We only realize the true value of things we take for granted when we don’t have enough of them. We value water more during a drought and oxygen when it is low in supply. In O2, director-screenwriter GS Viknesh hacks into our paranoia of running out of the very substance that sustains our lives: oxygen.
The opening of the film is very cliché. For the first 15 minutes of the film, we get repeated shots and a song to establish a rudimentary point about a mother’s unconditional love for her son. After getting past some unnecessary narrative obligations, we come to the interesting part. Parvathy’s (Nayanthara) son, Veera (Rithvik), is suffering from a medical condition that requires him to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. But, his sufferings are about to end, as he will soon undergo life-saving surgery, allowing him to breathe normally without any help. Parvathy and Veera head to a hospital in Cochin for the operation. Everything is packed, including an extra oxygen tank and Veera’s Pet Potted Plant. Both play a crucial role in the events that are about to unfold.
The bus that Parvathy and Veera take is full of conflict. A corrupt cop with a handgun and a bag full of cocaine, a convicted felon just released from jail, a pair of lovers planning to run away, a father who has no idea his daughter is planning from running away, a morally flexible man A politician and a bus driver in a constant moral dilemma are the companions of the mother-son duo on a journey that becomes traumatic in no time.
A landslide buries the bus carrying Parvathy and Veera and turns the vehicle into a massive coffin. As the people on the bus continue to bicker without being aware of the real problem, Parvathy steps in and enlightens them about the serious situation they find themselves in. “We are stuck in a coffin. We lack oxygen. She advises passengers not to use up all the air in the bus through physical and mental exertion. They all seem to understand the gravity of the situation, at first. But, soon everything starts to fall apart.
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Fear begins to bring out the worst in everyone. And the corrupt cop becomes an agent of chaos by pushing people over the edge and making them choose between a clear, guilt-free conscience and a breath of medical-grade oxygen. People who look nice and reasonable and turn into killers, and those we assume to be the worst turn out to be the good ones.
Amid all the drama, we know that Veera’s oxygen tank will become the precious currency people would kill for. So Viknesh is playing with our minds as the situation continues to swing from hope to despair. There are times when the situation becomes tolerable, with passengers finding a way to bring fresh air onto the bus. But then the bus falls deeper, shattering all hopes of survival. We feel relieved that Veera will now be safe with circulating oxygen. But for how long is the question that keeps us invested.
O2 is a fairly engaging survival drama that distinguishes between brute force and true heroism. We sometimes have the impression of confusing heroism with physical prowess. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Watch O2 on Disney Plus Hotstar.