a selfish woman as all she did was try to keep Veera alive. Sometimes, a mother needs to be selfish as she fights the whole world to protect her child.
But, if it weren’t for the selfishness of the owners, the bus wouldn’t have faced the accident in the first place. The owners forced the driver to take the shorter route as they wanted the bus to reach Cochin as early as possible. The policeman, too, was on the bus for his own reasons. The ex-MLA believed in superstition and ended up on the bus instead of traveling in his car. Rafiq had the intention of eloping with his lover without caring what might happen to her family. The bus driver in the first scene talked about cleanliness, but at the end of the day, he was covered with mud and soil. So, overall, the irony played a prank on almost every character. All that was left was survival until the rescue occurred.
When these situations occur, our survival instinct guides us to be selfish no matter what. Here, everyone tried out their options to survive through the disarray. They even tried out the possibility of killing each other while saving more oxygen. The policeman even murdered the man, who was released from jail recently. Since he was injured, he was taking in more oxygen due to a hole in his lung. When nausea started to act on its own, everyone thought of getting rid of Parvathy and her son so they could have the extra oxygen cylinder. But a living thing’s instinct to stay alive depends only on its desire to live. To live, you have to fight. For anyone else on the bus, it was a fight for their own life, but for Parvathy, it was a matter of survival for her kid’s sake. Perhaps selfish, but more selfless than anyone else on the bus. So, somehow, Parvathy’s survival instinct stood out from any of the others; thus, she was able to save her kid.
Apart from the mother-son relationship, every aspect of the film is tiresome. Even the mother-son relationship isn’t enough for the audience to root for. The lovers’ intentions are so bleak that, at times, it gets irritating just looking at the characters. The ex-MLA had no role to play except for burdening the plot. At first, the policeman’s plan was good, but when he went off on his own, the movie turned into more of a clown show than a survival thriller.
As you can see, when the characters have such an empty foundation, how can the actors perform well? Even the scene where the bus driver suddenly felt empathy for the kid seemed forced. No performance was pleasing to the eyes. Even Nayanthara’s representation was solely based on her beauty, as until the very end, there were no signs of struggle on her face, except for one or two bruises.
A. Thamizhazhagan worked hard to give the story a bit of identity through his subtle angels. The cinematography during the rescue scene demands appreciation. Even so, the coloring of that particular scene marks some good points. The background music is one of the things that made this clown show an average thriller. Again, the film’s first half put the audience in a position where they wouldn’t leave their seats for anything. However, the second half, and especially the climax, is so dragged out that the whole thing is pretty disappointing. As a debut, G.S. Viknesh should’ve been more careful about his message. It was more like an EVS project than a survival thriller.
Why Veera Did What He Did And A Different Ending
I bet the director wanted to do something out of the box rather than an emotional climax. That is why he went for the anti-climax, as Veera acted like an emotional fool in the end. He decided to remove the pipe from his nose and die in his mother’s arms. I am no expert in probability, but the chance of the leaf touching the exact place at the precise time seemed a bit too much like South Indian. I can digest Rocky Vai killing a hundred men in 10 minutes. I can also whistle seeing wild animals as fighters in RRR, but a leaf helping a smartphone connect to the wi-fi? Well, it contains a basket full of ironies that I can give to G.S. Nature can save the human race. We should be respectful to nature. We should nurture it as it will keep all of us, but not that! No! Like, never!
The anti-climax made the film regrettable for the audience because any other possibility might have changed the scenario. The child searches for the phone, seeing everyone lying there without moving, as previously it was seen how much he was attached to it. In this process, he could’ve connected with the wifi and saved all the people. That’d contain ironies like the extra oxygen in the right hands can save lives too. Or, a mother’s fight helped a whole bunch of people see the light once and for all. But, no, not the leaf! Things could’ve been better, opinions could’ve been molded, but right when the leaf connects the phone with the wi-fi, well, one of the worst movies in this segment ever made.
If you love watching surviving thriller movies, you should give Kim Seong-Hun’s 2016 release: “Tunnel.” This movie is one-of-a-kind in this segment. You can watch this first and then compare it with “O2” streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.