Rekha Kemburaju | April 08, 2017
Eagerly awaiting another Mani Ratnam classic where our hearts melt as we watch the characters on screen fall in love against a picturesque backdrop, Kaatru Veliyidai, showed much promise upon its release. The trailers and teasers had set us up well for another exciting, romantic roller coaster ride of raw emotions and a story that would push the boundaries of what is acceptable by Indian societal standards. However the film itself left the audience with somewhat mixed emotions. Enjoying the brilliant visuals, cinematography and heart wrenching soundtrack but feeling confused by the lackluster acting of the hero and dealing with tension and disappointment over the relationship the couple shared. Kaatru Veliyidai can only be dubbed as a film pleasing to the eye but not quite the one for the heart.
The film opens with a battle between the Indian and Pakistani army. We see air force pilot, Varun Chakrapani aka VC (Karthi), being struck down by an enemy missile and captured by the Pakistani army. The rest of the story unravels in the form of VC’s memories.
The first half of the film follows an arrogant, self-centered and self-obsessed air force pilot VC who falls in love with the sweet-natured Dr. Leela Abraham (Aditi Rao Hydari), who treats him after he is seriously injured in an accident. We later find out that Leela already had a thing for VC since she was in school and was hoping to meet him one day. Leela was completely mesmerized by VC’s exciting bad boy antics, his piloting skills and of course his cute half smiles.
Both of them fall head over heels in love with one another even though they know that their relationship might not work because of their innate character differences. It is not as easy for Leela to stay in the relationship with VC as it was falling for him. Leela struggles to be an equal partner, with a dominating man like VC. A personality he evidently inherited from his father. Does VC manage to free himself from imprisonment? Does he get a chance to re-unite with Leela? Will Leela accept him if he does? These are basically the questions that are answered in the second half of the film.
Mani Ratnam’s strength in characterization shows clearly in the film. We see his signature flawed hero in VC who exudes over confidence, self-obsession and an overall lack of respect for anyone but himself. Karthik did palatable justice to this part of the role but failed to deliver in the romantic scenes. Giving off a rather creepy feel in supposedly intense romantic scenes, it felt like he was trying too hard and the emotions he was trying to portray was not delivered correctly to the audience. There was something about the awkward expressions on his face and eyes that just did not cut it. Aditi Rao on the other hand did an excellent job portraying a woman who is conflicted between preserving her identity and self-respect while being in love with an arrogant and self-obsessed man. It happens often in real life and she has done the role so beautifully making us all feel for her deeply. Again kudos to Mani Ratnam for never failing to add a dose of grit to the female leads in his films.
A Mani Ratnam film is known for is simple yet beautiful dialogues usually delivered by his main characters. But this time it was delivered by his supporting character Dr. Illyaas Hussain that won our hearts. Played by none other than the beloved RJ Balaji as a military doctor. His intonations of the ‘oh’ expression made us laugh and feel for him at the same time. Simply one of the best scenes in the movie. The talkative Radio DJ was a man of few words in this movie. But the one or 2 words he uttered were powerful and impressionable when spoken. Rukmini Vijayakumar as Dr. Nidhi danced well but did not add value to the movie.
Of course the true hero of the film was the cinematography. We are treated to enchanting shots of the Himalayan Mountains and some of the most beautiful scenes of sunset ever captured. It is hard to believe that all of it was shot in India. Definitely a place to be discovered. Not to mention the impactful songs and soundtrack which just added goose bump inducing magic to the screen. Each scene was like a masterpiece.
It is definitely fair to say that the back bone of the film was Ravi Varman’s brilliant cinematography and A.R Rahman’s music. Mani Ratnam has taken a bold step to capture yet another taboo topic, like his previous movies. But the film was crippled by the weak lead performances and an unengaging storyline. The movie was definitely a treat for the eyes and the ears, but not so for the heart.
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